- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Posing bare-chested for photographers as an adventurous outdoorsman may not be enough for Russian President Vladimir Putin to improve his global image, which — along with Russia’s reputation — continues to suffer negative public opinion, according to a Pew Research Center report released Wednesday.

Among citizens surveyed in 37 countries, a median of just 26 percent said they have confidence in Mr. Putin to “do the right thing” regarding world affairs. A global median of 34 percent said they have a favorable view of Russia, compared with 40 percent who say they hold an unfavorable view.

Just 30 percent agreed that Russia respects its citizens’ personal freedoms. In the U.S., a mere 14 percent of respondents affirmed this statement.

Public opinion of Russia has improved slightly since the last Pew report on the subject in 2015, which found that, on average, 51 percent of foreign publics viewed the country unfavorably. Twenty-nine percent of U.S. citizens view Russia favorably, up from 22 percent in 2015.

As the investigation proceeds into whether Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election, the U.S. partisan divide is reflected in the polling: Democrats’ favorable opinion of Russia declined from 20 percent to 13 percent since 2015, while Republican favorable opinion doubled from 17 percent to 34 percent.

Despite negative ratings abroad, Mr. Putin still polls quite well in Russia, earning confidence from 87 percent of Russian citizens, according to a Pew survey released last spring.

Most respondents in the 37 countries do not view Russian power and influence as a threat to their countries, the latest poll revealed. Polish citizens feared Russia the most, with 65 percent reporting that they view Moscow as a threat. Forty-seven percent of U.S. citizens said they view Russia as a threat, more than the 31 percent global average who held that view.

The report also found:

• more Russians are confident in Mr. Trump (53 percent) than there are Americans who express confidence in Mr. Putin (23 percent);

• younger people are more likely than older people to favor Russia;

• men are more likely than women to favor Russia;

• a majority of citizens expressed favor for Mr. Putin in just three countries: Vietnam, Greece, and the Philippines.

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