Global opposition to U.S. drone strikes grows

Published: July 14, 2014
(Photo: Kirsty Wigglesworth, AP)
(Photo: Kirsty Wigglesworth, AP)

WASHINGTON – Opposition to the use of U.S. drones to target terrorists is growing around the world, a new poll finds.

Even key allies oppose the use of the unmanned aircraft, according to the Pew Research Center poll.

In 37 of 44 countries surveyed on the topic, at least half of the respondents opposed American strikes, which have become a signature tactic of the Obama administration’s war on terrorism. The administration has carried out strikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and elsewhere, often prompting charges in those countries that innocent civilians have been killed.

Opposition to American drone attacks is particularly strong in the Middle East. In Jordan, a key U.S. ally, 90% of those surveyed oppose the tactic, up from 87% opposed last year.

In only three of the countries surveyed — Israel, Kenya and the USA — do a majority approve of drone strikes.

But support is falling in the USA, where 52% of those surveyed approved of the strikes, down from 61% last year. The margin of error for the U.S. poll is +/-3.5 percentage points.

The poll found that revelations of National Security Agency (NSA) spying have hurt America’s global reputation.

Historically, the United States has been admired globally for respecting individual liberties, but that image is starting to erode, said Richard Wike, director of global attitudes research at Pew.

Revelations by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden have exposed widespread domestic and international surveillance by the NSA, triggering political condemnation at home and around the world.

“There is a lot of opposition to the U.S. intercepting the communications of leaders and ordinary citizens,” Wike said.

The impact was particularly strong in Germany and Brazil, where Snowden’s revelations indicated that the NSA had spied on the leaders of those two countries.

The percentage of people who believe the United States respects personal freedoms fell to 51% in Brazil this year, down from 76% in 2013. In Germany, it dropped to 58% from 81% in 2013.

The poll was based on 48,643 interviews in the 44 countries. The margin of error varied slightly, depending on the country where the polling was conducted.