CINCINNATI (TDB) -- Illinois U.S Sen. Barack Obama took a thumping from some Democratic rivals and the pundit-ocracy for saying he would launch military attacks on Pakistan. He said armed forces could be used to root out Al Qaeda terrorists hiding in the mountains of that nation. But now there is data showing Obama seems to have a lot of company in the American public, which increasingly views Pakistan as hostile territory rather than a bosom ally.
Harris Interactive released polling data -- ignored in the press and nearly everywhere else -- showing "some general trends" in public opinion over the past three years. Both Pakistan and China, a trading partner with growing economic and military might and a penchant for shipping shoddy products to the U.S., are considered the No. 1 and No. 2 bad guys on the world stage.
"The two most negative responses that could be given about a country in this survey are 'not friendly but not an enemy' and 'unfriendly and an enemy.' The countries which are most widely viewed as not friendly (i.e. countries for which either of these responses are given) are Pakistan (69%), China (63%), Colombia (56%) and Russia (54%).
"It is striking that Pakistan is the country most widely viewed as unfriendly to the United States since it is considered an ally in the fight against the Taliban and Islamic terrorists and we have provided billions of dollars in aid."
Harris added that a "notable finding" was Pakistan's unfavorable rating had risen 20 points, and China's 9 since 2004. The poll of 1,010 adults was conducted July 10-16. Harris said only about 500 were asked about each of the 25 countries on its list.
The survey may have escaped wide notice because it was made public under a headline about nations that were most admired by Americans. No surprise on the list: Canada, Great Britain, Israel, Australia and Japan were described as the nation's best friends.
Obama could have been mining some of the distrust when he went after Pakistan, distrust that probably resonated in some of his own polls. He said Aug. 2, 2007:
"But let me make this clear. There are terrorists holed up in those mountains who murdered 3,000 Americans. They are planning to strike again. If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf will not act, we will."
Obama spoke after reports in July that the U.S. cancelled a raid in 2005 over concerns it would damage relations with Pakistan. Obama called that decision a "terrible mistake." The Chicago Tribune report about his speech is available online. While the Illinois Democrat took criticism for the tough foreign policy statement, it looks like he could have been on solid ground with the public. They clearly don't trust Pakistan -- or China -- according to the Harris data.