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Israel is one of the least popular countries in the world, right down there with Iran, North Korea and Pakistan - this, according to a new BBC World Service Country Rating poll carried out between December 2010 and February this year and released yesterday.

As part of the poll, 28,619 participants from 27 different countries were presented with a list of 16 countries and the EU, and asked the following question about each one: "Please tell me if you think each of the following countries is having a mainly positive or mainly negative influence in the world." The possible responses were: "mainly positive," "mainly negative," "depends" and "neutral."

The result was that 22 out of 27 countries leaned toward a negative view of Israel - giving it an overall 49 percent negative rating. Only 21 percent rated Israel as having a mainly positive influence. The margin of error per country ranges from 2.8 percent to 4.9 percent.

Overall, the order of popularity of the countries ranked in the poll, which was carried out for the BBC by international polling firm GlobeScan and the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland, was: Germany, the UK, Japan, Canada, France, U.S., Brazil, China, South Africa, India, South Korea, Russia, Israel, Pakistan, North Korea and Iran. The three countries less popular than Israel - Pakistan, North Korea and Iran - had 17% and 16% percent positive ratings, respectively, and more than 55% of those polled expressed a negative attitude toward those states.

Israelis did not take part in the poll as participants. The participant countries with the most uniformly negative opinion of Israel were Egypt (where only a meager 5 percent rated Israel favorably ), Turkey and Indonesia. The countries which had the most positive view of Israel were the U.S. (with 43% expressing a positive view of Israel ), Russia (where the ratio was 35 percent positive to 27 percent negative ), Ghana (32 percent to 27 percent ) and India (21 percent to 18 percent ). China was the only country in which support for Israel grew - by 10% - but it remained at a ratio of 40 percent to 48 percent.

Believe it or not, these results mark a slight improvement for Israel over last year, when it garnered just a 19 percent positive assessment overall. According to the poll, positive views of Israel increased by 2 percent while negative views remained mostly same as in 2010.

Interestingly, this improvement was not reflected in either U.S. or British views of Israel. In the U.S., while positive ratings of Israel remained stable in the poll since 2010 at about 43 percent, many more Americans chose to rate Israel negatively in 2011, marking a 10 percent increase in the past year, from 31 percent to 41 percent. In Britain, the negative rating went from 50 percent to 66 percent.

Negative perceptions of Israel also grew stronger in Canada, Indonesia, Australia, Portugal, Spain and Kenya. The U.S., meanwhile, improved its standing for the fourth year running, but lagged behind Canada, the EU, Japan, France and Brazil. It received negative responses mainly from Muslim states such as Pakistan, Turkey and Egypt. In other changes this year, Brazil made the biggest gains, jumping from 40 percent to 49 percent in terms of being viewed favorably, while South Africa, which hosted the World Cup in 2010, also improved its status, going from a 35 percent to a 42 percent favorable rating.