Britons rate Russia more positively than EU: Poll

LONDON (AFP) - Britons see Russia in a more positive light than the European Union, despite recent tensions with Moscow over Ukraine, according to a poll published on Saturday.

Voters in Britain are also equally divided about whether to remain in the 28-member bloc, a subject on which Prime Minister David Cameron has promised a referendum in 2017.

The results of the online poll of 20,000 people between 7 and 20 January organised by Conservative party peer Lord Michael Aschcroft were published in Rupert Murdoch's British tabloid The Sun on Sunday.

The league table of 27 "liked" countries and institutions put the European Parliament - for which elections are being held in May - sixth from bottom, and the EU fourth from bottom.

Only Saudi Arabia, Iran and North Korea ranked below the European parliament when those polled were asked how positive or negative they felt towards them. Israel was fifth from bottom and Russia was seventh from bottom.

Canada was top.

The poll taken before relations between Russia and the West were plunged into the deep freeze because of the crisis in the Ukraine and Russia's absorption of the Crimean peninsula.

The poll meanwhile found 41 percent thought Britain should remain in the EU, while exactly the same percentage thought it should leave, with the rest undecided.

Only 20 percent of voters were confident that Cameron could renegotiate a better deal for Britain with the EU.

He has pledged to do so and then hold a referendum on Britain's EU membership in late 2017, provided that he is re-elected in May 2015.

"Britain is split down the middle," Ashcroft wrote on his website.

Separately, a Survation poll for the Mail on Sunday newspaper showed that 48 percent would vote to leave the EU in a referendum, 39 would vote to stay in, and 13 percent were undecided. It polled 1,000 adults online on Thursday and Friday.