February 13, 2005
Gap in perceptions inside and outside America
It is wrong to think that anti-Americanism in the world is a new phenomenon. A new report from the Pew Global Attitudes Project cites from a Newsweek survey that even back in 1983 most people around the world worried that US global influence was expanding, and majorities in many countries said America's strong military presence actually increased the risk of war. Even in Pakistan, a US ally for decades, just 23% expressed a favorable opinion of the US in a State Department survey conducted in 1999 and 2000.
But anti-Americanism is deeper and broader now than at any time in modern history, it is claimed in the introduction to the report on the web. Anti-Americanism is most acute in the Muslim world, but it spans the globe — from Europe to Asia, from South America to Africa.
The terror attacks of September 11 had the potential to change the dynamic of anti-Americanism, according to the analysis in the report. Initially, there was a spontaneous outpouring of sympathy and support for the US, for example the famous headline in Le Monde: “We are all Americans.” Even in some parts of the Middle East, hostility toward the US appeared to soften a bit. But this reaction proved short-lived. Just a few months after the attacks, a Global Attitudes Project survey of opinion leaders around the world found that, especially outside Western Europe, there was a widespread sense that US policies were a major cause of the attacks. More than half (58%) of non-US opinion leaders thought so. Interestingly, only 18% from the US thought that US policies caused the attacks (see Table 1 Download file ). My interpretation of this survey is that there is a great divergence in perception of the consequences of US foreign policy inside and outside America.
Moreover, solid majorities in every region said that most people in their countries believed it was good for Americans to know what it feels like to be vulnerable. This question was not asked in the US, however.
In the summer and fall of 2002, the Pew Project’s first major survey of 38,000 people in 44 countries found that favorability ratings for the United States had eroded since 2000 in 19 of the 27 countries where trend benchmarks were available. The September attacks thus did not seem to have created a uniting world-wide effect.
Another interesting finding comes from the Pew Global Attitudes Survey from March 2004. This survey finds a huge gap in perceptions of American unilateralism. In the US, 70% think that the US considers other countries to a great deal or to a fair amount. In Great Britain only 36% think the same, in Germany 29%, and in France only 14% (see Table 2, Download file). This indicates, once again, the existence of a great gap in perceptions of the US inside and outside America.
Posted February 13, 2005 02:18 PM
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