Thursday, June 15, 2006

I'm Looking Through You, Where Did You Go?

As a world traveler, I've always been a little more attentive -- perhaps too attentive -- to what people think about the United States.

While I don't wear an American flag on my sleeve, neither do I hide my national identity, although there was a time when I got in the middle of a bar fight between and some Aussies and Americans at the old Reggie's Roppongi in Tokyo and decided that I'd be Canadian that evening.

Anyhow, The Pew Global Attitudes Project has released its latest survey about how Yanks are viewed in other countries. In a word:
America sucks.
Okay, two words.

Let's front load this with the reality that since American is the world's remaining superpower, there always will be a goodly number of people who will hate the U.S. no matter what. But the antisocial behavior of the Bush administration on the world stage has sent views of the U.S. to historic lows.

Not so fast there, says Bruce Stokes, who directed the survey of 93,000 people in 50 countries .
We found a rising antipathy toward Americans. [But] the problem is Americans, not just [President] Bush.

In the past, while Europeans, Asians and Arabs might have disliked American policies or specific U.S. leaders, they liked and admired Americans themselves, but the poll shows an ominous turn.

Majorities around the world think Americans are greedy, violent and rude, and fewer than half in countries like Poland, Spain, Canada, China and Russia think Americans are honest.

The dislike is accelerating among youths. For instance, 20 percent of Britons under age 30 have an unfavorable opinion of Americans, double the percentage of 2002.

Other findings:
* More than half of those asked in France, Germany, Italy, Canada and Britain said the "spread of American ideas and customs" was a "bad thing."

* Almost half of those polled in Britain, France and Germany dispute the whole concept of a global war on terrorism, and a majority of Europeans believe the invasion of Iraq was a mistake. More than two-thirds of Germans, French and Turks believe American leaders lied about the reasons for war and believe the United States is less trustworthy than it once was.

* Asked where to find the "good life," no more than one in 10 people recommended the United States in a sub-poll conducted in 13 countries. More popular: Canada, Australia, Britain and Germany. Only in India did the U.S. still represent the land of opportunity.

Says Richard Solomon, a veteran diplomat the president of the U.S. Institute of Peace, a federally funded think tank:
It's an attractive aspect of our culture that we worry about what other people think. The French couldn't care less if they make people unhappy.
The full Pew study is here.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I should have thought that the bigger problem for America is Americans who hate their own country, and not what foreigners think.

Shaun Mullen said...

Yes, it probably is a bigger problem in the global scheme of things. You have prompted me to look for data on the very point you raise. I'll report back.