Is the widespread growth of anti-Americanism throughout the world a reaction to misuse of America’s cultural. economic, and political hegemony, or is it merely a natural consequence of being the world’s only true superpower?
Whatever the reasons, it is clear that this trend is growing. A government that doesn’t heed these warnings runs the risk of reaching a Tipping Point (hi Lance!) where insurgent ideas lead to insurgent behaviour, on a global scale. That would make 9-11-01 look like an appetizer.
What the World Thinks in 2002 How Global Publics View: Their Lives, Their Countries, The World, America
Released: December 4, 2002
Global Gloom and Growing Anti-Americanism
Despite an initial outpouring of public sympathy for America following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, discontent with the United States has grown around the world over the past two years. Images of the U.S. have been tarnished in all types of nations: among longtime NATO allies, in developing countries, in Eastern Europe and, most dramatically, in Muslim societies.
Since 2000, favorability ratings for the U.S. have fallen in 19 of the 27 countries where trend benchmarks are available. While criticism of America is on the rise, however, a reserve of goodwill toward the United States still remains. The Pew Global Attitudes survey finds that the U.S. and its citizens continue to be rated positively by majorities in 35 of the 42 countries in which the question was asked. True dislike, if not hatred, of America is concentrated in the Muslim nations of the Middle East and in Central Asia, todayâ€™s areas of greatest conflict.
Opinions about the U.S., however, are complicated and contradictory. People around the world embrace things American and, at the same time, decry U.S. influence on their societies. Similarly, pluralities in most of the nations surveyed complain about American unilateralism. But the war on terrorism, the centerpiece of current U.S. foreign policy, continues to enjoy global support outside the Muslim world.
While attitudes toward the United States are most negative in the Middle East/Conflict Area, ironically, criticisms of U.S. policies and ideals such as American-style democracy and business practices are also highly prevalent among the publics of traditional allies. In fact, critical assessments of the U.S. in countries such as Canada, Germany and France are much more widespread than in the developing nations of Africa and Asia.
A follow-up six-nation survey finds a wide gap in opinion about a potential war with Iraq. This threatens to further fuel anti-American sentiment and divide the United States from the publics of its traditional allies and new strategic friends. But even on this highly charged issue, opinions are nuanced. Iraq is seen as a threat to regional stability and world peace by overwhelming numbers of people in allied nations, yet American motives for using force against Iraq are still suspect.
Souring attitudes toward America are more than matched by the discontent that people of the planet feel concerning the world at large. As 2002 draws to a close, the world is not a happy place. At a time when trade and technology have linked the world more closely together than ever before, almost all national publics view the fortunes of the world as drifting downward. A smaller world, our surveys indicate, is not a happier one.
The spread of disease is judged the top global problem in more countries than any other international threat, in part because worry about AIDS and other illnesses is so overwhelming in developing nations, especially in Africa. Fear of religious and ethnic violence ranks second, owing to strong worries about global and societal divisions in both the West and in several Muslim countries. Nuclear weapons run a close third in public concern. The publics of China, South Korea and many in the former Soviet Bloc put more emphasis on global environmental threats than do people elsewhere.
Dissatisfaction with the state of oneâ€™s country is another common global point of view. In all but a handful of societies, the public is unhappy with national conditions. The economy is the number one national concern volunteered by the more than 38,000 respondents interviewed. Crime and political corruption also emerge as top problems in most of the nations surveyed. Both issues even rival the importance of the spread of disease to the publics of AIDS-ravaged African countries.
These are among the principal findings of the Pew Global Attitudes survey, conducted in 44 nations to assess how the publics of the world view their lives, their nation, the world and the United States. This is the first major report on this survey. The second will detail attitudes toward globalization, modernization, social attitudes and democratization. The International Herald Tribune is our global newspaper partner and conducted in-depth interviews with citizens in five nations, some of which are quoted in this report.
The primary survey was conducted over a four-month period (July-October 2002) among over 38,000 respondents. It was augmented with a separate, six-nation survey in early November, which examined opinion concerning a possible U.S. war with Iraq.
Follow-Up Survey on Iraq
Huge majorities in France, Germany and Russia oppose the use of military force to end the rule of Saddam Hussein. The British public is evenly split on the issue. More than six-in-ten Americans say they would back such an action. But the six-nation poll finds a significant degree of agreement in Europe that Iraq is a threat to the stability of the Middle East and to world peace. More people in all countries polled say the current Iraqi regime poses a danger to peace than say the same about either North Korea or Iran.
Majorities in Great Britain, Germany and France also agree with Americans that the best way to deal with Saddam is to remove him from power rather than to just disarm him. However, the French, Germans and Russians see the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians as a greater threat to stability in the Middle East than Saddamâ€™s continued rule. The American and British publics both worry more about Iraq than the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Turkish respondents differ from Europeans about the danger posed by Iraq. They are divided on whether the regime in Baghdad is a threat to the stability of the region, and just a narrow 44% plurality thinks Saddam Hussein should be removed from power.
Fully 83% of Turks oppose allowing U.S. forces to use bases in their country, a NATO ally, to wage war on Iraq. Further, a 53% majority of Turkish respondents believe the U.S. wants to get rid of Saddam as part of a war against unfriendly Muslim countries, rather than because the Iraqi leader is a threat to peace.
While Europeans view Saddam as a threat, they also are suspicious of U.S. intentions in Iraq. Large percentages in each country polled think that the U.S. desire to control Iraqi oil is the principal reason that Washington is considering a war against Iraq. In Russia 76% subscribe to a war-for-oil view; so too do 75% of the French, 54% of Germans, and 44% of the British. In sharp contrast, just 22% of Americans see U.S. policy toward Iraq driven by oil interests. Two-thirds think the United States is motivated by a concern about the security threat posed by Saddam Hussein.
In addition, respondents in the five nations surveyed (aside from the U.S.) express a high degree of concern that war with Iraq will increase the risk of terrorism in Europe. Two-thirds of those in Turkey say this, as do majorities in Russia, France, Great Britain and Germany. By comparison, 45% of Americans are worried that war will raise the risk of terrorist attacks in the U.S.
Suspicions about U.S. motives in Iraq are consistent with criticisms of America apparent throughout the Global Attitudes survey. The most serious problem facing the U.S. abroad is its very poor public image in the Muslim world, especially in the Middle East/Conflict Area. Favorable ratings are down sharply in two of Americaâ€™s most important allies in this region, Turkey and Pakistan. The number of people giving the United States a positive rating has dropped by 22 points in Turkey and 13 points in Pakistan in the last three years. And in Egypt, a country for which no comparative data is available, just 6% of the public holds a favorable view of the U.S.
The war on terrorism is opposed by majorities in nearly every predominantly Muslim country surveyed. This includes countries outside the Middle East/Conflict Area, such as Indonesia and Senegal. The principal exception is the overwhelming support for Americaâ€™s anti-terrorist campaign found in Uzbekistan, where the United States currently has 1,500 troops stationed.
Sizable percentages of Muslims in many countries with significant Muslim populations also believe that suicide bombings can be justified in order to defend Islam from its enemies. While majorities see suicide bombing as justified in only two nations polled, more than a quarter of Muslims in another nine nations subscribe to this view.
U.S. image problems are not confined to Muslim countries. The worldwide polling conducted throughout the summer and fall finds few people, even in friendly nations, expressing a very favorable opinion of America, and sizable minorities in Western Europe and Canada having an unfavorable view. Many people around the world, especially in Europe and the Middle East/Conflict Area, believe the U.S. does not take into account the interests of their country when making international policies. Majorities in most countries also see U.S. policies as contributing to the growing gap between rich and poor nations and believe the United States does not do the right amount to solve global problems.
U.S. global influence is simultaneously embraced and rejected by world publics. America is nearly universally admired for its technological achievements and people in most countries say they enjoy U.S. movies, music and television programs. Yet in general, the spread of U.S. ideas and customs is disliked by majorities in almost every country included in this survey. This sentiment is prevalent in friendly nations such as Canada (54%) and Britain (50%), and even more so in countries where America is broadly disliked, such as Argentina (73%) and Pakistan (81%).
Similarly, despite widespread resentment toward U.S. international policies, majorities in nearly every country believe that the emergence of another superpower would make the world a more dangerous place. This view is shared even in Egypt and Pakistan, where no more than one-in-ten have a favorable view of the U.S. And in Russia, a 53% majority believes the world is a safer place with a single superpower.
The American public is strikingly at odds with publics around the world in its views about the U.S. role in the world and the global impact of American actions. In contrast to people in most other countries, a solid majority of Americans surveyed think the U.S. takes into account the interests of other countries when making international policy. Eight-in-ten Americans believe it is a good thing that U.S. ideas and customs are spreading around the world. The criticism that the U.S. contributes to the gap between rich and poor nations is the only negative sentiment that resonates with a significant percentage of Americans (39%).
In most countries surveyed, people rate the quality of their own life much higher than the state of their nation; similarly, their rating of national conditions is more positive than their assessment of the state of the world. Even so, the survey finds yawning gaps in perceptions dividing North America and Western Europe from the rest of the world.
Americans and Canadians judge their lives better than do people in the major nations of Western Europe. But that gap is minimal when the publics of the West are contrasted with people in other parts of the world.
Asians, South Koreans excepted, are less satisfied with their lives than are Western publics. Personal contentment is especially low among Chinese and Indian respondents, and relatively few feel they have made personal progress over the past five years. Nevertheless, the Chinese and Indians are extremely optimistic about their futures. In fact, many people in Asia expect their lives to get better. This is the case in the Philippines, Vietnam, South Korea and Indonesia. The Chinese and the Vietnamese, in particular, have great confidence that their children will lead better lives than they have. By contrast, the Japanese are among the gloomiest people in Asia, whether reflecting on the past, present or the future.