Pew Survey Finds America’s Global Stature Diminished

The globalization of media and the information technology revolution have made American actions visible to the entire world. In a wide-sweeping survey of 38,000 people in 44 countries – a feat accomplished in large part thanks to globalization – the Pew Foundation finds a gloomy image of the US overseas. From the state of American democracy to America's unilateralist stance in the international arena, people around the globe find much fault with the US. Negative opinions are not only heard in the Middle East, either. Even traditional allies such as Canadians and Germans are critical of the direction of US policy. – YaleGlobal

Pew Survey Finds America’s Global Stature Diminished

Wednesday, December 4, 2002

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, released their first major report on December 4. The survey of 38,000 respondents shows that 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, today'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 one'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.

Click here for the full text of the report on The Pew Research Center's website.

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