The Pew Research Center has published a survey of citizens of 44 countries, addressing their attitudes toward their own governments, the state of the world generally, the United States, the Iraq situation, and other matters. The Washington Post headlines its article on the survey “Poll Finds World Doubts U.S. Motives In Iraq.” The Post account also highlights a “rising tide of anti-Americanism,” while acknowledging that a majority of citizens of most countries view the U.S. positively.
The Pew Center’s summary is available here; a complete copy of the report can also be downloaded.
Putting aside methodological issues, which I haven’t tried to evaluate, the survey contains some interesting data. As to the Post’s headline–“world doubts U.S. motives”–this is based on a question asking whether the U.S.’s use of force in Iraq (which, of course, hasn’t happened yet) is explained by the American belief that Saddam is a threat, or by the fact that the U.S. wants to control Iraqi oil. But this question was asked in only five countries, apparently, so the headline “world doubts U.S. motives” should more properly be “certain European countries doubt U.S. motives.” You can look at the poll results, but it is fair to say that citizens doubt U.S. motives to the extent they have been warned to do so by their governments.
The more interesting Iraq data relate to the respondents’ own perceptions of Saddam’s regime. Notwithstanding their evaluations of our motives, large majorities in all of the countries surveyed–the U.S., Britain, France, Germany, Russia and Turkey–with the exception of Turkey, agreed that Iraq poses a great or moderate danger. Likewise, when given the choice between “Saddam must be removed” and “Saddam can be disarmed,” substantial majorities in most of the countries surveyed (and pluralities in all) said that Saddam must be removed. In Germany, where anti-American demagoguery has been most pronounced, 75% said Saddam must be removed, while 19% said he can be disarmed. Apparently very few advocate leaving him alone.
The basic question of pro- versus anti-Americanism is, as always, complicated. It is true that pro-American sentiment in most of the countries surveyed has dropped somewhat in the past two years; this is hardly surprising in view of the current polarizing crisis. What is striking is how pro-American the world, generally speaking, remains. The “rising tide of anti-Americanism” has caused the U.S.A.’s favorability rating to slip from 83% to 75% in Great Britain; 76% to 70% in Italy; 86% to 79% in Poland; 77% to 72% in Japan; and so on. Oddly, our favorability rating has risen slightly in France, from 62% to 63%. And the people of Uzbekistan are heroes: 85% approve of the U.S. And in Russia, 61% now have a favorable view of the U.S., compared to 37% two years ago.
There are many more interesting nuggets in the report. On the whole, however, it certainly does not support the negative spin that media outlets are likely to put on it over the next few days.
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