U.S. battles image problem World loves American technology, culture, but rejects U.S. ideas, customs

Posted: Thursday, December 05, 2002

WASHINGTON -- Global unhappiness with the United States may have gone up in recent years, but there is still a worldwide love affair with things American, a new survey found.

In its first measure of views in other countries, the Pew Global Attitudes Project found citizens in 35 of 42 nations held a generally favorable view of the United States. But the number of people who felt that way declined in 19 of 27 countries where a trend could be identified.

Antipathy was found in friendly nations like Canada and Britain, economically ailing countries like Argentina, and Muslim countries like Egypt and Pakistan.

The dislike was especially potent in Muslim countries of the Middle East and Central Asia. Seventy-five percent of those surveyed in Jordan had an unfavorable opinion of America, as did 69 percent of Egyptians and Pakistanis, and 59 percent of Lebanese.

Sept. 11 aside, ''discontent with the United States has grown around the world over the past two years,'' Pew researchers said. ''Opinions about the U.S., however, are complicated and contradictory. People around the world both embrace things American and, at the same time, decry U.S. influence on their societies.''

Madeleine Albright, secretary of state during the Clinton administration, said the fact that the United States is the world's only superpower may be to blame.

''In many ways, we are viewed as the rich guy living on the hill,'' Albright said. ''We have seen this coming since the end of the Cold War.''

Most of the people surveyed said they don't want the world to again have more than one superpower -- even in Russia. There, 53 percent said they believe the world is safer with just one superpower.

The surveys in 44 countries were conducted by established survey organizations in each country between July and October, with polls done by phone in eight of the most developed countries and done face to face in all other countries. The error margins ranged from plus or minus 2 percent to 4.5 percent, depending on the sample size.

In Germany, the percentage of people who hold a favorable view of the United States fell 17 points over two years. In 1999-2000, 78 percent of Germans considered the United States favorable. This year, only 61 percent did.

Sentiments were similar in Argentina, where 34 percent saw the United States in a good light, compared to 50 percent two years ago, in Indonesia and the Slovak Republic, where favorable ratings fell 14 points, and Turkey, where pro-U.S. views dropped from 52 percent to 30 percent.

Among Russians, U.S. popularity surged 24 points, from 37 percent two years ago to 61 percent today. Similarly, 77 percent of Nigerians and 85 percent of Uzbeks had pro-U.S. views, up 31 percent and 29 percent respectively.

World citizens admire American technology and culture, but reject the spread of U.S. ideas and customs. Some 54 percent of Canadians, 67 percent of Germans, 71 percent of the French and 84 percent of Egyptians said it would be bad to spread American ideas and customs.

But there was international demand for American culture. Seventy-seven percent of Canadians said they like American music, movies and TV, and it was much the same for Venezuela (78 percent), Poland (70 percent), Japan (74 percent), Ivory Coast (84 percent) and Great Britain (76 percent).

The most common criticisms were that the United States acts by itself, pushes policies that widen the gap between rich and poor nations, and doesn't do enough to solve the world's problems.

America shouldn't, however, feel singled out -- the rest of the world is unhappy in general. Seventy to 80 percent of respondents in the various countries said they were dissatisfied with world conditions.

U.S. officials are well aware of America's image problem abroad, and have tried to do something about it. The White House established an office of ''global communications'' to provide in-depth explanations of President Bush's foreign policy, which has been condemned by many as cavalier.

The U.S. war on terrorism is fiercely unpopular in Muslim countries. The vast majority of those polled in Egypt, Jordan, Indonesia, Senegal, Turkey and Lebanon said they oppose it.

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