American Character Gets Mixed Reviews: U.S. Image Up Slightly, But Still Negative

Contact: Cindy L. Jobbins, 215.575.4812, Vidya Krishnamurthy, 202.419.4328


Washington, D.C. - 06/23/2005 - Anti-Americanism in Europe, the Middle East and Asia, which surged as a result of the U.S. war in Iraq, shows modest signs of abating. In Indonesia, India and Russia overall opinions of the U.S. have improved significantly and hostility toward the U.S. has eased in some parts of the Muslim world, according to the latest survey by the Pew Global Attitudes Project. However, America’s image problem around the globe is intractable enough that even popular policies undertaken in the last year have done little to repair it in most countries included in Pew’s latest survey. Majorities of the publics in 10 of the 15 countries polled hold unfavorable opinions of the U. S.

President George W. Bush’s calls for greater democracy in the Middle East and U.S. aid to tsunami victims in Asia have been welcomed in many countries. But the survey, conducted among nearly 17,000 people from April 20 through May 31 in the U.S. and 15 other countries, finds that America continues to be viewed as largely indifferent to the interests of other countries in setting its foreign policies.

The conflict in Iraq remains widely and deeply unpopular and in no country, including the U.S., does a majority of the public think the war that resulted in Saddam Hussein’s ouster made the world safer.

Attitudes toward Americans as a people remain generally more positive, but even these have worsened in many countries, including longtime allies such as Great Britain and Canada. In most countries surveyed, Americans are viewed as “inventive” and “hardworking.” However they are also seen by many in both Western and predominately Muslim countries as “violent” and “greedy”— a judgment in which many Americans concur.

In Canada and the Muslim world, majorities regard Americans as “rude” and Muslims are also much more likely to see them as immoral. And while Western nations see the U.S. as too religious, Muslims generally see it as not religious enough. Indians hold the most uniformly positive views of Americans. The Chinese, however, are largely critical; only in China does the majority not rate Americans “hardworking,” though it does concede that Americans are “inventive.”

The U.S. gets better marks for its leadership in the global war on terror, but even here support has slipped in almost all of Europe—most dramatically in Spain -- as well as in Canada. And while Americans increasingly value their alliances with Western Europe and Canada, that feeling is not reciprocated. Majorities throughout Western Europe as well as Canada opt for a more independent approach to security and diplomatic affairs.

However, there is modest optimism among Muslims that the Middle East will become more democratic. Even in countries like Jordan and Pakistan, where America is held in low regard, those who see the region becoming more democratic give some credit to the U.S. for its support of democracy in their countries.

Other countries fare generally better in the popularity sweepstakes. China is well-regarded in both Europe and Asia, although there is considerable wariness about its growing economic and military might. Solid majorities in every European nation except Turkey would not like to see China rival the U.S. as a military superpower.

China also tops all other surveyed nations in self-satisfaction with the way things are going there. Among those surveyed in China, 88% view their own country favorably, topping second-place America, 83% of whose citizens hold their country in high regard. Americans, however, hold no illusions about their standing in the world: nearly seven-in-ten think America is “generally disliked”—the most self-effacing assessment of global popularity given by any nation in the survey.

As leaders of the G-8 nations prepare to meet, environmental issues will be at the top of their agenda. The survey finds that America evokes little confidence in this regard: Fewer than one-in-ten Western Europeans say they most trust the U.S. to do the right thing in protecting the world’s environment.

The Pew Global Attitudes Project is co-chaired by former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and by former Senator John C. Danforth. In addition to their guidance in shaping and interpreting the survey, the project team consulted with survey and policy experts, academic regional and economic experts, activists and policymakers.

The report is also available by contacting the project at (202) 419-4350.

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