Humanitarian Aid Improves America's Image but Has Its Limits

Mar 06, 2012

When Japan was struck by a devastating earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011, the U.S. mounted a major humanitarian aid mission to help the Japanese government respond to the disaster. In recent years, the U.S. also has provided substantial aid to Indonesia after the 2004 tsunami that caused widespread destruction in the Banda Aceh region and to Pakistan in 2005 after it suffered a major earthquake in the northern part of the country.

In all these cases, substantial aid contributions produced more favorable impressions of the U.S. among the populations of those countries. However, the long term impact of humanitarian aid on public opinion is limited, which was apparent in Indonesia and in Pakistan.

An analysis of past polling by the Pew Global Attitudes Project suggests that the lesson to be learned is that disaster relief efforts are more likely to have a significant effect on public attitudes in countries where there is at least a reservoir of goodwill toward the U.S. In nations like Pakistan, where intense anti-Americanism exists, improving U.S.image through humanitarian aid is considerably more difficult.

Read the full report, Does Humanitarian Aid Improve America’s Image?, on the Pew Global Attitudes Project Web site.

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