Wednesday, September 06, 2006


I don’t know how much world opinion polls mean, but they are fun.

A late 2005 BBC world opinion poll ( surveyed 33 countries about their views on some of the world player’s, namely China, Russia, U.S., Iran, Japan, Britain, France and Europe in general. Subjects were asked whether each country listed had a “mainly positive” or “mainly negative” effect on the world. There were also three wishy-washy categories, “depends,” “Neither/No difference” and “DK/NA” which I will mostly ignore here.

Once you get past that the U.S. was viewed unfavorably by almost everyone, there were some interesting results. For on thing, most Afghanis must wear rose colored glasses. They gave the U.S. a 72 per cent “mainly positive” rating as opposed to only 14 per cent “mainly negative”. So much for the conventional wisdom that everyone hates their invader or occupier.

Why not, you say, why can't they think well of us? Well, for one thing, that’s a higher favorability rating than we gave ourselves by almost ten per cent and higher than any other country gave us except the Philippines, which, hmmm, we also occupied for a while. You don’t want to know what our close allies think, but you can go look if you like. Its not pretty.

Afghanis seem to overlook the fact we have no apparent exit plan, and that our soldiers sometimes accidentally kill innocent Afghanis, including children, with friendly fire.

Maybe Wolfowitz wasn’t wrong that we’d be welcomed as liberators. He just had the wrong country. And maybe you (you know who you are) can’t say that Bush administration does everything wrong. Looking at this poll by itself, they are doing Afghanistan right. You have to wonder if Iraq II never happened, and we had instead flooded Afghanistan with troops “to finish the job,” as some argue we should have, that we would quite as respected there. Short of discovering that there really are alternate universes with slightly different histories, I guess we will never know.

On the other hand, the Afghanis seem generally very appreciative of other nations. Although the U.S. seems most respected by them, Afghanis seem to like almost everyone, at least relatively so. Take Russia as an extreme example. You would think Afghanis hate Russia so much that they could not believe they had any positive effect on the world. Still, Russia got a 30 per cent “mainly positive” rating from them. The “mainly negative” result was only slightly higher -- 33 per cent -- a tiny, probably insignificant, difference. The Afghanis, who suffered through Russia's devastating invasion in the 70s and 80s (I'm thinking 2 million dead) have a view of Russia that mirrors the rest of the polled world, at least as an average.

For every other subject country, the Afghanis viewed their effect on the world as “mainly favorable” by a huge margin, least being Iran, who still got well over twice as many “mainly positive” votes as “mainly negative” ones.

Enough of Afghanistan. You know who else seems to appreciate us? Mostly African countries like The Congo, Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal and South Africa. In Europe, its just Poland, and in the rest of the world, only the Philippines.

Here’s the scary part. Consider our neighbor to the South. Mexicans seems to appreciate Japan, India, France and Europe in general. They viewed more unfavorably China, Britain, Russia and Iran (just barely). Most of all, they overwhelmingly viewed as "mainly negative” . . . US!

Only 10% (I’m going to say that again, bigger, for effect - ONLY TEN PER CENT) of Mexicans polled found our effect on the world as “mainly positive,” while 55% found it “mainly negative”. No other country’s inhabitants gave any other country a lower rating except when considering Iran, which had by far the worst ranking of all the nations. In fact, Iranians polled were two and a half times as likely to find that we have a "mainly positive" effect than were Mexicans. Is that possible?

Apparently, the fact that so many Mexicans come here to live or work each year and all the foreign aid we have given for a long time now, means diddly-squat when it comes to what they think about our effect on the world.

Maybe it really shouldn’t be any surprise. Heritage Foundation studies have shown that United States’ bilateral financial aid to countries does not result in those countries voting with us in the United Nations (take a look at So why should we think that it would make their citizens view us favorably? But TEN PER CENT.

Compare Mexico’s rating for us with their ratings of two other countries. This is going to really hurt. Even though Iran was viewed most unfavorably throughout the world, more than twice as many of the Mexicans polled viewed Iran’s effect on the world “mainly positive” as they did our effect. Iran’s “mainly negative” ranking was less than half of ours. Almost three times as many Mexicans found Russia, the next lowest ranking country, to have a “mainly positive" effect as they did for us. According to this poll, Mexicans think so little of us that Iranians polled were two and a half times more likely to think that the U.S. had a "mainly positive" effect than were their Mexican counterparts.

There are, of course, substantial flaws in the poll. For example, roughly 1000 to 2000 subjects were polled in each country regardless of their population. Huge China (1.3 billion) had only1863 polled whereas sparsely populated Finland had 1069 (only 5 million or so). For some reason South Africa had nearly 3500 polled. Given the millions and in some cases hundreds of millions in each country, one or two thousand people is probably a small sample.

All these things certainly puts the credibility of the whole study at risk. Throw in the Israel-Hizbollah war and the recent politics of immigration reform here, and maybe the results would be different if it was done now, less than a year later. Maybe the results mean nothing.

But TEN PER CENT! Sheesh.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous3:29 PM

    Hi David!
    Why aren't you writing for the New York Times?????? I thoroughly enjoy your writer's voice, and appreciate the unbiased education I received just by reading your work. Forget the laywerin' ..... you are a born writer.


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I started this blog in September, 2006. Mostly, it is where I can talk about things that interest me, which I otherwise don't get to do all that much, about some remarkable people who should not be forgotten, philosophy and theories (like Don Foster's on who wrote A Visit From St. Nicholas and my own on whether Santa is mostly derived from a Norse god) and analysis of issues that concern me. Often it is about books. I try to quote accurately and to say when I am paraphrasing (more and more). Sometimes I blow the first name of even very famous people, often entertainers. I'm much better at history, but once in a while I see I have written something I later learned was not true. Sometimes I fix them, sometimes not. My worst mistake was writing that Beethoven went blind, when he actually went deaf. Feel free to point out an error. I either leave in the mistake, or, if I clean it up, the comment pointing it out. From time to time I do clean up grammar in old posts as, over time I have become more conventional in my grammar, and I very often write these when I am falling asleep and just make dumb mistakes. It be nice to have an editor, but . . . .