June 23, 2005

U.S. Image Up Slightly, But Still Negative

Chapter 5. Other Findings

There is substantial support in most countries for a military rival to challenge America’s global dominance. But the idea of China, in particular, emerging as the counterforce to the U.S. draws a more mixed reaction, especially in Europe.

Throughout Europe, majorities feel it would be a bad thing if China were to become as militarily powerful as the U.S. Opposition ranges from 71% in Great Britain, France, and Russia to 82% in Germany. Germans register even stronger opposition than do Americans, 78% of whom view a militarily equal China as a bad thing.

In the developing world, however, views about China becoming as militarily powerful as the U.S. are markedly different. India’s population is evenly split, with 45% judging it a good thing, and 45% a bad thing. In Lebanon, a plurality (43%) favors a China equal in military strength to the U.S. while 35% oppose it (23% offer no opinion). Again, views in Lebanon are sharply divided, with 53% of Muslims in favor of China’s rivaling the U.S. in military strength and 55% of Christians opposed. And in other countries in the Middle East and Asia, substantial majorities favor the rise of China as a military equal to America. In both Jordan and Pakistan, more than three-quarters of the population endorse the idea of China as a military superpower. In Indonesia 60% of the public is in favor and 28% opposed; in Turkey, the margin is 56%-to-29%.

Attitudes toward the potential rise of China as a military power do not correlate directly with opinions about China’s growing economic might. In the United States, a 49% plurality sees net benefits to America in China’s growth, although 40% take the opposite view. Europeans are similarly split: While France and Turkey are dubious, small majorities (in the range of 50% to 60%) in Great Britain, Germany and the Netherlands (as well as Canada) judge China’s economic growth a good thing for their respective countries. In the Middle East, a slight majority in Jordan (52%) views China’s economic growth as a benefit but in Lebanon the public is more divided, with 43% calling China’s growing economy a good thing for their country and 37% calling it a bad thing.

Again, views are uniformly more positive in Asia. By a margin of 53% to 36%, Indians see benefits to themselves in China’s economic emergence. Pakistan and Indonesia approve by still wider margins of 68%-to-10% and 70%-to-23%, respectively. Not surprisingly, the Chinese view their country’s economy growth positively (89%-to-4%).

Gauging National Satisfaction

As in past surveys, discontent with “the way things are going” in one’s country is one of the common themes all around the world. There are, however, some notable exceptions.

China tops the list of countries that are, on balance, satisfied with the way things are going at home, followed closely by Jordan. A striking 72% of Chinese express satisfaction while just 19% are dissatisfied. That figure is up significantly since 2002 when just 48% expressed satisfaction and 33%, dissatisfaction. Jordanians are nearly as content, with seven in ten satisfied (69%) and only 30% dissatisfied.

Pakistan, despite continued conflict in neighboring Afghanistan, also weighs in on the positive side, with 57% of the public content with the country’s current course, compared with 39% who are not. This represents continued improvement over the 54%-41% margin recorded a year ago and a sharp reversal of the 29%-67% balance of dissatisfaction recorded in May 2003.

In India, even with its fast-growing economy, the balance of satisfaction still tips toward the negative, with 57% of the public displeased with the way things are going compared with 41% who are content. But, again, this represents a significant improvement over the 83% dissatisfaction level that prevailed three years ago in the summer of 2002.

In Lebanon, in the wake of the withdrawal of Syrian forces beyond its borders, those dissatisfied with the ways things are going in their country (58%) still outnumber the 40% saying they are satisfied. However, that balance represents a sharp improvement from the 15% satisfied and 84% dissatisfied registered in May 2003. Among Lebanese Christians, a majority (53%) say they are satisfied with their country’s direction compared with 31% of Muslims and Druze.

Elsewhere in the Muslim world, satisfaction is also outweighed by dissatisfaction: in Indonesia, by a margin of 35% satisfied to 64% dissatisfied; in Turkey by a margin of 41% to 55%. In Europe, only Spain records a small balance of satisfaction (51% satisfied, 44% not) while the Dutch split about evenly between satisfieds and dissatisfieds.

On the other end of the balance of satisfaction, Poland leads the list of discontents with 82% of Poles saying they are dissatisfied with the way things are going in their country. Germany, Russia and France are not far behind with levels of dissatisfaction among their publics exceeding 70%. Even in Canada and Great Britain small majorities express discontent with the course of their nations – but by lesser margins than do Americans. In the U.S., 57% now disapprove of the way things are going in the U.S., compared with 39% who approve (virtually the same margin as recorded in March 2004, but markedly more negative than in April 2003).

Immigration Concerns

Concern about immigration continues to weigh upon some countries in Europe that have received considerable numbers of newcomers in recent years. In Germany, only 34% of the public says that immigration from the Middle East and North Africa is a good thing while 57% calls it a bad thing. Similarly, by a two-to-one margin, (31%-60%) Germans disapprove of immigration from Eastern Europe.

In the Netherlands, roughly equal percentages approve and disapprove of immigration from the Middle East and North Africa (46%-49%) and from Eastern Europe (50%-47%).

France, however, has had a change of heart about immigration in recent years. Now by a 53%-45% margin the French call immigration from the Middle East and North Africa a good thing rather than a bad thing, and by a margin of 52%-47% welcome newcomers from Eastern Europe. By comparison, in November 2002, 53% in France called immigration from the Middle East and Africa a bad thing, while 50% took a negative view of immigration from the countries of East Europe.

Spain, however, is the most welcoming country in Europe, with 67% of the public saying that immigration from the Middle East and North Africa is a good thing, and an even higher 72% approving of Eastern Europe immigration. Also on the welcoming side is Great Britain, which, by two-to-one margins now approves of immigration from the Middle East and North Africa as well as from Eastern Europe. (In November 2002, only 53% of the British approved of immigration from these areas, whereas more than 60% do now.) However, the Netherlands is about evenly divided in its views about the desirability of immigration from the two areas, an ambivalence that manifested itself in the Dutch rejection of the EU constitution.

As for Poland, the source of substantial immigration to Western Europe, views there are also divided as to whether to welcome immigrants from other countries in the former Soviet bloc (44% say it is a good thing, 46% call it a bad thing)

North Americans are generally more welcoming to newcomers than Europeans. Substantial majorities in both Canada and the United States say that it’s a good thing for Asians, Mexicans and Latin Americans to live and work in their respective countries. Six in ten Americans welcome both Asians and immigrants from south of the border. The margins of approval are still higher in Canada, with 77% judging Asian immigration beneficial, and 78% saying the same of Mexican and Latin American immigration.