Gideon's Blog

In direct contravention of my wife's explicit instructions, herewith I inaugurate my first blog. Long may it prosper.

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Tuesday, February 07, 2006
Dan Drezner points to an interesting little survey of various countries' attitudes towards various other countries. Some things are obvious - Iran is pretty unpopular, and so is the US, and Europe and Japan are more popular - but slicing the data various ways gives some interesting other tidbits.

Here's one: some countries just have a fairly negative view of everybody. Turkey, for example, has a net-negative view of China (marginally), Britain, Russia, France, the US, India (again marginally) and Iran. They have net-positive views only of Japan. (They also had a net-positive view of Europe - but with net-negative views of every European *country* actually mentioned this should perhaps be interpreted as positive views of the EU as an institution rather than "Europeans" as a people.) Turkey is notable for having a net-negative view of so many countries *and* for a large net-negative view of the world on average. France, Finland, Germany and Argentina also have double-digit net-negative views on average, but each is only net-negative on 5 out of 8 countries, as against Turkey's 7 out of 8 (France has positive views of Britain and of France itself, as do Finland and Germany; Argentina has positive views of China and France, but strongly negative views of Britain). But other countries are widely gloomy if not so deeply so. South Korea has net-negative views of China, Russia, the US, India, Japan and (strongly) Iran; they have extremely positive views of Britain and France, which is what drags them into net-sunny territory on the world as a whole, when they really should be counted among the gloomy gusses. Mexico has net-negative views only of Britain, Russia and (strongly) the US, but there is no country they are particularly positive on; next to Turkey, they have the lowest positive views across the board of any country polled.

The most upbeat countries, in terms of their views of the rest of the world, appear to be in Africa. Every African country polled has a positive view of the US, for instance, which would suggest the Africans are especially fond of America (the non-African countries that poll net-positive on the US are Afghanistan, India, Sri Lanka, Poland the Philippines - the most positive country on the US of any polled, they like us more than we like ourselves). But in fact, the African countries have a positive view of everybody. The Nigerians have a net-positive view of every country on which they were polled except for Iran, and they have the 7th most positive view of Iran of any coutry polled (including Iran itself). They have as strongly a positive view of Japan, Britan and China as they do of the US. On average, the African countries polled have a marginally more positive view of Japan, China, France and Britain than they do of the US, though they have very positive views of all these countries. Of the six countries with the net-sunniest view of other countries among those polled, five - Nigeria, Senegal, Ghana, Kenya and Tanzania - are in Africa. The sixth - actually #2 on the sunny index - is Afghanistan, which has a net-positive view of 7 of the 8 countries on which they were polled; they only country they don't trust is Russia, and they have only a 3% net negative view of them (30% positive, 33% negative). Which is kind of amazing when you consider the history. In any event, if anyone's spinning the poll as showing how much Africans love America, discount the spin. We're popular there, but not notably so.

It's also interesting to see which countries profess self-love, and which profess more ambivalence. Here's a table showing each country that was polled about itself, how positive they view their role in the world, how negative, and what the net score is, ranked by net score:

Country Positive Negative Net
China 86% 6% 80%
Russia 69% 6% 63%
France 68% 16% 52%
Iran 68% 18% 50%
India 47% 10% 37%
Britain 63% 26% 37%
US 63% 30% 33%

China exhibits the rabid nationalism of which none of us should be surprised. India is charmingly cynical about itself, but not actually worried. Among the remaining countries polled, positive views of self are relatively similar; Russia, France, Iran, Britain and the US all fall within a 6% range in terms of self-approval. But the US and Britain (and India) have significantly lower net-self-approval ratings than the other countries on the list. Is that a reflection of sharp dissension over the Iraq war? Or lack of civilizational self-confidence? Or healthy self-skepticism? I don't know the reason, but it is notable, and it would be interesting to see how these numbers have varied over time. (I also wish they had polled the Japanese.)

Cases of unreciprocated love (or hate) are fascinating. China has strongly net-positive views of Russia. Russia couldn't care less about China. China also has extremely positive views of France, even more strong than of Russia. The French have decidedly negative views of China - among the most net-negative views of any country polled. The Russo-French relationship is similar; the Russians have wildly positive views of the French, while the French have extremely negative views of the Russians. The French, though, may just be hard to please; they have net-negative views of most countries. They don't even like the Indians, who have net-positive views of every country on which they were polled, including (barely) Iran. Interestingly, the only countries the French poll positively on (apart from themselves) are the British and the Japanese. And while we can't say how the Japanese feel (they weren't polled), the British are decidedly negative on the French. Touche! Iran, meanwhile, has strongly net-positive views of China, while China has midly net-negative views of Iran. Iran has even more strongly net-positive views of India, while Indians show no discernable enthusiasm for Iran (though they are barely net-positive in their views). But, then again, no one shows really wild enthusiasm for Iran; even the Africans range from lukewarm to strongly negative. And then there's America. We are net-negative on the Chinese, the Russians (barely), the French and (of course) the Iranians; we're lukewarm towards India and very positive towards the Japanese. But we are nuts about the Brits. We are more than twice as net-positive about the Brits as we are about ourselves. But the Brits are decidedly net-negative on us. Oh, well.

(Interestingly, Americans are the only country polled about themselves as well as other countries who viewed *any* other country more positively than themselves. We think both the British and the Japanese are a stronger force for good in the world than is our own country. Even the British - who come in second to last in net-self-love - are more net-positive on their own country than they are on any other place on which they were polled.)

The most-loved country on the list, is Japan, against whom only the Chinese and South Koreans harbor net-negative views (though the French and the Mexicans are rather stingy with their love). Unfortunately, we cannot say whether this love is unrequited or not, because Japan was not polled for their views of the world.

So much for unrequited love: who does the world love to hate? Iran gets by far the worst reviews of any country of the eight on which people were polled, followed by Russia and the US. The world has strong negative views of Iran and few positive views; the world is pretty equally divided between positive and negative views of the US and Russia, with stronger positive *and* negative feelings of the US.

Comparing views of the US with views of Iran, there are seven countries that harbor stronger net-negative views of the US than of Iran, apart from Iran itself: Mexico leading the pack (45% net-negative view of the US, versus 1% net-positive for Iran), followed by China, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Turkey and Russia (which, to be honest, hates both the US and Iran about equally, just like Argentina). This is a pretty depressing list. It doesn't take a genius to predict that Mexico is going to be an increasing headache for the United States, and an increasingly serious one. China, of course, views us as a global rival. We are still fighting in Iraq, supposedly for their benefit; the Afghans appear to be happier at the way we "abandoned" their country than the Iraqis are at the way we remain "engaged" in theirs. Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, is a traditional rival of Iran; their mutual loathing is legendary. That they prefer Iran to America is notable. Ditto Turkey, a long-time American ally who has also been a traditional rival of the Iranians, and one profoundly threatened (like Saudi Arabia) by Iran's nuclear ambitions. And Russia, of course, has practically gotten a blank check from the Bush Administration, and has suffered mightily from terrorist attacks. Like I said: depressing.

Comparing views of the US with views of Russia, meanwhile, is also interesting. China, Iran, Mexico, Iraq, Argentina, Germany, Canada, Brazil, Spain, Australia, Turkey and South Korea all have net-negative views of the US, and less-negative - or, in the cases of China, Iran and Iraq, actually positive - views of Russia. Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka and India also prefer Russia to America, but have net-positive views of each. There are only three countries outside of Africa that strongly prefer the US to Russia: the Philippines, Poland and Afghanistan. Italy, Indonesia and Great Britain also prefer the US to Russia, but not by large margins and they are each net-negative on both of us. This is also a depressing list. China, Iran, Mexico, Iraq, Turkey: fine, we've discussed these already. Canada prefers Russia to the US? Australia prefers Russia to the US? Germany prefers Russia to the US? (All three are net-negative on both, but much more negative about the US.) The French are at least even-handed in their hatreds.

All in all, a very interesting poll. I only wish they'd polled Japan.