Sago Boulevard

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Who's Pro-American?

In today's Washington Post, Anne Applebaum makes some very interesting observations about international anti-Americanism. A recent poll shows, unsurprisingly, that "most Frenchmen have a highly unfavorable view of the United States; that the Spanish prefer China to America; and that Canadian opinion of the United States has sunk dramatically." Yet, Applebaum points out:
Even the most damning polls always show that some percentage of even the most anti-American countries remains pro-American. According to the new poll, some 43 percent of the French, 41 percent of Germans, 42 percent of Chinese and 42 percent of Lebanese say they like us. Maybe it's time to ask: Who are they?

That's a good question. I mean, really, it just struck me as a very useful approach to the data. If 85% of a given country admit to harboring ill-feelings toward Americans, I want to know who those 15% are and why they still like us.

In Poland, for example, people between 30 and 44 are more likely to be pro-American than their compatriots. Applebaum notes that "this is the group whose lives would have been most directly affected by the experience of the Solidarity movement and martial law -- events that occurred when they were in their teens and twenties -- and who have the clearest memories of American support for the Polish underground." In Canada, Great Britian, Italy, and Australia, people over 60 are more pro-American than their children and grandchildren. This is the generation who remembers the "positive experiences of U.S. cooperation or occupation during World War II."

Despite all the problems of American foreign policy, it's important to keep things in proper perspective. There is still a significant minority of pro-American voters in countries like France and Germany. Applebaum concludes:
They are worth cultivating, with presidential speeches or diplomatic visits, because their numbers may even grow... Before Americans brush off the opinion of the "foreigners" as unworthy of attention, they should remember that whole chunks of the world have a natural affinity for them and, if they are diligent, always will.