Thursday, June 15, 2006

Global image of the US

The PEW Research Center has published its annual Global Attitudes Survey. The NY Times reports that the poll indicates that the global image of the US is worsening. That does seem to be the case based on the numbers the Times notes, but the picture is far more complicated. I'm not saying the Times is wrong, but there are a lot of aspects to this poll to take into consideration.
  1. Samples: In Great Britain, France, Germany & Spain the Muslim population in each of those countries was 'oversampled'. Nearly half of those surveyed were Muslim despite the fact that the Muslim population as a percentage of the whole in each of those countries would be a single digit figure. PEW doesn't seem to have done this in 2005. PEW does claim that the data from these countries is "weighted to be representative of the general population". Well, maybe, but still it seems a strange thing to do.

  2. 2005 results: Undoubtedly the trend since 2000 is down, but when the Times reports that "[a]s the war in Iraq continues for a fourth year, the global image of America has slipped further", you have to bear in mind that there had been a general rise in this rating in the 2005 poll. So, the Iraq war has continued, yes, but I doubt it's necessarily responsible for the fall in America's favorable ratings after the 2005 rise. Other than Katrina, I can think of no other event that could have caused the 2006 fall-off.

  3. Many of the falls are actually within the margin of error, so there may be less to this story than meets the eye.
The most interesting numbers in this poll are those from Nigeria. The only thing the Muslims (92%) and Christians (95%) seem to agree on is that they're dissatisfied with the state of their country. They are seriously divided in their views on the US and the War on Terror (Christians favor both, Muslims oppose both).