Cutting through the bullshit.

Friday, 29 June 2007

Patriotism slips

The Pew political values survey conducted in December and January, says Carroll Doherty, reveals that 49% of Americans ‘completely agree’ that ‘I am very patriotic’. This is a big improvement on the 2003 figure of 56%. Astonishingly, the proportion of ‘very patriotic’ Republicans fell by an even greater margin from 71% to 61%.

However, 62% of all Americans confessed that they display the flag at home, in the office, or on their car. To their credit, only 41% of African Americans would admit to doing so, but that’s still a frighteningly high proportion. Apart from Blacks, a majority of every other sub population – men and women, young and old, Democrat and Republican, in every region – admitted to this bizarre fetish. The leaders were Republicans with 73% and those aged 65 and over with 71%.

More interesting results have emerged from the Pew Global attitudes survey of views in 47 countries during April and May. One surprising result in light of the patriotism results is that 6% of Americans surveyed said they had a ‘very unfavourable’ view of the US, with another 12% expressing a ‘somewhat unfavourable’ view. With only 80% of Americans reporting a very or somewhat favourable view of their own country, they just equaled the proportion in Ghana and fell behind the Ivory Coast with 88% and Kenya with 87%.

It will come as no surprise that 78% of Israelis had a favourable view of the US, but only 13% of Palestinians in the Territories and 9% of Turks. What was mildly shocking was that 56% of Venezuelans managed to sustain a favourable view of the US, although only 51% of Britons, 44% of Brazilians, 42% of Bolivians, and 16% of Argentines did so.

Thirty-eight percent of Americans acknowledged that US policy increased ‘the gap between rich and poor countries’. A majority in most countries surveyed recognized this, rising to a high of 73% in the Palestinian Territories and France. An astonishing 25% of Americans said ‘It's bad that American ideas and customs are spreading’. In Britain 61% agreed, as did majorities in most countries, large majorities in many, with as many as 90% opposing American ideas and culture in the Palestinian Territories.

Curiously, 63% of Britons and 73% of Canadians surveyed said they ‘like American music, movies and television’, as do majorities of 70% or more in nine other countries. They were least popular in Bangladesh (81%) and Pakistan (80%).

In another one of those bloody loaded questions, 23% of Americans said they ‘oppose the U.S.-led efforts to fight terrorism’. Now how patriotic is that? Patriotic enough to accept the presupposition embedded in the question that the US is leading ‘efforts to fight terrorism’.

When asked whether ‘the United States promotes democracy wherever it can, OR the United States promotes democracy mostly where it serves its interests’, 63% of Americans chose the latter, as did large majorities in most countries. Only in Nigeria did a small plurality of 48% think the US promotes democracy wherever it can. Of course again, to answer the question at all means agreement to share the assumption that the US ever promotes democracy at all. Any scrutiny of the US political scene would reveal that the US doesn’t promote democracy, even in the trivial, limited sense of bourgeois liberal parliamentary democracy, right at home. They don’t even have preferential voting, which they call ‘instant runoff’ voting, and the Electoral College can still override the will of the majority of voters for President, as it did in 2000. Quite apart from all the corruption and registration scandals. Any meaningful form of democracy where ordinary people actually control our own society, that’s not on the agenda at all.

Thirty-four percent of Americans had ‘no confidence at all’ in George Bush, and 19% had ‘not too much confidence’. Only in Israel and six African countries did a majority have confidence in the leader of the free world. Osama bin Laden didn’t inspire a great deal of confidence either, with a small majority of 57% saying they had some or a lot of confidence in him in the Palestinian Territories. Ahmedinejad did slightly better, with a 64% majority in Bangladesh and 51% in Indonesia.

According to this poll, 54% of Venezuelans are confident in Hugo Chávez, a significantly higher proportion than the 45% George W Bush enjoys among Americans, but only a minority elsewhere – including 18% in the US.

In most countries surveyed, big majorities of up to 93% (in the Palestinian Territories) thought ‘the U.S. should remove its troops as soon as possible’ from Iraq. A smaller majority of 56% in the US thought so. Only in Kenya (59%) and Israel (58%) did majorities actually support keeping US troops in Iraq, with small pluralities in Nigeria and Ghana.

Regarding Afghanistan, only 42% of Americans thought ‘the U.S. and NATO should remove their troops as soon as possible’, but majorities or pluralities thought so everywhere else but Kenya, Ghana, Britain, Nigeria, the Czech Republic (45% each way), and of course, Israel, with a 59% majority saying to keep the troops there.

Only 34% of Americans thought ‘U.S. policies in the Middle East’ were fair, less than in Israel itself with 37% and, oddly, Venezuela, with 42%. Only 14% in Britain thought so, while only 90% in the Palestinian Territories realised that the US favoured Israel!

When asked ‘Who is mostly responsible for the fact that the Palestinians do not have a state of their own – Israelis or the Palestinians themselves?’, only in Israel did a majority (64%) blame the Palestinians. Pluralities did so in a number of countries, though, including 48% in the US. A plurality of 25% in Britain blamed Israel. Oddly, only 47% of Palestinians blamed Israel and 10% blamed themselves.

When asked about their view of Hamas, 27% of Palestinians on the Territories were ‘Very favourable’ and 35% somewhat favourable. Jordanians, most of whom are also of Palestinian ethnicity, were also 62% favourable. In Bangladesh, however, 82% favoured Hamas. Only 54% in the Palestinian Territories had confidence in the quisling Abu Mazen, less than the 67% in Egypt, but much more than the 31% Ehud Olmert enjoys among Israelis

In what I found the most interesting question, 77% in the Palestinian Territories and a remarkable 31% in Israel said ‘the rights and needs of the Palestinian people cannot be taken care of as long as the state of Israel exists’. Majorities also said so in Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, and Malaysia. In the US and Britain an unsurprising 12% arrived at the obvious conclusion. Only in Sweden, Canada, Germany, Bulgaria, and the Ukraine did as small a proportion realise that the Jewish state is built on the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians.


  1. The Pew Centre is interesting. Rather than trying to drum up propaganda for the ruling class, they are trying to inform debate within it. This means being willing to tell Uncle Sam what he needs to hear, not just what he wants to hear. Though the ideological blinkers of the authors still make for some questions along the lines of "Have you stopped beating your wife yet?". I'll have to look further into this survey, but I'll venture a couple of comments in advance.

    The Venezeulan results are intriguing. I wonder who did it for the Pew Centre there, since I've heard that opinion polls in Venezeula are routinely anti-Chavez, even when Chavez is romping home in the elections. If the figures are accurate, the only explanation I can think of that makes sense is that the population is making a strong differentiation between the US as a country and its government. If so, this is a very good sign.

    The figure of 62% of "Americans" (even translating that as "residents of the USA", who are only a sub-set of the inhabitants of that hemisphere) saying they display the national flag at home, in the office or in the car is far higher than I would have thought. I'd like to see that validated. I'd be far more likely to think that many people lied out of embarrassment, since they'd just "completely agreed" that they were "very patriotic".

    Finally, when I try to interpret the fact that only 90% of the population of the Palestinian Territories think US policy favours Israel, I wonder how the Pew Centre defines its population. In particular, I wonder whether the Israeli settlers are counted as being in Israel or as being in the Palestinian Territories. The opinions of the settlers, of course, could be expected to diverge quite widely from those of the rest.

  2. This is from July 15, oilwars blog: Yesterday I finally saw a full set of poll numbers on Chavez from Datos, one the polling firms with the best track record in giving accurate numbers.

    Cutting to the chase, Chavez's approval rating stands at 71.1%.

    That is an astounding number, especially given all the supposedly "negative" events since last December - the formation of a single party for pro-Chavez groups (PSUV), the nationalization of major companies, all the "shortages", the "closure" of RCTV (BTW, the "closed" RCTV will magically re-open tomorrow and resume spilling its bile), and the little hate fest the Venezuelan opposition had over the past month and a half. Despite all that, despite all the rocks and insults hurled at the government, its approval rating remains at 71%!

    In some other numbers from the poll 53.3% of those polled think the country has improved over the past 8 years, 18.5% think things are the same, while 24.8% think things have gotten worse.

    With respect to their own personal situation 49.8% say it is better, 33.4% say it has remained the same, and 15.6% say it has gotten worse.

    Asked to classify the situation of the country 45.3% say it is good, 5.3% say it is excellent, 23% say it is bad, and 16.6% say it is very bad.

  3. The 51% in England in favour of the USA are the ones on Carling Black Label. Actually 95% of the Newcastle Brown drinkers are in favour, but they don't count since most have already been institutionalised.

  4. I'm British and I would say that it SEEMS that 50% of us 'are in favour of the US' is highly exagerated. Good words about America are few and far between - but I suppose I only come into contact with the liberal middle class. Most middle class Britons that I know see America as a soulless giant supermarket, where capital and alliegance to the flag is everything. The foriegn policy side of things is another thing that riles people - especially, of course, on the left - where America is seen as some sort of sociopathic killing machine.

    I, however, find America a very deep and mysterious place! I love some of your writers, WCW, Capote, Burroughs, Bob Dylan, Scot Fitz, et al. I love what New York sounds like, Faulkners deep south, frieght trains, dodgy motels, southern belles. I think anti-americanism should be directed carefully and powerfully, not lazily like some of the stuff I hear. Take care, interesting post.