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Walker's World: Measuring anti-Americanism

By MARTIN WALKER, UPI Chief International Correspondent

WASHINGTON, Dec. 1 (UPI) -- The trouble with anti-Americanism is that it has long been so hard to measure it, or to assess its influence and main features and its implications in any coherent way.

How much is it based on what America does in the world, and how much on what America is, a global superpower that is too strong ever to have to say 'Sorry'? Is anti-Americanism different today from the anti-Americanism of the late 1940s, when the National Assembly in Paris voted to ban Coca-Cola from France and its colonies? Or is it different from the 1960s, when the combination of the Vietnam War and race riots in Watts and Detroit gave America's critics some easy targets?

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A lot of the confusion is about to disappear, thanks to the Pew Charitable Trust and its Research Center, run by Andy Kohut, former president of Gallup. Later this week, the Pew team publish their Global Attitudes Survey, based not simply on polling, but on 40-minute interviews with 38,000 people in 44 different countries, ten of them Africa, nine in Latin America and eight in Asia. In Europe, the Pew researchers interviewed people in France, Germany, Britain and Italy and six Eastern European countries.

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The questions were not simply about anti-Americanism, but about values and beliefs, policies and attitudes, about the problems facing the world and their own country, and their hopes and fears from their children.

It was a hugely ambitious project, but one that could help shift the public debate in the same way that the polling data showing that 65 percent of Americans wanted a United Nations mandate before any attack on Iraq helped shift the Bush administration's policies. That survey, by the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations and the German Marshall Fund of the United States, also showed that the foreign policy views of Europeans and Americans were far more alike than the conventional wisdom assumed.

This new Pew survey looks likely to change matters yet again. The Pew researchers also ran a supplementary poll in November, in Western Europe, Russia and Turkey, on the best way to handle Saddam Hussein, the likely results of war with Iraq and what these potential allies in such a way think are America's real motives. This shows a far wider Atlantic rift, with widespread suspicion that the United States is going after Iraq's oil.

Still, the result of the Pew survey is a far more nuanced, and in some ways more hopeful, picture of the way the world thinks about America. There remains a strong current of pro-Americanism in the world, an admiration for the country, for its values and freedoms and for the role it has played in the past 60 years of hot wars and Cold War to bring about the defeat of Nazism and communism.

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Clearly, different parts of the world have different priorities and concerns. People in the countries of Eastern Europe, for example, are glad that communism has collapsed, but far from persuaded that capitalism is a great improvement, or that the kind of capitalism they now experience has much in common with the more established forms in North America and Western Europe. Their main concerns are corruption, organized crime and terrorism, and the way that these apparently separate evils blend together.

The main common current of criticism of the United States is the mirror image of the widespread respect that America still enjoys, on the old principle that from those who are given much, much is expected. The survey records a strong feeling, becoming a deep resentment, that the rich and powerful United States, which does very well out of the global economy, is not paying much back in.

There is a deep ambivalence about America, as the fount and guarantor of much global prosperity, which is yet seen as frequently irresponsible about its global responsibilities -- from global warming to global justice. Fundamentally, the United States is feared to be putting global stability at risk by doing so little about the global gap of rich and poor, by paying too little attention to the views and concerns of the other countries and cultures that share the planet.

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The detailed statistics from the survey will not be released until Dec. 4, but its conclusions are already attracting high-level attention. Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who headed Pew's advisory board on the survey, was peppered with questions on its findings during last month's NATO summit in Prague. Prime ministers, foreign ministers, ambassadors and other international officials all want to know what the world really thinks of America because that will shape their own ability to join coalitions with the United States.

Equally, they are fascinated with the forthcoming Pew survey because there could at last be a prospect of putting fairly hard data into the great gap in our knowledge currently filled by anecdote, prejudice and rude café waiters in Paris. Anti-Americanism is like anything else; before you can deal with it, you have to measure it.

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