America Against The World

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"Once you see the deep and diffuse roots of current anti-Americanism, you realize there won't be an easy fix."—The New York Times Book Review

The rise of anti-Americanism is the most pressing challenge facing us. In America Against the World, Pew Research Center president Andrew Kohut and Bruce Stokes consider the surprising findings of Pew's unprecedented survey of world opinion to understand why the world has turned against America: where once we were considered the champion of democracy, we are now seen as a militant hyperpower.

The answer: Americans' go-it-alone attitudes have pushed the world away. From our business endeavors abroad to the Bush administration's preemptive war policy, exceptional individualism—in particular, our belief in personal responsibility and our unclouded optimism—have encouraged the world to view the United States as a bully and a threat. Former secretary of state Madeleine K. Albright argues in her foreword that we cannot stop the spread of anti-Americanism without truly understanding who we are. America Against the World provides the insights to take that step.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"If you've been wondering why the rest of the world often misunderstands, dislikes, and even fears the United States, this book offers convincing answers. Andrew Kohut, Bruce Stokes, and their colleagues have done impressive original research and produced truly arresting insights."

—Doyle McManus, Washington Bureau Chief, Los Angeles Times

"At a time when America needs international support more than ever, Andrew Kohut and Bruce Stokes explain why the United States is distinct and sometimes disliked. Rather than rely on conjecture, they use international surveys to answer these critical questions. Anyone worried about America's place in the world will find new evidence and unconventional answers in this well-written book."

—Joseph S. Nye, Jr., author of Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics

"By holding up two mirrors—how we Americans look to ourselves and how we look to others—Andrew Kohut and Bruce Stokes hit us with a reality full of surprises, comforting and unsettling insights, and a full meal for policymakers and the rest of us to digest or pay the consequences. Very carefully and fairly analyzed, this is a truly important book."

—Leslie H. Gelb, president emeritus, Council on Foreign Relations

Publishers Weekly
It has become a media axiom that anti-Americanism is on the rise around the world, and though the foreign policies of George W. Bush are often cited as a motivating factor, it seems reasonable that there must be more to the animosity than one president's actions. Kohut, the director of the Pew Research Center, teams up with NPR commentator Stokes to present the results of an extensive Pew survey that polled more than 91,000 people in 50 nations to come up with an explanation that, when you strip away the extensive charts and tables, boils down to this: they hate us because we're different. But, Kohut and Stokes suggest, we're also misunderstood. People in other nations believe that America's unilateralism is motivated by hyperintense nationalism and religiosity, but polling data suggests most Americans don't feel that way-far from wanting to create a global empire, they're not even enthusiastic about bringing democracy to other nations. Though detailed, the survey results contain few real surprises, and the approach, which borders on wonkish, may have trouble finding its way to a general audience. (May 9) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Foreign Affairs
Using a wealth of domestic and international polling data, Kohut and Stokes ask just how exceptional Americans are and examine the impact of this exceptionalism on world opinion. Overall, they find that Americans are unique but not uniquely unique — that is, the differences of opinion between Americans and others on a range of topics (happiness, religious conviction, and individualism, among others) are striking but not shocking. Because liberal and democratic values have been in the ascendancy since the nineteenth century, Kohut and Stokes argue, Americans are less out of step with the global mainstream than they were a century ago. The most significant differences between Americans and others have to do with individualism: whether from red or blue states, Americans tend to be more optimistic than most people about their ability to shape their own lives and more pessimistic about both the propriety and the efficacy of using government action to solve social problems. As individualists, Americans tend to be skeptical of organizations like the United Nations; as optimists, they underestimate the dangers and obstacles that lie ahead. These attitudes, Kohut and Stokes suggest, are likely to create enduring problems as long as the most individualistic people on the planet continue to bear the greatest responsibility for solving problems that demand united global action. Kohut and Stokes make a strong case for this central contention, and the results of their global surveys and their interpretative essays make for interesting and enlightening reading.
Library Journal
Bad news. Reaching out to 91,000 respondents in 50 nations, the Pew Research Center (directed by Kohut) determined that America is seen as a monster military power-70 percent said we need a superpower rival to get us under control. Kohut argues further that our stubborn individualism has pushed us away from the rest of the globe. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Democrats are from Europe; Republicans are from Mars; nobody in the world likes immigrants; and George Bush's America has a major image problem. Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, and Pew consultant Stokes describe the results of a worldwide opinion poll involving 91,000 interviews in 50 countries from 2002 to 2005. Anti-American sentiment was widespread before 9/11, they observe, but outside of the Arab world it was generally the minority view; in this regard, they give the sitting president a pass, noting that "strains between the United States and its old allies, and indeed between America and the rest of the world, predated George W. Bush." Yet in the wake of 9/11, and particularly since the invasion of Iraq, anti-Americanism has become the majority view in most of the world, and throughout Europe America is seen as more dangerous than Iran. The reasons are many, including contempt for the tawdriness of American consumer culture and for the fundamentalist tilt of the government, but there's more to it than all that: People are tired of hearing how different and superior we are (and Pew polls reveal that the least exceptional Americans believe in American exceptionalism). Canadian scholar Michael Ignatieff enumerates other reasons, all of which figure in the survey results: Majorities across the world despise capital punishment; America's disregard for the poor; a president they believe attained office unjustly in 2000; a culture that hates the thought of gay marriage but divorces on a dime; and America's God-obsessed people-and they worry that Americans as a class are greedy, dishonest and violent. Interestingly, Kohut and Stokes note, Democratsare far more likely to hold "European" views than are Republicans-but even they are likely to subscribe to exceptionalism. A fascinating and troubling index. The good news: The new America is broadly disliked in America, too. Keep your eyes on the polls.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780805083057
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 5/1/2007
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.64 (d)

Meet the Author

Andrew Kohut is the president of the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, the leading nonpartisan polling organization in America. Kohut is a frequent commentator for PBS and NPR and a regular essayist for The New York Times. He lives in Washington, D.C.

Bruce Stokes is the international economics columnist for National Journal and a consultant to the Pew Global Attitudes Project. He lives in Washington, D.C.

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Read an Excerpt

Introduction: America's Image

IT IS FAIR to say that the Pew Research Center's Global Attitudes Project is the first and foremost chronicler of the rise of anti-Americanism around the world in the first decade of the twenty-first century. The findings of Pew's surveys have brought home to Americans and their leaders the challenge the United States faces in restoring America's image and its influence overseas. Much of the discontent that we have documented can be attributed to criticisms of U.S. policies, especially the war in Iraq. In addition, there is strong resentment and suspicion of America's unrivaled power in the post-Cold War world, as well as concerns that globalization is unduly strengthening U.S. cultural and economic influence.

We originally intended to write a book that would provide readers with in-depth insights into America's image problem, which we gained conducting 91,000 interviews in fifty nations and the Palestinian Authority from 2002 through 2005. But in the course of considering the roots and rise of anti-Americanism, we were struck by how little attention had been paid to the American public and whether it contributes to the problems people around the world have with the United States.

How different are American values and attitudes from those held by people in other countries? Is there an American way of thinking about things? In particular, are American values different in significant ways from those of Europeans, with whom many Americans share ancestry and who live at a comparable level of economic development? Where are the biggest attitudinal gaps between Americans and the rest of the world? Are these differences growing? How could that be in this age of globalization that some say is molding a common culture? Are some groups and regions of America—the Democratic-voting "blue states"—really closer to Europe in outlook and attitude than the rest of the country, that is, the Republican-voting "red states"?

And, most important, to the extent that these differences between Americans and other people exist, in what ways are they shaping the United States' image in the new century? Are the values and attitudes of the American public fueling much of the anti-Americanism in the world?

These questions became even more relevant after George W. Bush's reelection in 2004. Prior to that, overseas critics of the president found it easy to say their problem with America was really President Bush, not a considered judgment of the American people. But the results of the 2004 U.S. presidential election made that rationalization untenable. The November 4, 2004, page-one headline of the British tabloid Daily Mirror put it this way: "How can 59,054,087 people be so DUMB?"

A second question about the American character evolves out of the worldwide impact of American customs, products, and popular culture. There is so much America almost everywhere in the world: from a Starbucks inside Beijing's Forbidden City to rap beats in the popular music of every continent on the globe, the ubiquitous popularity of the cartoon character Bart Simpson, the global notoriety of Michael Jackson, and the infiltration of American idioms and expressions into every major language in the world. What is it about American culture and products that make them so attractive, yet at the same time raise such alarm about Americanization and the spread of American power?

So this is a book about Americans—how their attitudes and values differ from those of other publics and the way those differences affect the world's views of the United States. This is not a work of speculation, opinion, or theory. It relies principally on international survey data to address the issues. With international attitudes polarized on so many important matters today, such a book is timely and long overdue. But it is only now that it can be written. It is now that sufficient in-depth, multinational public opinion data has become available to approach the issues properly. The surveys are in part a beneficial by-product of globalization, which has created the capacity to do professional market research in many countries of the world.

At the same time, as a result of the spread of democracy, public opinion in all nations has come to play an increasingly salient role in shaping foreign policies. It is therefore of significant interest, if not concern, for the entire international community.

Unlike in many other parts of the world, polls and public opinion have been an integral part of American politics for decades. But it is only since the American defeat in Vietnam, which owed as much to the lack of public support at home as to events on the battlefields of Southeast Asia, that public opinion has been accorded a strong seat in foreign-policy decision-making councils. In the twenty-first century, this pattern is being extended throughout much of the world.


For this book, we rely heavily, though not exclusively, on survey data collected by the Pew Global Attitudes Project with which we have been associated from its beginnings. The project had its origins in the work of its predecessor organization, the Times Mirror Center for the People & the Press. In the summer of 1989, under the direction of Donald S. Kellermann, the newly formed center was preparing to study European public opinion in the run-up to the formation of the single European market. Within a few short months, however, the world was transformed by near cataclysmic events: the fall of the Berlin Wall, the ensuing collapse of the Soviet Union as a military power, and the demise of communism as an ideology. The Times Mirror Center survey was quickly reoriented to examine how the publics of the former Soviet empire as well as the people of Western Europe and the United States were coping with these extraordinary events.

Over the next two years, the Times Mirror team, including then-Professor Madeleine K. Albright, who served as an adviser on Soviet affairs, and Andrew Kohut, the survey director, conducted opinion polls and focus group interviews in seventeen nations across the breadth of Europe. The results uncovered the existing attitudes and values of the Russian, Ukrainian, and other peoples of Eastern and Central Europe. The findings anticipated difficulties in the coming transformation of their political and economic lives from communism to democracy and free-market capitalism. Released in September 1991, the results exposed the reemergence of ethnic hostilities that led to the subsequent breakup of Czechoslovakia, the huge adjustment gap between younger urban dwellers and the older and rural segments of former Soviet bloc societies, and the extent to which Russians would lag behind other peoples of the former Soviet empire in accepting democratic reforms and free-market principles.

Beyond the significance of its insights at the time, the project had two additional effects. First, the polling established benchmark measures of social, economic, and political values and attitudes across Europe and the United States. Second, by her own accounts, the survey's results importantly influenced and informed the thinking of Ms. Albright, first as ambassador to the United Nations and later as secretary of state. At the end of the Clinton administration, she and Kohut agreed to team up again on an international poll, this time to study the emerging impact and likely consequences of globalization. In the summer of 2001, the Pew Charitable Trusts gave the Pew Research Center a grant to conduct the largest international public opinion survey ever undertaken, one whose principal focus was on the ways that the peoples of the world's nations were coping with an increasingly interconnected planet where ideas, information, and products circulate and interact with extraordinary speed and ease.

On September 10, 2001, a Pew Global Attitudes study group, including the authors, met with Mark Malloch Brown, then administrator of the United Nations Development Program, to discuss in detail the objectives of the new survey. From an office overlooking U.N. headquarters with the New York skyline as a backdrop, we wondered aloud whether any conceivable event might radically change the world political landscape as had the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Could anything supplant globalization as the top international issue in the foreseeable future? We agreed, after brief reflection, that no such cataclysmic change was on the horizon. Of course, we could not have been more wrong.

Literally overnight, on September 11, the terrorist attacks on the towers of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon changed the world as dramatically as it was changed on the eve of our first international polling when the Iron Curtain rose unexpectedly. The Global Attitudes Project team immediately began to examine how to reconsider its objectives. In conjunction with the International Herald Tribune, we conducted a survey of politicians, journalists, religious leaders, scientists, and world opinion leaders. That poll helped inform the redesign of the questionnaire used in the first two years of surveys in the Pew Global Attitudes Project. It also foretold the mounting storm of concern about American power and its use in the post-September 11 war on terrorism. The opinion leaders we interviewed described the publics of their countries as sympathetic to the United States for its losses in the Al Qaeda attacks, but they also, to our surprise, signaled hidden resentments toward America. Large majorities of these individuals, for example, agreed that "it was a good thing that the Americans knew what it is like to be vulnerable."1

From this, the Pew Research Center report concluded that while opinion leaders around the world saw the events of September 11 as opening a new chapter in history, many of their views about the United States and its fight against terrorism reflected a long-standing "love-hate" relationship with America. The report pointed to huge differences between U.S. opinion leaders and those in other parts of the world regarding the causes of terrorism, with influentials in most regions expressing the belief that U.S. policies were a principal cause of the September 11 attacks. And though the report found popular support for the war on terror in most regions, many thought that the United States was overreacting to the attacks.

While our polls of opinion leaders was prescient in many respects, a phrase in the report—"a more familiar love-hate relationship with America"—underestimated the degree of change in global public opinion that would soon develop. That relationship would not be the same "familiar" one, at least for some time into the future. Pew polls one year later, in 2002, described the slipping image of America in the world. And in 2003, following the start of the war in Iraq, Pew's polling found even more marked deterioration in attitudes toward America in nearly every country where trend measures were available. Not only had the war inflamed the Muslim world and enlarged the rift between Americans and Western Europeans, it had intensified fears about U.S. unilateralism and, as Pew's 2003 report observed, "significantly weakened global public support for the pillars of the post-World War II era—the U.N. and the North Atlantic alliance."2

Subsequent rounds of polling in 2004 and 2005 showed little improvement in America's image. Anti-Americanism runs deeper and is qualitatively different than in the past, when it was largely attributable to opposition to unpopular U.S. policies, such as the Vietnam War. Several factors led to this conclusion. First, America's image had declined around the globe, not merely in Europe and among Muslim publics, where opposition to the invasion of Iraq and criticism of the Bush administration were the strongest. Second, attitudes toward the American people, in addition to the U.S. government, were adversely affected. Third, the United States was being criticized for its ideals as well as its policies. Fourth, citizens around the world feared America's unrivaled power and opposed not only what Washington did, but also what it was capable of doing. And, possibly most troubling, this newfound anti-Americanism was proving itself to be quite robust and long-lived.

This book has as its principal objective to consider the difference between U.S. opinion and world opinion so as to understand global anti-Americanism. We will look deeply into how Americans and people all around the world—but especially our long-standing allies in Europe—look at democracy, the role of the individual in society, the role of government, and beliefs about business, social attitudes, and religion. In so doing, we will first revisit Alexis de Tocqueville's observations and concerns about American exceptionalism in its earliest manifestations. We will also compare and contrast the views of Americans with those of other publics on contemporary world issues, such as globalization, unilateralism, and the use of military force, which estrange the United States and Americans from other countries and peoples.

Finally, it is not our purpose to indict or exonerate public opinion. Our purpose is to clarify the extent to which Americans are different and consider how much that really matters. While the Pew Global Attitudes Project is not the first attempt to use survey research to test the premises of American exceptionalism, it is the largest in scope among efforts that provide statistical comparisons between the United States and the rest of the world. America Against the World describes what we found, along with what we have learned from our colleagues at the World Values Project, the Gallup Organization, the German Marshall Fund, and others.

Copyright © 2006 by The Pew Research Center

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Table of Contents

Foreword   Madeleine K. Albright     ix
Introduction: America's Image     xiii
America Under the Microscope     1
The Rise of Anti-Americanism     22
The American Way     41
The Problem of American Exceptionalism     68
A Blessed People     91
Doing Business, Practicing Democracy     120
Globalization and Americanization     138
Acting Together-Or Alone     162
Use of Force     193
Two Americas, One American     206
Conclusion: What We Are, What We Are Not     220
Pew Global Attitudes Polling     227
Notes     229
Acknowledgments     243
Index     247
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  • Posted September 17, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    An Ineresting Road

    "America Against The World" is a book written by two math nerds (they're opinion pollsters) that compares the American "self-view" to the "self-view" of Europeans, Africans, and Asians. The argument being that the rest of the world "doesn't get" America and it'd be interesting to find out why (or even if it's true).

    It's an interesting book that mostly rattles along at a fair old pace. Through its' chapters it points out that American religiosity makes them more like third world countries than their European neighbours for example. It also notes that every country thinks that they're better than everywhere else, but that American "exceptionalism" (which is the scientific word for thinking "we're the best") is more obvious because they're the sole super power (I mean, in the greater scheme of things who'll care if Lesotho thinks "We're it?").

    The book, however, isn't perfect. First, it's written by math nerds, and it can read like it's written by maths guys in places. Don't get me wrong, I like maths, but you wouldn't get an insurance instructor to write poetry for you would you? Secondly, it described American as the world's oldest democracy, which irritated me some. Now I like the Constitution and think the Bill of Rights is pretty neat, but the Americans had "founding fathers" that viewed African-Americans as "less" because they were black, and allowed the white population to own other members of the human race, which isn't very democratic to my mind (and is something that was wiped out in the UK much earlier).

    Finally the book does a good job of how American is different, but doesn't explain why anything is as it is, in anything but the most simplistic terms. This irritated me because while you might argue that that isn't the point of the book, the why of difference is more important than the how, so I'd've like to have seen more work on that area.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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