Pew asked its respondents to give favourability ratings to five nations: America, France, Germany, Japan and China. America came bottom of everyone's list everywhere except in India, where it was top, Poland, where it was in the middle and China, where it came above Japan. The British view France and Germany more favourably than they do America. China is more popular than the United States throughout Europe. (Germany won this particular beauty contest, by the way, scoring highly almost everywhere except Germany itself.)
[. . .]
Half or more in every non-American country surveyed said they wanted Europe to be more independent of the United States, and huge majorities—between 70% and 80%—said they thought the world would be better off if America faced a rival military power.
Americans themselves are still more popular abroad than their country or their president. But the gap has narrowed, partly because the positive image of Americans has declined considerably since 2002. Other people think Americans are hard-working and inventive, yes. But in most countries, more than half think of them as greedy and violent and, in the Middle East, as immoral.
- From The Economist article "Still not loved. Now not envied," 23 June 2005.
This concerns me. I've met some Americans in the past and I like them; I listen to some American popular music and read some American literature and like much of what I find; I think that the United States has made an overwhelmingly positive contribution to the world, despite its occasional failings.
I can understand something of where this comes from. On a recent excursion to the United States, I was travelling with a man and his boyfriend. Because his boyfriend was a landed immigrant, we were pulled over at the border and held for questioning by the Department of Homeland Security. Apart from the driver and the staff, I was the only white person in the room. Because the driver and I were not only white but Canadian citizens, we all got expedited treatment, i.e. we were able to escape in an hour, leaving my fellow Canadians of South and East Asian background waiting. I felt a bit uncomfortable myself, fearing what might happen if the border agents exercised their special discretion to exclude me from their country if--for instance--my sexual orientation somehow became an issue.
I think that I'm somewhat of an Ameriphile. If I felt that threatened trying to enter the country, even with my relatively favourable background, what must people elsewhere in the world think? How easy it would be to read the United States wrongly based on that sort of first introduction.