America's Foreign Fans
America does have its fans around the world, and they are worth cultivating.
“In Search of Pro-Americanism” by Anne Applebaum, in Foreign Policy (July–Aug. 2005), 1779 Massachusetts Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036.
It’s easy to lose sight of the fact that everybody in the world isn’t anti-American. Even in France and Germany, sizable minorities (38 percent and 27 percent, respectively, in one BBC poll this year) remain convinced that American influence is “positive.” Who are these pro-Americans around the globe? asks Applebaum, a Washington Post columnist and the author of Gulag (2003).
Variations in pro-American sentiments by age, she says, suggest that personal experience counts and that U.S. foreign policy can have “a direct impact on foreigners’ perceptions,” contrary to the claims of some commentators on anti-Americanism.
In generally pro-American Poland, for example, people ages 30 to 44 are especially likely (59 percent) to regard U.S. influence as “mainly positive,” according to a recent study. Those Poles, as youths in their teens and twenties, “would have been most directly affected by the experience of the Solidarity movement and martial law” under the Communist regime, Applebaum observes, “and they would have the clearest memories of American support for the Polish underground movement.” In contrast, today’s Polish youths, whose chief knowledge of the United States may concern the difficulty of getting visas, are less approving. Only 45 percent of those under 30 see U.S. influence as “mainly positive.”
In Canada, Britain, Italy, and Australia, people older than 60, with memories of the U.S. role during World War II and the Cold War, “have relatively much more positive feelings about the United States than their children and grandchildren [do],” says Applebaum. In Britain, 64 percent of those over 60—but only 32 percent of those under 30—deem U.S. influence “mainly positive.”
Aspirations also count. Many associate the United States with upward mobility, economic progress, and a classless society. In Britain, for instance, the greatest support for America comes from those with the lowest incomes and the least formal education—a trend that appears in many developed countries.
In some developing countries, such as India, the pattern is reversed. “Indians are much more likely to be pro-American if they are not only younger but wealthier and better educated.” From Indians with very high incomes to those with average incomes to those with very low incomes, the percentage considering U.S. influence “mainly positive” runs steadily downward—from 69 percent, to 43 percent, to 30 percent. “Younger Indians have had the experience of working with American companies and American investors, whereas their parents did not. . . . The poor in India are still untouched by globalization, but the middle and upper-middle classes—those who see for themselves a role in the English-speaking, America-dominated international economy—are aspirational and therefore pro-American.”
Yet another factor in the making of pro-Americans seems to be gender. “In Europe, Asia, and South America, men are far more likely than women to have positive feelings about the United States.” Applebaum can only speculate about why—a female aversion to America’s muscular foreign policy? A greater male interest in power and entrepreneurship?
One thing that Applebaum is sure of, though, is that the United States has many “natural constituents”—and they’re “worth cultivating.”