International

Measuring pro-Americanism

Writing in Foreign Policy magazine, Anne Applebaum looks at some fascinating polling data about attitudes toward the United States in different countries.

Looking… at some relatively anti–American countries is instructional. In Britain, for example, it is absolutely clear that the greatest support for the United States comes from people in the lowest income brackets, and those with the least amount of formal education. In Britain, 57.6 percent of those whose income is very low believe the United States has a mainly positive influence. Only 37.1 percent of those whose income is very high, by contrast, believe the same. Asking the same question, but breaking down the answers by education, the same pattern holds in South Korea, where 69.2 percent of those with a low education think the United States is a positive influence, and only 45.8 percent of those with a high education agree. That trend repeats itself in many developed countries: those on their way up are pro–American, and those who have arrived are much less so.

In developing countries, by contrast, the pattern is sometimes reversed. It turns out, for example, that Indians are much more likely to be pro–American if they are not only younger but wealthier and better educated.

Applebaum suggests some reasons for this:

Around the world, there are millions of people who associate the United States not merely with a concrete political ideal, or even a particular economic theory, but with more general notions of upward mobility, of economic progress, and of a classless society (not all of which exist in the United States anymore, but that’s another matter). Advertising executives understand very well the phenomenon of ordinary women who read magazines filled with photographs of clothes they could not possibly afford. They call such women “aspirational.” Looking around the world, there are classes of people who are “aspirational” as well. And these aspirational classes, filled with people who are upwardly mobile or would like to be, tend to be pro–American as well.

In developed countries, Applebaum argues, low-income groups tend to be more “aspirational” and therefore the more pro-American than those who have “made it.” In developing countries like India, it is the wealthier and better-educated who tend to be aspirational; the poor are not yet in a position to aspire to much of anything.

More specifically, I’m wondering if there have been any polls in the UK or other countries that have measured support for the war against the Baathist regime in Iraq by income and education. I’d guess that the same patterns would hold– in part because, as Orwell thought, the working class is instinctively anti-totalitarian in a way that wealthier classes are not.

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