A new YouGov survey shows that British people have a residual positive attitude towards Americans and the USA in general, but that US foreign policy has left a deep well of anti-Americanism, with people deeply hostile towards present US policy.

Asked about their general feelings towards the US, 54% of British people say they have positive feelings about the USA, 39% negative. Asked about individual Americans people are overwhelmingly positive – 70% say they like Americans in general, with only 21% saying they dislike them. It is only when George Bush and the present US polity are brought into the equation that British attitudes become hostile.

Only 16% of British people think President Bush is satisfactory or better as President, 34% think he is a poor President, and 43% think he is “terrible”. 65% of people think that “the policies and actions of the present American government” make the world a worse place to live in, and 74% think US policy has made the Middle East more unstable. 72% think President Bush’s claim that he would like to make a more democratic world is merely a smokescreen for US interests, and 76% think that even if he did want to make a more democratic world, he is going about it in the wrong way. 58% think that the US can be fairly described as an “imperial power – one that wants to dominate the world by one means or another”.

Asked about the effect of American culture on the world, there is also a negative reaction – although opinion is less one sided than towards US foreign policy: 36% think US culture makes the world a better place, 52% a worse place. Very few people (7%) say they often buy things because they are American, but opinions of many examples of US culture are positive – attitudes towards individual American film stars like Brad Pitt & Tom Hanks, to Steven Spielberg, to Microsoft, the Disney Corporation, US television shows, Coca-Cola and so on were all positive (of course, these could just mean that people like Tom Hanks’ films – but in the context of the questions these things were presented as examples of US culture). Those examples of American culture that were viewed negatively were all for quite obvious reasons – McDonalds, Michael Jackson, the Hilton sisters, SUVs.

Finally YouGov gave respondents a list of paired adjectives and asked people which best described the USA – it didn’t paint a particularly pleasant picture. The US was seen as unequal (72%), divided by class(63%) and race(71%) , crime-ridden (90%), vulgar(65%), uncultured (56%), ignorant of (73%) and uncaring of (83%) what the wider world thought, preoccupied with money (84%) and dominated by big business (90%). 61% thought the US was religious. The only areas where the more unambigiously “positive” of the paired verbs was chosen were forward looking and democratic (though by a tiny margin – 40% thought the US was democratic, 37% thought it undemocratic).

Overall, people who had personally visited the USA tended to be slightly more positive towards it (although not towards to George Bush). It would be wrong to ascribe any causality to this though – people who like the USA in the first place might very well be more likely to go there. There were some meaningful political differences though. Conservative voters are the most well disposed towards the USA, followed by Labour voters, with Liberal Democrat voters significantly more anti-American. 77% of Tory voters have a positive view of America, compared to 58% of Labour voters and only 42% of Lib Dem voters. 30% of Tory voters think the present US government has made the world a better place, only 11% of Lib Dems agree. 21% of Labour and Conservative voters think President Bush is a great or reasonably satisfactory President, only 9% of Lib Dem voters agree.


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