TOPICS : Global pessimism, linked to US power

Jim Lobe

With the notable exceptions of China and India, a majority of people in 19 key countries are pessimistic about the world’s current direction, says a just-released survey, which found a high correlation between that feeling and the belief that US influence is increasingly negative, as compared to Europe. The survey, conducted by the international polling firm Globescan, also found stronger support for economic globalisation in developing countries than in industrialised nations, particularly in Europe, which also emerged as the world’s most pessimistic region. And it found that a clear majority of world opinion (56 per cent) does not think rich countries are playing fair in trade negotiations with poor ones, although that perception is significantly more widespread in the rich nations themselves than in developing nations.

The Global Issues Monitor Survey, the latest in a series that began in 2000, was carried out between November 2003 and February 2004 in 19 countries, almost all of which overlap with the membership of the so-called Group of 20. Virtually all of the respondents from developing nations were urban-dwellers. Nearly 19,000 people were surveyed. The results released Friday by Globescan and an analysis carried out by the University of Maryland’s Programme on International Attitudes (PIPA) dealt with people’s confidence, perceptions of the US and Europe, globalisation and trade and trust in international institutions. They were part of a much more comprehensive survey that is made available only to Globescan’s paid clients, mainly large multinational corporations.

The survey found that only one-third of respondents either ‘’strongly’’ or ‘’somewhat’’ agreed with the statement that ‘’the world is going in the right direction’’. As a region, Europe was the most pessimistic. 77 per cent of Chinese respondents and 51 per cent of Indians said they believed the world was improving, while, respondents living in lower-income countries tended to be more positive. Only 37 per cent said the US was having a positive influence in the world, while 55 per cent disagreed. Twelve of the 19 countries had predominantly negative views of US influence, most notably Germany, France, Argentina, Russia and Turkey. In only four countries were positive views of the US expressed: India, Nigeria, Brazil and South Africa.

In a potentially worrisome sign for both US corporations and foreign policy, Europe is now seen somewhat more favourably worldwide than the US, the survey found. A plurality of just under one-half of all respondents, including US participants, agreed with the assertion that Europe’s influence was positive, versus 40 per cent who disagreed. Confidence in the UN rose particularly sharply in Spain, India and Russia, although it fell marginally in Germany, the US, and Italy. On economic and globalisation issues, respondents in developed countries, particularly in Europe, tended to be more critical of the ways the global economic system was working in regards to poor countries than respondents from poor countries themselves. The younger, the more educated and the higher income earned by the respondent, the more positive attitude she or he had toward globalisation, according to the survey. — IPS