August 18, 2008

THOSE SADLY ILL-INFORMED FOREIGNERS: British attitudes towards the United States are governed by ignorance of the facts on key issues such as crime, health care and foreign policy, according to a new survey.

A poll of nearly 2,000 Britons by YouGov/PHI found that 70 per cent of respondents incorrectly said it was true that the US had done a worse job than the European Union in reducing carbon emissions since 2000. More than 50 per cent presumed that polygamy was legal in the US, when it is illegal in all 50 states. . . .

The survey showed that a majority agreed with the false statement that since the Second World War the US had more often sided with non-Muslims when they had come into conflict with Muslims. In fact in 11 out of 12 major conflicts between Muslims and non-Muslims, Muslims and secular forces, or Arabs and non-Arabs, the US has sided with the former group. Those conflicts included Turkey and Greece, Bosnia and Yugoslavia, and and Kosovo and Yugoslavia.

Asked if it was true that “from 1973 to 1990 the United States sold Saddam Hussein more than a quarter of his weapons,” 80 per cent of British respondents said yes. However the US sold just 0.46 per cent of Saddam’s arsenal to him, compared to Russia’s 57 per cent, France’s 13 per cent and China’s 12 per cent.

Just remember this when you hear about how little Americans understand about the world.

UPDATE: Reader Hank Bradley emails: “And the British public gets its information from where? The BBC. This poll says more about the BBC than it does about the poor fish who learn about the world from it.” Indeed.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Andy Stevenson emails:

I have a feeling that if the same questions were asked of Americans, we would answer much the same as the Europeans did (except for the question on polygamy). The anti-American crowd tends to have a louder voice, even here in the States. Uninformed people tend to follow the idea that Europe is more advanced than we are.

Maybe Bush should give speeches reprimanding Europe for falling behind on emissions reductions (and use it to emphasize the efficacy of the market). Then he can give a speech criticizing Europe for abandoning fledgling Muslim democracies in the Middle East. Then he can suggest reparations from France, Russia and China for their role in Kurdish ethnic cleansing. To be fair, he can even offer that the U.S. pay our 0.46% of the share.

But then, these are all actions that European nations would undertake, and the U.S. tends to be a bit more of a class act. We’ll endure the misconceptions as we always have. With character.

Screw that. I like the idea of going on the offensive. Why let lies and idiocy prosper?

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