Andrew Kohut is the president of the Pew Research Center. He also acts as director of the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press (formerly the Times Mirror Center for the People & the Press) and the Pew Global Attitudes Project. He was President of The Gallup Organization from 1979 to 1989. In 1989, he founded Princeton Survey Research Associates, an attitude and opinion research firm specializing in media, politics, and public policy studies. He served as founding director of surveys for the Times Mirror Center 1990-1992, and was named its Director in 1993. He is a past president of American Association of Public Opinion Research and the National Council on Public Polls. In 2005, he received the American Association of Public Opinion Research's highest honor, the Award for Exceptionally Distinguished Achievement. He is a frequent press commentator on the meaning and interpretation of opinion poll results and the co-author of four books, including, mostly recently, America Against the World (Times Books). He received an A.B. degree from Seton Hall University in 1964 and studied graduate sociology at Rutgers, the State University, from 1964 to 1966.
Andrew Kohut: We’ve been principle chronicles of the rise of anti-Americanism all around the world since 2002. We’ve conducted 165,000 interviews, and we’ve . . . in 60 nations. And we’ve observed the ways in which American policies and the American approach has alienated many people around the world and brought the esteem of the United States down in . . . in many places.
Question: What is America's standing today?
Well it’s pretty low. We just did a survey of . . . of 45 countries. And in 33 of these countries, we have trends since 2002. And the __________ . . . the favorable ratings of the United States has declined in 25 of these 33 countries. And the image of the United States and Western Europe is quite low. I mean in Germany in 2002, it was 78 percent favorable. Today it’s 30 percent favorable. In Spain it’s only 21 percent or 25 percent, something like that. And in the Muslim world it’s abysmal. I mean not only is the United States disliked; it’s literally hated. And the image of the American people have . . . have taken somewhat of a hit too. I’m not trying to say that Americans are hated in Europe; but the American people and . . . and the American way is not as popular as it once was. And so there’s great concern these days about American power, which is a consequence of dislike of American policies. We’re the sole superpower. That wasn’t a problem throughout the ‘90s when there wasn’t concern about our policies. But there is a concern now that the . . . much of the world thinks the United States goes its own way and decides to do what it wants to do without soliciting the views of its allies or the assent of international organizations.
Question: Do people cite specific reasons for decline?
Well the Iraq war is the poster child for disliking American policies. But in the Middle East, American policies with respect to Israel and the Palestinians is also a very big issue. I think those are the major ones. And you know they affect . . . Iraq in particular affects how much support there are for other things. Support for the war in Afghanistan, which was generally very strong, is now going down in much of Europe. The public’s divided about where there should be German and French troops in Afghanistan.
Question: Does a larger picture emerge from these polls?
These polls are presenting a picture of reactions to America as the dominant nation in the world at this particular point in history. They’re in a sense providing the kind of feedback that Rome never got. I mean you have to go back to Rome to get a country . . . to have a point in history where one country was such a dominant part of . . . of then what was known as the known world. But certainly one of the other things that our recent polls show is that while there is not a lot of confidence in the United States, there’s not a lot of confidence in China – people are worried about the power of China too. And the Russians and Putin in particular have turned people off. And there’s a great discontent with the powers that be. And I think that’s in part because for many years since the fall of the Soviet Union, people all over the world have looked to the United States as . . . as the country that will . . . would help shape how we manage global issues and global order, to use an old term. And now there’s not that, because the United States is not trusted. But no one else is trusted. In Europe there’s the EU, but that’s different than another country.
Recorded on: 9/14/07