- The Pew Research Centre survey, seeking one-word descriptions of US, includes some choice descriptions by Canadians and Mexicans
- Analysts say the negative views are in line with the decline in US ‘soft power’ rankings
How would you describe the United States in one word? At a time when the global reputation of the brash superpower is declining as Washington traffics in nationalist rhetoric and trade wars, the country's closest neighbours didn't hold back.
In a poll released Monday by the Pew Research Centre, Canadians picked "Trump" as the go-to word followed by various negative terms such as "chaos", "confused", "bully" and "arrogant".
Mexicans, meanwhile, focused much more on their economic relationship with their loud northern neighbour, drawing on terms such as "money" and "migration" followed by more negative words like "discrimination" and "racism".
And pollsters admit they often received some rather unprintable responses. "There's definitely some words that were expletives," said Shannon Schumacher, a Pew research associate. "Beyond mentioning Trump, some people said something more, had a sentence about it."
Respondents were asked for their choice of a word before the coronavirus pandemic. Their responses now would likely be even more unvarnished given the many US' missteps, poor crisis management and attempts to jump the line on respirators, vaccines and other vital supplies before allies.
On Sunday, several Canadian provincial premiers, the equivalent of governors, slammed US President Donald Trump after he banned exports of N95 protective masks to Canada.
Analysts said the results make sense.
"This is not surprising. Canadians consume a lot of US news and information and are well aware of what goes on south of the border," said Alejandro Reyes, a Canadian who is director of knowledge dissemination at the University of Hong Kong and an ex-policy analyst on Asia-Pacific with the federal government in Ottawa.
"Pierre Trudeau, the former prime minister and the father of the current PM, famously likened living next to the US to sleeping with an elephant " every twitch and grunt affects us," he added. "Geography has made us forever bedfellows."
Analysts refer to a country's overseas reputation as its soft power, a measure of its ability to persuade rather than force others into supporting its policies.
In 2019, US soft power slipped to No 5 globally, according to the Soft Power 30 index compiled by the University of Southern California and the Portland consultancy. That was down from No 1 in 2016 before Trump took office. The index cites the administration's trade wars with close partners and its questioning of long-standing security alliances for the decline.
The same year, China edged up one notch to No 27 as its culture, sports and education activities counterbalanced its handling of Hong Kong protests, the mass detention of Uygurs in Xinjiang and its island building in the South China Sea, according to the index.
The country with the greatest soft power last year, according to the survey, was France, up from No 5 in 2016.
Beijing's coronavirus-era diplomacy 'is outflanking America's', but some cite overreach
The Chinese were not asked their one-word opinion for this survey nor were the French, in part due to logistics. Beijing also keeps a very tight grip on public opinion surveys.
But China has gone into overdrive after overcoming its own early virus mismanagement in a bid to bolster its soft power. In recent weeks, it has exported millions of heath care items " albeit with some setbacks, including faulty masks and test kits and pushback in some capitols over heavy handed propaganda messaging.
One reason that Mexicans tended to focus more on economics than politics in their one-word view of America may be that the politics are a given, some said.
"Mexico is a country that has witnessed first-hand the ugly side of the United States: invasion, stealing of half our territory, discrimination, racism, et cetera," said Jorge Guajardo, senior director at the McLarty Associates consultancy and Mexico's former ambassador to China.
"In a sense, Mexico has viewed the United States as a Trumpian country or people for a long time. So we've discounted it. Trump is not a surprise."
Trump sees 'light at end of tunnel' as US faces its darkest days
This helps explain the more economic responses in this survey, Guajardo noted. "We focus more on the areas of opportunity: migration, jobs, shopping, tourism, rule of law," he said. "This is what most Mexicans think of when thinking of the US, because we've discounted the ugly Trumpian side."
Pew collected the responses for this first-of-its-kind survey in English, French and Spanish last year, asking people to come up with their own terms rather than a more usual reliance on multiple-choice answers.
This approach tends to take longer to assemble results, given the need to interpret shades of meaning, translation subtleties and whether a given response is considered positive or negative.
Pew said a simple mention of "Trump" was coded as neutral, for instance, whereas a response of "Trump is an idiot" was coded as negative and "Trump is doing a fair job" was coded as positive.
Data from the same Pew survey of 33 countries released earlier this year found that a majority in Mexico and Canada lacked confidence in Trump to do the right thing in world affairs and disapproved of some of his key foreign policies.
Men in both countries were twice as likely as women to say something positive about the US, although the level of positive responses in both cases was quite small.
Trump may take unproven drug that could be 'so beautiful'
Overall, both Canadians and Mexicans used mostly negative or neutral words to describe the US, and only a small portion mentioned a positive word.
This dovetailed with largely negative reviews toward Trump from countries around the world in the January results, especially in western Europe. Some 64 per cent worldwide responding that they did not have confidence in the current US president to pursue good global policies.
But Pew, which surveyed approximately 1,000 in each country, also found that people around the world generally held a higher opinion of the US than of China, and most people had little confidence in either Trump or Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Many people surveyed globally also made a distinction between their generally negative view of Trump and their much better view of the United States.
"Many Canadians are naturally concerned about the quality of Washington's response to the pandemic, as the way the US handles this unprecedented calamity will certainly affect Canada and Canadians," said Reyes.
"It is important, however, to differentiate between how Canadians view the American people and what we may think of American leaders and their policies."
"Over the decades, Canadians have loved and loathed the leader in the White House," he added. "The people-to-people ties are always good, rock solid kinship, though politically the countries are in different places."
Sign up now and get a 10% discount (original price US$400) off the China AI Report 2020 by SCMP Research. Learn about the AI ambitions of Alibaba, Baidu & JD.com through our in-depth case studies, and explore new applications of AI across industries. The report also includes exclusive access to webinars to interact with C-level executives from leading China AI companies (via live Q&A sessions). Offer valid until 31 May 2020.
Copyright (c) 2020. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.查看原始文章