The BBC-Globescan Opinion Poll Champion…

[Update: the latest – the Globescan Poll of March 2011can be found there »]

… is Germany. It’s nice when your country looks good. But does the poll really tell me something substantial? Is it in a country’s national interest to get top marks in terms of global inluence?

One of the three worst-rated countries is Israel.

If a survey about a country’s influence makes sense, it also makes sense to think of the West Bank when thinking of Israel (the recent invasion of Gaza happened after the survey was completed – and is a story different from the West Bank in my view).

And it would probably be beside the point to suggest that people should take the Nazis and the Holocaust into account when judging Germany. The survey asked the interviewees if they saw the countries’ influence as mainly positive or mainly negative. That’s a here-and-now question. But I doubt that the people who were interviewed were all completely up to date with current affairs. Long-term image certainly matters, too.

I’m not trying to sort out what should be collective responsibility (a country’s) and what should be individual responsibility. This post isn’t ambitious. But I believe that I would miss a point if I didn’t ask myself questions about both Germany’s and Israel’s perceived influence on world affairs.

Some years ago, a fellow German told a story about his business trip to an Arab country. He stayed there with his business delegation, and I don’t know what they were discussing, but it was probably no piece of cake. One member from the Arab side probably wanted to say something nice for a better atmosphere – how great Adolf Hitler had been and how great it would have been if Germany could have completed her mission. A member of the German delegation replied that he was not proud of the murder of millions of innocent people.

“You could watch their jaws dropping”, said the man who told the story. I’m not sure if he referred to Arab jaws, German jaws, or both.


Footnote 1: only nine percent of German interviewees viewed Israel’s influence as positive, and 65% see it as negative. Among the European countries where interviews were made (Italy, Russia, France, UK, Spain, Germany), only Spain shows similar views: 10% positive, 71% negative. The details are there – you may have to register before reading.

Footnote 2: Views of China are less positive now, than in 2008. Positive views worldwide went down from 45% in 2008 to 39% in 2009. 11% of Germans view China’s influence positively, vs. 69% negatively. Mostly positive perceptions come from Chile, Egypt, Ghana, Nigeria, and China itself. Strategically speaking, Chile, Ghana and Nigeria are probably an important public for China – it’s there were the Beijing competes with other global stakeholders.

8 Responses to “The BBC-Globescan Opinion Poll Champion…”

  1. What is missing is the rating by location of the interviewee. What’s is interesting would be whether the Americans see US the same as the rest of the world, and similarly, how Germans see Germany.


  2. Thats an interesting point, but I do not think that there is a significant amount of past related votes for Germany. German negative votes for Israel are quite disappointing. I assume it has something to do with peoples aversion to strong and consequent foreign policy by Israel an its mass media coverage.
    I do not think that some country should be too flattered in every perspective by these results. German (as well as Japanese) industries depend on export. Foreign policy is adjusted and connected to that. This is good for the industry and its exports.

    Positive effects on the world cannot be achieved by appeasement and making everyone smile.
    Greetings from Germany.


  3. Thanks for your comments. The American and German perceptions of their countries are included, too. 60% of Americans interviewed believe that U.S. influence is mainly positive; vs. 31% negative. 80% of Germans believe that Germany’s influence is mainly positive; 4% negative. 92% of Chinese see their country’s influence as mainly positive vs. 6% negative.

    I’d say that the blanket condemnation of the Gaza war in December was inappropriate. On the other hand, the more constructive approach the Palestine authorities are taking from Ramallah doesn’t suggest that this pays off for the Palestinians either. Israel’s foreign policies may be strong – but her policy towards the settlers looks either weak or reckless to me.

    It would be interesting to read Israeli, Iranian and Pakistani perceptions of other and their own countries. But Globescan conducted no interviews there.


  4. For this survey about viewing “others”; since Germans are frequently noted as an industrious people, did the German interviewees take “time-out” from their discriminatory practices vis-a-vis immigrant Turkish workers, or were they just in between bashing Scientologists ? And,is anyone asking why more Germans view China LESS favorably than Israel?


  5. Hi Rich,
    maybe Germans should view both Israeland Chinese more favorably. It is an interesting survey, but of course it leaves a lot of questions unanswered.
    As for the Turkish immigrants, some of my friends are Turks and they have some reason to complain. On the other hand, a migrant has to do his or her share to make life here a success, too.
    You can find a short comment of mine re Scientology over there under the Jacaranda Tree.
    All this (my post included) said, I’m not unhappy about the friendly way people worldwide seem to view my country.



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