The Magic Numbers (Is Anti-Americanism Rising In Russia?)

There are lies, outrageous lies, and then there are interpretations of opinion polls…

In a January 18 post to the U.S. News & World Report, Alastair Gee sets out to prove that anti-Americanism is on the rise in Russia.

Well, it’s an inconvenient truth that anti-Americanism is on the rise all over the world.  Take a look, for example, at a recent report by the Pew Research Center.  Over the period between 2000 and 2006, the favorable opinion of the United States has dropped from 83% to 56% in Great Britain, from 62% to 39% in France, from 78% to 37% in Germany, and from 50% to 23% in Spain. 

In Russia … But wait a minute!  The same Pew study shows that in Russia, the numbers have actually grown from 37% to 43%. 

Where is the rising anti-Americanism?  What kind of data is Gee using?

Let’s listen to him:

"Taking their cues from President Vladimir Putin and the state-controlled media, almost half of Russians now believe America’s objective is the complete destruction of Russia, according to a recent survey by the independent Levada Center."

Here is the survey Gee is referring to.  The second question of the survey is asking: "Would you agree that the goal of the Unites States’ foreign policy is the complete destruction of Russia?"  To which 43% of the respondents answered "certainly yes/rather yes", whereas 42% chose "rather not/certainly not."  Hardly a basis for either conclusion, given that the error margin of the survey was about 3%.

But what is truly amazing is that while quoting the second question, Gee mysteriously ignores the first, much more relevant to the issue of anti-Americanism: "What is your general attitude toward the United States of America?"  In 2007, only 22% of the respondents described it as "mostly negative/very negative", but the whopping 64% defined it as "very positive/mostly positive."  Moreover, the percentage of the "very positive/mostly positive" in 2007 shows a 13% increase over the previous year (51% in 2006). 

Anti-Americanism on the rise?  Did Gee take math classes at school? 

To his credit, Gee refers to yet another opinion poll to make his case:

" … [A] poll by the state-owned Russian Public Opinion Research Center suggests that Russians consider the United States to be Russia’s greatest enemy."

Let’s take a peek at this poll, too.  In the survey published — very importantly! — in English, the respondents were asked a free-answer question, suggesting that up to five different answers could be provided.  Of 132 collected responses, 24 (18%) did imply the lack of admiration toward the United States.  But listed to the question:

" What countries will Russia have the most inimical or strained relations with in the nearest 10-15 years?"   

Many analysts, including American, foresee "strained relations" between Russia and the United States in the near future; some believe that things will get even worse before they get any better.  Does it qualify as anti-Americanism?  Besides, does a supposedly native-English speaker Gee not understand the difference between "inimical or strained relations" and being a "greatest enemy"?

The seven years of the Bush administration’s cowboy actions on the global arena have prompted citizens of many countries, including Russia, to question the goals and objectives of the American foreign policy.  Equating this to anti-Americanism is plain stupid.  Besides — and watch out — this may become a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

About Eugene Ivanov

Eugene Ivanov is a PMI-certified Innovation Management Consultant who helps organizations increase the efficiency of their internal and external innovation programs.
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