What Do Britons Think Of Americans???

3 08 2007

Ok, I know Britian and the USA had a strained peace in the years following the Revolutionary War (America’s War of Independence). Though, to all outward appearances, it seems the US and Britain of today get along splendidly.  I know most of the world doesn’t agree with US foreign policy (as many/most Americans don’t agree with it either). However, I was a bit surprised when someone forwarded me this poll. I know we have several different countries represented here at this blog. So, I feel this is an excellent opportunity to get everyone’s thoughts. I want to hear from the British here…..Is this poll seriously conclusive to what the majority of Britians feel about Americans?   To the Americans how do you feel about this poll? To my other international readers…..What is the sentiment toward Americans in your respective countries? Stereotypes?

What Britons think of America

The YouGov polling highlighted below (carried out for The Daily Telegraph) is from last June but given that this site only started in November it’s probably useful to remind ourselves of UK attitudes to America and to American policy.

Key findings:

  • By 54% to 39% Britons felt more positive about America than negative.
  • 70% said that they liked Americans a little or a lot.  19% said they didn’t like Americans very much.  2% said not at all.
  • 40% thought America a reliable ally.  41% thought it unreliable as an ally.

But from then on it’s all pretty negative…

  • 22% thought current American policy was helping to make the world a better place to live in.  75% said a worse place.
  • By 52% to 36% the overall view of American culture was negative.
  • 20% of respondents were more positive about America over recent years.  69% were less positive.
  • By 74% to 9% Britons thought US actions were resulting in greater INSTABILITY in the Middle East rather than greater STABILITY.
  • 1% saw George W Bush as a “great leader” and 43% thought of him as a “terrible leader”.  15% deemed him “reasonably satisfactory”.  34% thought him “pretty poor”.
  • 58% agreed that America is essentially an “imperial power”.  28% thought it unfair to describe America in that way.
  • Only 11% thought America cares what the rest of the world thinks.  83% thought it didn’t care.
  • 90% thought it had a lot of violent crime and was dominated by big business, 60% thought it uncaring, 72% unequal, 65% vulgar, 75% badly led.

There was not much difference in the view of America and Americans from Conservative and Labour supporters.  There was decidely more negativity from supporters of the Liberal Democrats.

YouGov interviewed nearly 2,000 Britons on 26th to 28th June 2006.  Download PDF of full survey findings.


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36 responses

3 08 2007
jonolan

They fear America. As an American I find I can accept that. I don’t really like it, but I’d hardly suggest changing any of national policies in order to make the populations of other countries happy.

3 08 2007
Suhaylah

I don’t like America, Americans are nice maa shaa Allaah.

3 08 2007
Tess

Hi, I’ve been lurking on your blog for a while but haven’t commented yet.

I’m British, working for the London office of an American organisation.

I share the reservations of a lot of people of all nations about the Bush administration’s policies, which I think are dangerously hawkish.

I have to say though, to our shame, that there is quite a bit of negativity towards Americans in the UK, bordering on racism.

For example, it’s quite common to put down, say, a new training programme or management technique with the casual comment “Oh it’s too American”. And I’ve heard people quite unashamedly make jokes about American stereotypes – being loud and brash for example.

I have to tell you, very little makes me so angry with my fellow countrymen as that behaviour. I always call them on it. It shuts them up pretty quickly if you switch terminology around: “Oh I hate all these black tourists, they’re so brash”.

And the stereotyping of American culture is absurd. A country that gave birth to the three great social reform movements of the last century, that is overflowing with great literature, poetry and innovative art? And anyway, if you ask these unpleasant anti-Americans whether they would ever take their kids to Disneyland, or whether they ever watch American cop shows, they usually fall mysteriously silent!

I have American friends, American colleagues and virtual American friends who are readers of my blog and vice versa. And guess what, you guys are just as much of a mixture of the good, the bad and the plain bloody awkward as we are, and as every nation is.

Sorry for such a long rant, but you did ask!

4 08 2007
Umm Yusuf

Thanks for your comments…..A huge thanks to Tess! It was long and I loved reading every bit of it. It gave me alot of insight that I was looking for.😀

4 08 2007
UmAbdurrahman, "Blanca"

As Salaamu Alaikum:

Polls, polls, polls. It is all about deciding what are the opinions and facts. I think they all focus into getting us to think about ourselves in terms about the public questions. The survey questions were interstingly phrased. The poll says its current adminstration is incompetent.
As an American, I certainly understand the frustration with our leaders and our government.
No the United States is not perfect, nor does it follow the percieved right path on every issue.

I don’t think that Americans are disliked or despised. I do hope, however, this anger and frustration abroad never prevents people from visiting our country. Yes, many people here are fat and the hicks do dominate the Bible Belt states, but there’s a lot more to be found. I have met some people from the UK and were absolutely amazing in how kind and helpful they can be.

Intersting results on the survey.

Thanks for posting this

4 08 2007
Umm Yusuf

Wa Alaikum salaam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu sister Blaca,

Some excellent points sister Blanca!😀 Mash’Allah. However,I respectfully disagree that the “hicks” dominate the Bible Belt states. Actually, I take aversion to the term hicks on all accounts to be honest. I can’t help but feel it is used to degrade people of a lower status in life.

Also, I would like to mention to everyone. Obesity is certainly on the rise in America. However, the same can be said for many countries.

You can check the links below for more information on worldwide obesity:

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2003/03/03/health/main542482.shtml

http://www.who.int/dietphysicalactivity/publications/facts/obesity/en/

4 08 2007
UmAbdurrahman, "Blanca"

As Salaamu Alaikum Sis:

Sorry, I did not mean to express the word “hicks”on your blog. If I offended anyone, please delete what I wrote. You are right about obesity as it can be a worldwide common problem but it just blows my mind when reports are always focused on obesity in the youth and adults in America. So, anywhere we go America will always be on the spotlight. If you have ever seen the movie Babel with Bradd Pitt, you will get an idea of how cultures are percieved to live, think and act.

4 08 2007
carimuslima

I liked this poll… not the percentages, but the views of others from abroad. I wasn’t really shocked by it knowing that I think at this point LOL even the republican party wishes they could toss Bush to another party hehehe….I do agree with that sometimes we as Americans take many things for granted and are consumed with our little world and are insensitive towards 3rd world countries, but I think its changing rapidly Alhamdulilah, and “we” not the gov’t but us as American individuals are taking the initiative and trying to lend a hand to those in need if we’re able too. The celebrities in humanitarian efforts who obviously have the dough to do so, and although Christian missionaries have a different agenda of their motives helping those in crisis’ they are there and helping… so although our American gov’t has an agenda to do things their way, I honestly feel that as Americans lately we are doing our own thing in trying to make a difference even if our gov’t is corrupted and no different than 3rd world gov’ts. Which is nice to think, that we are kind people here and not only think of ourselves if we can help those in need in someway or another. Hugs Chika😉

4 08 2007
hema

i love americans, especialy my blogging american friends:) i really want to visit america some day, i like the accent(s) espeically.
i have to admit though, there is a lot of hostility towards americans here in the uk- amongst non Muslims as well as Muslims. a lot of it is to do with foreign policy decisions and the bush administration, but i think a little bit of it may be due to jealousy that america does everything bigger and better than britain!

4 08 2007
Umm Yusuf

Assalaamu Alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu sister Blanca,

You didn’t offend at all sis. No worries. I knew that YOU didn’t mean it to be offensive. I was just stating that I don’t like the word that is often used to describe people of a lower class. I guess because I grew up hearing it. I equate it to saying “poor white unintelligent trash.” Again, that is the context in which I heard it used growing up by wealthier families who would purchase summer residences in our small mountain neighborhood.

I haven’t seen that movie. Maybe I will check it out….:D Thanks for the suggestion.

4 08 2007
Umm Yusuf

I also think that sometimes internationally we are viewed as our gov’t. They are somewhat of a representation of us (although, that is not accurate). So, people have a difficult time discerning between Americans and American gov’t officials. Sometimes, blanket statements tend to be used.

AND I LOVE THE UK BLOGGERS TOO HEMA!!!!!!!😀

4 08 2007
umarah

i m not in britian n i ve not been to america(just to canada).but i will say something abt it.the part of the world i m from,americans or america,have a really really bad reputaion.i cant really tell u how much ppl dislike america.n ofcourse it has started escalating after the war.bush administration has ruined the good name attached to us.n i m not tallking abt a casual illiterate pakistani or afghani guy(even though their thoughts shld count too)but ppl from gd backgrounds,intelligent well educated ppl think the same.its sad.millions of south asian r working in us n most of them r doing fine,but the current world situations n the us policy towards iraq n middle east has just made it impossible to like us govt.

5 08 2007
Tim Long

Interesting, but I wonder how much of the current attitude is because of jealousy.

5 08 2007
Umm Yusuf

Why would they be jealous?

5 08 2007
thescoundrel

I am a USAmerican. I can believe the polls but I also can be counted as one of those people whom does not care what others think about my country or myself. Life is not about popularity contests, life is about survival. My other thought is why should I blame anyone who does not like the USA or the people. Everyone sees life through their own set of rose-colored glasses and preconceived biases.

As to the unpopularity of GW Bush, it is hard to say how USAmerican history will finally judge him. If you had asked the citizens of this country following our Civil War to predict how President Abraham Lincoln would be viewed throughout history, a huge percentage would have told you he would be viewed very poorly. Lincoln was hated by a great deal of people in the North and South for taking this country into civil war. If you scan the Internet there are still Lincoln hate groups with their own web sites. Yet historians now rate him as our top President ever and the one all others are measured against.

5 08 2007
aullori

….actually have you noticed something? Notice how Brits are shown on American TV? They are shown snobby, rude, brutish, usually weak in body however usually intelligent. Really – you can watch American idol as an example. (If you’d like your mind to turn to mush that is) but every time someone is selling a new product if they have an accent it’s nice Australian accent. Not your Brits tho – they are always spoofed on TV. They are saying offending things like, “You are the weakest link!” or shown on PBS in some of the most idiot shows of all time. Shows that all the commercials insist are funny but never could even gain canned laughter in America. It seems the real question is do we care what they think? I find it fascinating that the bloggist does.

Truth? I imagine if I were to be weak minded I would think that the way media represents the Brits is for real – just like I suppose I could mock a Brit who believed everything they read and saw on the tube as well.

I’m sure that they read what bush did or didn’t do – did they read the stats on how much the Americans dislike him too? I don’t know. Must suck to be the president of the united states and be hated by the world – even those who were intimidated into putting him into office. Trust me; he will be a blight on our history for many years to come. But I’ve come to accept that I hope other Americans do too.

We may down the road need to apologize to someone but I absolutely know that it won’t include the Brits.

5 08 2007
Umm Yusuf

It’s true many British characters on American tv are usually shown to be uptight, snobbish, intelligent, physically weak. You have a point there.

Yes, I care. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have posted it here. I wanted to know what others thought of the results.😀

I think that is the point…..We are often associated with our portrayal in other countries via media and by our leaders visits to said countries and their actions and vice versa (it goes both ways). Whether that is reality or not, it seems to be the case.

5 08 2007
aullori

i agree with you Umm Yusuf – it is difficult to sort the wheat from the chaff – isn’t it? It’s difficult to figure out who to believe.

There is however, a lovely lady who posts me once in awhile on my blog. She talks of her children and her newest craft projects. She is a Brit. I believe in her and her babies, her spotted full grown deer and different species of bees.

You asked a questions to Americans:
“To the Americans how do you feel about this poll?”

I feel nothing about the poll (Again my apologies will stand reserved for those who have earned it.) However, I feel everything of this lady and would loath to cause her dishonor. The Brits are our brothers and sisters – this I will never forget.

p.s. thank you for asking.

5 08 2007
confusedaboutlife

please dont get offendid but I have had a very negative image on american culture …shallow …gun crime and racist . one f my other view on americans has always been ignorant and not reallly aware about the world correct me if Im wrong . also my other view on americans is what is wrong with them they vote george bush again after the BIG MESS he has put americans in ( war in iraq) the other view of americans is naive hmm … sorry not very positive actualy one positive view I do have of americans is they apear to COOK unlike the british ..the british keep filling their trolleys with box’s of ready made meals :p

ps. I dont think all americans are like that I just mean it in GENeral view of the documentarys I have seen , the way the americans have come across when they talk …

5 08 2007
confusedaboutlife

another thing is that what I think of americans is just what the media portrays offcourse the actual american people are not all like that . but about the british yeh they are uptight in LONDON anyways ..they have a problem if you smile at them ,they all seem to have issues ( i live in the UK ) .I have to admit If an american they heard me they would probably like what is wrong with her why does she have pronounce every letter ? lol

5 08 2007
Umm Yusuf

Of course you are entitled to your opinion….

However, I think you could say the same about pretty much any country “shallow, gun crime, racist.” Every country that I have ever been to show these symptoms. Certainly not the entire population but it is prevalent none the less. Furthermore, the US is one of the leaders in foreign aid.

The British of course continue to support the USA in its over seas policies. So, isn’t that the same thing??? Even the new PM has visited the US and pledged his continued support.

I don’t feel that most Americans are naive. Some are but not most. It goes to prove the point about generalizations.

5 08 2007
confusedaboutlife

well you would no best on that ( naive ) becuase you live with them . Here in the uk when you see america on tv you tend to get jerry springer , sunset beach ..everything seems to be all to dramatic ..their was this documentary I saw I wonder wether you saw it was done by the same guy who did ‘super size me ‘ ..he did a docmentary on muslim for 30 days ..and the stuff that some of the people said who were random americans of the street your just like what planet are on you on ? lol … but unlike america we have knife crime which I think is just as bad as gun crime .
I felt a little guilty writing that last post ..it was just a reflection of what we britains get here from the media about americans .
ps. one other thing I have to admit I am hooked on oprah the one show I used to always watch ..but latly she seems like shes changed …

6 08 2007
thescoundrel

Well, confusedaboutlife, many of us in the US do like our guns. There are some states where it is still legal to wear a gun in public and some where it is not. And there are those whom abuse guns. But there are far more that respect the gun and the power and freedom it represents. Are there racists in this country, sure there are some. But there are racists and xenophobes in every country. They have to follow the same laws everyone else does. This country has long been known as a melting pot because it has assimilated a wide range of ethnicities where they have been welcomed and allowed to succeed. We are a country of fifty individual states containing over 300 million people with a very wide range of multinational families and subcultures that exist within one larger National culture. Traveling between our different states (sometimes even cities) can be like traveling between countries when it comes to culture, laws and philosophy. I originally came from a small town of less than 1600 citizens where many of our town leaders had cultural roots to Lebanon and Syria. Many of the physicians that treat the various members of my family and friends are of various Asian, Middle Eastern and European heritages. They are free to live, worship and assimilate themselves as they please – as long as it does not break our laws. We have had incidents where cultures that do animal sacrifices in their worship services run into legality problems. But for the most part this country is a “live and let live” nation. This country like most countries is exactly what you make out of it. If one enters into the country with an open mind and a willingness to work hard they will be easily accepted and succeed as far as their talent will take them. If one enters the country with a chip on their shoulders and a xenophobic attitude then their success will be limited.

6 08 2007
Umm Yusuf

lol, Well, if you are judging us based on Jerry Springer, I definiatley see why you would have a bad opinion. That show is nuts! I don’t think even 1% of Americans act like that. It is just a circus put on for entertainment.

6 08 2007
confusedaboutlife

LOOOL

23 08 2007
andy

I think my biggest problem is that America is making the world a better place for Americans to live.. not everyone.
American corporations turn up on everyones doorstep wanting as much as they can get for as little as they have to give. It’s in no way the people of America’s fault, but unfortunately these corporations represent them. And Americans seem a little naive to everything. This may not be true for the majority, but some seem to believe that they are wealthy because they work hard and the people of third world countries arn’t wealthy because they don’t work as hard.

29 02 2008
NervousCat

I just wish when I meet people abroad they would judge me as an individual, and not from what country I came from. I am quiet, shy person, but I am also an American. I don’t fit the loud brash stereotype. When I was in Australia and some bloke heard my accent, he came over and said: “Oy! You’re an American! I don’t like your President and I don’t like your country!” I then replied back: “Fair enough. But you don’t have to hate me as well.” Although the situation was diffused, I don’t think he will change his opinion about Americans. I take it personally when people say they hate Americans – I assume they also hate me personally as well. Get to know me first before you say you hate me because I’m American. You might find me to be a nice person.

18 03 2008
americaninlondon

I was born and raised in Los Angeles, California…so yes I am an American. My family and I moved to London two years ago and have experienced quite a lot of anti-American sentiments. I have two young boys who are not yet in school, and I sometimes have concerns that these sentiments will be directed towards them as they attend school in the near future. My husband and I moved our boys here so they could experience a different culture in hopes that they won’t see any one culture as being superior to another. Many Americans believe that we are the greatest county in the world, but in my travels I found that most countries believe the same about themselves. America and it’s people are different from other countries because of the size of the land and vast differences amongst it’s people. Yes, there are many loud, brutish Americans who are stupid and ethnocentric, but the truth is that most are not. It is much more amusing to discuss the former…so this is our sterotype.

2 04 2008
americaninswitzerland

I am an American in Switzerland, though have lived in London and also in Holland. I have really been shocked at the overall anti-American sentiment that exists here in Europe. Surprisingly, it was strongest in the UK. Though I was VERY excited at the prospect of living in England (I come from English ancestry who immigrated to the US), throughout our time there I was really disheartened by the comments I got as well as the steady diet of anti-American spin that was delivered by the BBC. My children also were upset by what other children said to them (probably learned from their mom and dad) and I was relieved when we moved. I loved a lot of things about England, and I DID meet some nice people, but the negative encounters I had (repeatedly) left a bad taste in my mouth. I don’t regret my time there since I learned a lot, however I would be absolutely ashamed if anyone from the UK received the same treatment from any Americans while living in the US. My advice to anyone is that before you can judge Americans, our culture, etc., you should LIVE there.

29 04 2008
Willfromengland

I find it interesting that there has been a lot of talk about people around the world not liking Americans (those from the USA) and some defensive comments from USAmericans (I like that term) but very little attempt to understand why they are disliked as a nation. The lack the humility to think that as a nation you are responsible for how people perceive you is probably at the root of it all.

If one person doesn’t like me that could be his fault or mine, if lots of people don’t like me it is probably mine.

16 05 2008
Matt

Call me racist, bigoted, brutish, loud, obnoxious, i love America like any citizen would their country. The media and internet has really done the world a disservice, people end up hating each other without knowing each because of the generalization of an entire country. Every place on the world is going to have bigots and racists, forgo the lines drawn on a map. our foreign policy is controlled by a group of men in the thousands, and get a bad rap for a country of 300 million. quite frankly i think it’s unfair. I bear no foreigner any ill will unless they prove they are a bad person. Not even these muslim extremists. I can almost understand where they’re coming from. They’ve been brainwashed in our eyes, and we’ve been brainwashed in theirs. I guess what im trying to say is on the inside we’re all people. regardless of what country you reside in. Now i can understand why some briton get upset with us. We speak their language but then we say they have an ENGLISH accent when they are speaking ENGLISH?? Wats up with that lol

10 07 2008
sarahfromnigeria

okay, this is really nice.new on this blog site and this is just the right topic for me. you can count on a non-biased opinion even though it might be pretty much myopic,giving that i’m from neither of these countries and i havent been there before.
Generally Nigerians think that british folk are really snobbish and old fashioned(no offense intended).And they just simply ‘beef’ H.R.H for such a good economy because ours is really bad.But, by and large, Nigerians still like the british because they think that they still have some conservativeness about them which is really needed in our ‘feel-free-to-express-yourself’ world.
Now, the Americans are another story entirely.This might be really insulting, but a good number of nigerians hate the current U.S government, they think the people are so corrupt, they reek of negativity(violence,drugs,abuse e.t.c), there’s too much laxity, bad eating habits(obesity/anorexia)…….i could go on and on;but you know what’s really ironic?, 99%of Nigerians are american wannabes and they don’t even know it. EVERYTHING they do is American, they are their role models- even muslims! they want to know how the Americans are practising Islam,not how the Rasul(saw) and his companions did it. really pathetic ain’t it?
so, it’s really a case of pot calling kettle black. or, almost!

25 08 2008
Lisa

I love America more than words can express. It is my home and I am thankful to be an American. That does not mean that I am incapable of being objective, I see what is wrong with my country. It also doesn’t mean I consider myself superior because I am American. As a matter of fact I am also proud to live in the state of Maryland. Does that mean I think Maryland is superior to California, Alaska, etc.? No of course not. But, it is my home and it helped shape me into who I am today. And I should hope everyone is as proud of their homeland, believe me none of them are without sin.

And I do care very much how the world perceives us. I thoroughly enjoy meeting people from other countries. I live in a diverse nation and am very proud of that fact. But, a lot is written and said about America (and American’s) that is simply not true, or true in isolated instances.

I think a lot of the problem is that we are all victims of our own media. I’m hearing a lot of people from other countries (on-line) question some of OUR stereotpes about them ex. “Why do American’s think the Irish are always drunk?” etc. etc. etc. The answer is simple. The same reason you think American’s are all terrible in geography, stupid, fat, loud, arrogant, rich (that one always makes me laugh), or my personal favorite-disconnected from our families! It is what you are told in YOUR media. Have you been to the U.S. -have you met any American’s? If not please come see for yourself! And please remember the media crosses the line (avant garde), that’s what sells television, movies, magazines, radio, and products!

Which leads me to American television and movies. It is no secret we have some royal crap for television shows. That’s a by-product of our “freedom of speech,” and some of our other liberties. And love it or hate it, it comes with the territory. But please don’t assume this is representative of America! These shows wouldn’t be successful if they weren’t OUTRAGEOUS. Some people will do or say anything to get on television, I watch some of these reality shows and wonder where in the world they find some of these people. I have never met American’s like this in my life! It is scripted and it would be like saying Borat is real! These are people trying to break into show business or the like.

I sometimes think a disadvantage (reputation wise) for us is that we have 300 million people, when some countries may have approx 10 million people. That means everything in America seems exaggerated. Believe me, we all have nice, mean, intelligent, arrogant, rich, stupid, funny, beautiful, lazy, pretty, and not-so pretty, fat, thin, homosexual, religious, artistic people, etc. But, in America we have 30x your amount, and that coupled with the fact that an enormous amount of shows and movies come out of America, we are partially to blame for these eronious perceptions.

25 08 2008
Jen

Will from England-
I think you are not taking in to consideration that America is a superpower and when someone is perceived to be “on top” they are consciously and unconsciously the target of unfair criticisms and attacks (It happens to England all the time).

And I’m sorry, but when you say “everyone” has this negative perception of America, who exactly are you speaking for? I would like to see the data you have collected in your oh so scientific research.

I hate to break it to ya “Ill from England” but you are accusing America of basically being self important, but it is you who thinks you speak for an entire country and world!!!!

I will not hold your idiotic comments against your beautiful country-I just wish we were given the same respect!! p.s. I feel it is of absolute importance to add that I visited England this past Jan 08 and loved it! To all American’s reading this posting England is the bomb! And the people were awesome! And get this “Ill from England” I managed to visit England without being loud, fat, stupid, arrogant, geographically challenged, or eating at a single McDonalds! And I did it all while reading a map without any assistance!

10 09 2008
eddy

I think the main problem is that America acts like an imperial power in all but name. They cite
the republic and the name of the people under liberty justice and freedom and yet seem to be fighting border wars just like every other empire in history. its the hypocracy thats the problem.
don’t get me wrong I love Americans and the idea of America but they are top dog at present and will obviously draw the flak. China awaits perhaps?

17 03 2010
darien

im american and agree with most fo the britons. i dont think my family acts to american, thowe. things like america IS makeing this world worse.

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