Commentary Magazine


Glass Houses

Remember the old saw about how far America’s good name has fallen in the world? It’s a bedrock principal of the Left’s worldview that the Bush administration (and conservatives more generally) have sullied America’s reputation to an extent unseen in world history, and it figures prominently in Barack Obama’s speeches and ideology. I’ve argued many times before that polls measuring “global attitudes” towards the United States are next to irrelevant for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that “global attitudes” are misinformed or seriously prejudiced about everything from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the benefits of capitalism to intervention in Darfur.

The latest Pew Global Attitudes poll provides yet more evidence why Americans should not invest so much importance in world opinion, particularly European opinion, about which Obama’s supporters care so much: Across the continent, it finds disturbingly high levels of “negative” views of Jews and Muslims.

For instance, 46% of Spaniards have unfavorable attitude toward Jews, a figure that shot up from only 21% in 2005. 25% of Germans and 20% of French also view Jews unfavorably. Which countries have more positive views of Jews? In Britain only 9% view Jews unfavorably, just a little higher than the remarkably low 7% in the United States. Same goes for Australia, where only 11% view Jews unfavorably. In other words, America’s strongest democratic allies view Jews very favorably.

But it isn’t just Jews whom Europeans hold in low esteem. According to the same Pew poll, 52% of Spaniards view Muslims unfavorably, 6% more than those who view Jews unfavorably (so if you bump into a Spaniard, there’s an even chance that he’ll loathe Jews or Muslims). More people view Muslims unfavorably in every European country polled than they do Jews. And only 23% of Americans view Muslims unfavorably, which ties us with Britain as being the least bigoted country in the survey.

We’re starting to hear a lot about how bigoted America is, and that the only reason why Barack Obama isn’t trouncing John McCain in the polls is because he’s black. Should Obama lose come November 4, the narrative has already been established that America’s irredeemable bigotry is to blame. Where in Europe, however, does a minority have a chance of becoming prime minister? Has any European country had a leader approximating Barack Obama’s American experience? Indeed, is there any country in the world which has seen a member of one of its historically oppressed minority groups rise this far? Barack Obama’s race may indeed hurt him in this presidential election. If it is hurting him, however, it will be impossible to tell to what extent. What is not impossible to tell is that Europeans are far more bigoted than Americans.

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