After The War On Terrorism: The Future Of Trade In The Global Community

The Global Express Research Methodology--Poll in 20 countries

These international survey research data were collected via Ipsos's Global Express, a quarterly international omnibus survey. Fieldwork was conducted between November 19 and December 17, 2001. Data are based on individual surveys taken with a random sampling of adults (18+) across 20 countries. The target sample size in each country was 500, except for the United States where 1,000 interviews were conducted. Within each country, the survey results can be said to be within 177 4.5 percentage points of what they would have been had the entire adult population been surveyed; 177 3.1 percentage points in the United States. In 13 of these 20 surveyed countries, the samples provide full national sample coverage, while the remainder provide quasi-national representative samples of selected urban and rural areas or an urban-only sample of key cities. For all national samples, the data were collected via randomized telephone interviewing, with the one exception of Poland where in-person door-to-door interviewing was used. Door-to-door interviewing was also used in the quasi-national samples in Argentina and Turkey, as well as the urban-only samples in Brazil, China, Colombia, Mexico and South Africa where the sample coverage was limited to the largest cities.

For further information on the survey methodology used for Ipsos's Global Express polling program, please contact Rob Breitkreuz, Global Express Director.

The following is a statement by Thomas Riehle, President, US Public Affairs, Ipsos-Reid, on a recent Ipsos-Reid global poll on attitudes about trade, protectionism, and the freedom to shop.

After the war on terrorism, what? Agreement by world consumers that American product are worth the price could be the impetus for resolving age-old divisions on trade policy, a poll in twenty countries by Ipsos-Reid suggests. The freedom to shop might overcome the stalemate on trade, despite other indications that public opinion in the world is diverging from public opinion in the U.S. in many ways. That is the conclusion of the poll, which was conducted by Ipsos-Reid Global Public Affairs, with the assistance of Professor Richard Rose, Director of the Centre for the Study of Public Policy at the University of Strathclyde, in Glasgow, Scotland. Rose is the consultant on the survey's design and analysis.

Divergence of Opinion

What obsesses Americans today is less of an issue in the rest of the world. In response to an open-ended question asking, "Thinking of the issues presently facing your country, which one do you feel should receive the greatest attention from your country's leaders?" Americans focus on terrorism (28%) and international issues, especially the war on terrorism (22%). Naturally, attitudes are similar in North America overall, because the US comprises 89% of the North American sample in this study. In all the G-7 countries (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, UK, US, with US comprising 39% of G-7), however, economic concerns (24%) slightly outpace concerns about terrorism (20%), followed by social issues (18%) and international affairs (18%). In Europe alone, 27% cite economic issues and 27% cite social issues, with fewer than half that number citing terrorism (13%) or international affairs (13%) as something their own government leaders should pay attention to. In Asia-Pacific, only the economy (46%) matters. In Latin America both economic issues (46%) and social issues (42%) predominate. For the others (represented in this poll by Turkey and South Africa), only economic issues (81%) matter at all.

Moreover, US citizens are dividing the world in new ways, and that is a source of divergence in world opinion. For US citizens, the war on terrorism really is, as the title of the study by Samuel Huntington described it, A Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order. In a poll conducted by the Gallup Organization earlier this month, Americans were asked whether they had favorable or unfavorable opinions about each of a list of countries. Russia is now among the seven most popular countries in the world in the eyes of Americans--a friend of the US. Attitudes about European and Asia-Pacific countries have generally improved slightly. Opinion of Cuba is increasingly positive, as is opinion of Libya, no longer the cradle of terrorism that it once was. For every other Muslim-majority country, for the Philippines and for North Korea, popularity has declined dramatically in the past year. Americans have re-divided the world since the end of the cold war. Former communist foes are increasingly viewed as friends. Muslim countries are increasingly viewed with suspicion.

People around the world also divide on whether the US is a positive or negative force on the global economy, and on human rights. US citizens, of course, give their country credit for being a positive force in both areas over the past decade. G-7 countries are "on our team" on this issue. More people overall in G-7 countries credit the US as a positive force than blame it for being a negative influence. To look at it another way, however, if the G-7 populace were members of a political party led by the US on the topic of US influence in the world, these figures (58%-20% positive on global economy and 54%-22% positive on human rights) would indicate solid support but also a need to shore up the base somewhat. Focusing solely on European attitudes, that characterization applies even more strongly--Europe is supportive but not overwhelmingly so, especially on human rights. In Asia-Pacific countries, a bad economy makes it hard for them to credit anyone with being a positive force on the economy, but on balance, people in Asian-Pacific countries say the US influence on the global economy is more positive (36%) than negative (21%). In Asia-Pacific countries, however, on human rights issues, as many blame the US (26%) as credit the US (27%). In Latin America and the rest of the world, the US is seen as a negative force on both human rights and the economy, especially human rights.

Divergence of Experience

Divergences of opinion may be temporary artifacts of the war on terrorism, but other divergences related to the lifestyles and experiences of people around the world are more permanent. It may be fashionable to focus on how much more homogenous the world is growing, but differences of experience persist and are reflected in this poll.

The health of the economy is always different in different parts of the world. When one geographic area is up, another is down--it is not a zero-sum game, but the world business cycles are not synchronized, either. Moreover, in much of the world, economies are structurally much weaker than the US economy.

Right now, American consumers are in a doldrums that began last summer, prior to the terrorist attack, and which continue. Equal numbers of American consumers say they will cut back as say they will increase spending, and most intend to maintain current spending levels. In G-7 countries, and especially in Europe, consumers seem more likely to increase their spending in the next six months. Asia-Pacific country consumers look more like American consumers--slightly more likely to express intentions to cut back rather than increase personal spending. In Latin America and the rest of the world, consumer sentiment is a disaster, as the plurality of consumers say they need to cut back spending from already minuscule levels.

The biggest experiential divergence between the US and the rest of the world, however, arises from the much greater sense of individualism in the US, the potential need for each American to fend for himself or herself, not rely on traditional family and community resources for support, and the resulting intensified feeling of risk in the US. The impression Americans have about social mobility, both upward and downward, leaves many upper and middle class Americans feeling vulnerable about their long-range personal financial prospects. That lifestyle difference carries from cradle to grave and it affects Americans, making them more intense--and that is not always an attractive trait in the rest of the world. It also makes Americans more nervous. The country in this poll most likely to report its people being worried about being able to financially support themselves in their old age is the US. People in the poorest countries worry the least about what they will do when they are "too old to work." How people prepare for financial challenges ahead is also different in different countries. Sticking with the example of retirement,

Americans rely most on personal savings, and only 19% of Americans rely on a company pension--the company pension has migrated to the individual's 401(k) or IRA account. Asian-Pacificers also rely on personal savings. Europeans count on a mix of government pensions, company pension and personal savings. Latin Americans count most on home and family support. People in Turkey and South Africa count on a government pension, as well as home and family.

The biggest source of divergence relates to attitudes about US economic institutions in the world. We asked five questions in this poll to identify those differences. The results reveal:

  • Buy American is not a slogan that can be exported.
  • Latin Americans and those categorized as the Other region are the most likely people outside the US to say they want to work for a US company--people in these poorer regions want to be on the US company team in order to get ahead.
  • Latin Americans and those others also deem American products to be high quality--Europe and Asian-Pacific adults disagree.
  • Asian-Pacific consumers think of US products as the discount bin--in fact, Asia-Pacific is the only region in the world where more people say American products are NOT more expensive. Americans think US products ARE more expensive.
  • What unites people around the world is the sense that American products are worth the money. Add it all up, regarding quality and price, and people in every region agree--buying American is a good deal for the money.

The Future of Trade Policy: Revolt of the Radical Middle and the Freedom to Shop

In this survey respondents answer an age-old question: Are you for free trade or protectionism? The familiar stand-off on that question persists. In this poll of over 10,000 adults worldwide, the split is 45% for free trade and 46% for protection. The predictable divisions exist, with younger, better educated, higher income people for free trade. The developing countries of the Asia-Pacific relied on trade for their economic boom of the 1980s, and (along with Mexico) look to free trade policies as the best for their own country. What is new is the freedom to shop. Half (49%) of adults worldwide think it is a good thing that the products of multinational companies are available to them for purchase where they live, about one-in-three (31%) are indifferent, and 17% think availability of the products of multinationals is a bad thing. Two-in-three adults in Japan and China support freedom to shop, as do three-in-five Portuguese and South Africans and majorities in the UK, Taiwan, Germany and the US.

The battle that started in Seattle in December 1999 during the WTO-conference riots is a dispute between two groups of elites--the elite establishment (corporate executives, government trade and international affairs officials, intellectual property lawyers and business consultants) and the elite anti-establishment (college kids, NGOs, perennial protesters). "Davos man vs. Seattle woman," is how Darrell Bricker, head of Ipsos North America public affairs, characterizes the two sides. Most people have more mundane concerns--they can neither scale the heights of the Davos man's lair, nor do they enjoy the leisure that gives protesters the time, motivation and inclination to make an issue of multinational cultural imperialism. Most people live in neither world. Most live in a world where the focus is on local consumer benefits (and doubts or concerns) over the ready availability of brand name products from multinational corporations in local stores, and that focus will generate the impetus that promotes increased openness and world trade growth.

The stalemate on trade won't be broken by new trade arguments in the age-old stand-off between elite support and populist opposition to free trade. The stalemate might be stampeded by consumer support for the right to shop, however. That is where opinion could prove convergent if governments and corporations move too slowly or in the wrong ways. In that case of failure by elites, there exists the potential for a middle class revolt from the radical center worldwide to end the argument between Davos man and Seattle woman, and give consumers what they want.

The survey was conducted by Ipsos-Reid U.S. Public Affairs, the Washington, D.C.-based division of Ipsos-Reid, which is part of the world's fourth largest polling and market research organization, the Ipsos group, based in Paris. Ipsos-Reid U.S. Public Affairs is a non-partisan, objective public affairs research organization made up of Democratic and Republican campaign and political polling veterans. It was established in Washington in August 2001, and it is led by Thomas Riehle, who has more than 15 years of experience as a political pollster in Washington.

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