New York, April 20, 2000 - One in five Americans have reservations about the global role of the World Trade Organization. Only Australians have as many reservations about the WTO's impact on their own country, while a large number of French citizens view the WTO's global impact as more negative than positive, according to the results of a 17-country poll released today by the Angus Reid Group.
Most Americans see the World Trade Organization's global impact in a positive light. Of the Americans polled who had heard of the WTO before (4 in 5 had), 58% felt that it has had a positive impact on the economic and employment situation of countries around the world.
The perception of the WTO was most favorable in the Netherlands, Mexico, Canada, Germany and New Zealand, where almost two thirds of those aware of the WTO regarded its worldwide impact as positive. The survey was conducted last February and is based on interviews with 9,075 adults in 17 countries.
Americans were less convinced that the WTO had brought them any benefits on the domestic front. Just over one in three (38%) felt the WTO's impact on the US had been more beneficial than harmful, while one in four (26%) Americans felt the WTO has had no real impact either way.
An appreciable minority - nearly one in three Americans aware of the WTO - regarded the WTO's impact on their country as more harmful than beneficial. Almost the same number (27%) viewed the WTO's impact on countries around the world as harmful.
A total of 2 in 3 Americans surveyed were aware of the Seattle protests at the WTO meetings in December. Two-thirds of these Americans claimed the protests in Seattle had no impact on their feelings about the WTO. But the "Battle in Seattle" did harden some attitudes. One in five was more opposed to the WTO after Seattle, while only one in ten was more in favour.
In some of the other countries polled, the protests made more of an impact than in the United States. The Mexicans, Brazilians and French who followed the events were even more likely than Americans to come away with more reservations about the WTO. The protests did gain more sympathy for the WTO among Thais and Malaysians however.
The ongoing controversy about the role of the World Trade Organization may ultimately influence whether worldwide popular opinion embraces protectionist or free trade policies. While the perceived global impact of the WTO had an influence, self interest remains the more powerful force. A tendency to seek refuge or revenge in protectionist policies was especially pronounced in the United States - among Americans who felt WTO policies had been harmful to their own country, 77% favoured protectionism over free trade. Across all of the other countries polled, an average of only 59% of those who felt their countries had been harmed by WTO rulings opted for a return to protectionist policies.
"The protests (against globalization) may generate a lot of media attention, but trade issues are barely on the general public's radar screen, especially in the U.S.," said Tom Neri, President of Angus Reid's U.S. Operations. "Even with "The Battle in Seattle," hardcore opposition to globalization remains a minority-held view. However, what we also found was that it wouldn't take much for Americans to retreat behind trade barriers if they felt their jobs and their standard of living were being squeezed."
These results emerged from an international public opinion survey conducted by the Angus Reid Group. This poll involved interviews among a total of 9,075 adults in 17 countries: Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Thailand, the United Kingdom and the United States. Data collection was carried out in February of 2000.
The target sample size was 500 for each country with the exception of a 1,000 sample size in the United States. In 14 of the 17 countries, the survey sample provided national representation; in the other three countries - Brazil, Mexico and Thailand - the survey sample is urban-only. In-person, door-to-door interviewing was used in these urban-only countries and in Malaysia. Telephone interviewing was used in all other countries. The complete data set was weighted so that the overall survey results reflect the proportional populations of the countries/urban areas in the sample.
About Angus Reid
The Angus Reid Group is one of North America's premier market research and public opinion polling firms. The company provides international clients with a regularly-scheduled quarterly global polling program wherein upwards of 30 countries over a two-month timeframe are sampled for opinions on private sector and public matters. The Angus Reid Group also publishes, on a quarterly basis, the World Monitor - a digest of world public opinion trends and insights gleaned from its world polling activities - and The Face of the Web, the most comprehensive international study of consumers and the Internet.
For more information on this media release, please contact:
Tom Neri Angus Reid Group New York (212) 265-3200