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What do Asians think?

What do Asians think?

Pew Center survey reveals Asian attitudes about their own lives, their nations, the world, and the United States. New Asia Institute pages summarize findings on Asia.

By Clayton Dube

In all three Asian nations surveyed in 2000 and 2002, the percentage of people with a favorable view of the U.S. declined -- most dramatically in Indonesia where it fell from 75% to 61%.

From July to October of this year, the Pew Global Attitudes Project had pollsters conduct surveys of over 38,000 people in 44 nations. In most nations (35 of the 42 where the question was asked), most people remain favorably disposed towards the United States. In 27 of these nations data from surveys conducted in 2000 showed that many people think less of the United States than they did two years ago. The U.S. received its best and next to worst marks in Asian nations. Some 90% of Filipinos surveyed had a favorable opinion of the U.S., while just 10% of Pakistanis expressed such a view (only Egyptians thought less of the U.S.). In all three Asian nations surveyed in 2000 and 2002, the percentage of people with a favorable view of the U.S. declined -- most dramatically in Indonesia where it fell from 75% to 61%.

But attitudes towards America, American foreign policy, and American popular culture are only part of the Pew Report. The report offers a sharp look at what people from around the world think about their own economic situation, the problems their nations confront, the work important institutions in their nations are doing to remedy those problems, and what are the greatest dangers in today's world. Nearly 12,000 people were interviewed in Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Pakistan, the Philippines, South Korea, and Vietnam.

Economic difficulties topped the list of personal concerns for most of the Asians surveyed. 84% of Indonesians and three-quarters of Indians and Filipinos identified economic problems as their number one worry. The same was true for two out of three people in Bangladesh, Vietnam, and China. Only in Japan did a large majority not say economic problems were their greatest concern. But there 39% said they had lost economic ground over the past five years and 27% expected their situation to worsen over the next five years.

This Japanese pessimism was unusual. In no other Asian nation did as many as 10% of those surveyed indicate they felt their lives would not improve in the next five years. In most Asian nations, two-thirds of the population anticipated personal economic gains in the next half-decade.

Most Asians expressed satisfaction with their family lives. Their level of satisfaction with "how things are going" in their countries was much lower. By large majorities, people in Indonesia, Japan, India, South Korea, Bangladesh, and the Philippines said they were dissatisfied. In China and Pakistan, however, almost half said they were satisfied with "how things were going."

In many respects, the most upbeat results came from Vietnam. Over two-thirds of those interviewed said they were satisfied with "how things are going" there. A staggering 92% saw Vietnam's economic situation as "good" (93% of Japanese said Japan's was "bad"). The top two national problems, according to Vietnamese are AIDS, other diseases, and crime. And almost three out of four Vietnamese said they had a favorable attitude towards the United States.

The Chinese and Vietnamese governments did not permit some questions about national affairs (e.g., satisfaction with their governments and militaries) to be asked. In China, it was also not possible to survey attitudes about U.S. policies and culture.

The Asia Institute has drawn upon this report to create a series of tables with data from the nine Asian nations surveyed.

Additional evidence of Asian attitudes toward the U.S. can be had at a series of pages the Asia Institute compiled after the 9/11 attacks and the first anniversary of those attacks. You can access those pages via:
http://web.international.ucla.edu/asia/article/2274

The complete Pew Research Center for The People & The Press report is available at:
http://people-press.org/reports/files/report165.pdf (280k)

The data that is discussed in the report can be downloaded at:
http://people-press.org/reports/files/report165topline.pdf (289k)

Asia Institute