Globalization, According To The World, Is A Good Thing. Sort Of.

Globalization, According to the World, Is a Good Thing. Sort Of.

The New York Times
Published: October 5, 2007

WASHINGTON, Oct. 4 Buoyed and battered by globalization, people around the world strongly view international trade as a good thing but harbor growing concerns about its side effects: threats to their cultures, damage to the environment and the challenges posed by immigration, a new survey indicates.

In the Pew Global Attitudes Project survey of people in 46 countries and the Palestinian territories, large majorities everywhere said that trade was a good thing. In countries like Argentina, which recently experienced trade-based growth, the attitude toward trade has become more positive.

But support for trade has decreased in recent years in advanced Western countries, including Germany, Britain, France and Italy and most sharply in the United States. The number of Americans saying trade is good for the country has dropped by 19 percentage points since 2002, to 59 percent.

G.D.P. growth hasnt been as dramatic in these places as in Latin America or Eastern Europe, said Andrew Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center, referring to gross domestic product, the total value of the goods and services produced in a country. But worldwide, even though some people are rich and some are poor, support for the basic tenet of capitalism is pretty strong.

In almost all the countries, majorities agreed that environmental protection should be a high priority, even if it causes slower economic growth and some loss of jobs. Majorities in most countries surveyed also said that their traditional way of life was being lost. At least half of the respondents in those countries said that their way of life should be protected against foreign influence.

A total of more than 45,000 adults were surveyed. Interviews were conducted in April and May, some by telephone but most face to face; most polling was conducted nationwide, though in eight countries it was primarily urban. Margins of sampling error ranged between plus or minus two percentage points and plus or minus four percentage points.

The survey found that immigration concerns remained widespread, with large majorities in nearly every country favoring tougher restrictions.

Yet, views in the United States and Europe toward immigrants were not entirely predictable. Solid majorities of Americans and Canadians see it as a good thing that Asians and Latin Americans come to live and work in their countries, while majorities in Britain and France say the same about workers from the Middle East, North Africa and Eastern Europe.

Since 2002, the number of Americans supporting tighter immigration curbs has declined slightly, as it has among Canadians. Support in Britain and France for tighter immigration limits also declined slightly.

But in Italy, which has struggled with a steady flow of illegal immigrants, many arriving by sea from Africa, the number backing tighter immigration laws rose to 87 percent, from 80 percent in 2002. In Italy, 20 percent said that immigration from the Middle East and North Africa was good, while 67 percent said it was bad. Only 26 percent of Germans called immigration from those regions good, while 64 percent said it was bad.

Support for tougher immigration rules also soared in Jordan, which has faced a huge influx of Iraqis since the war started in 2003, rising to 70 percent, from 48 percent in 2002.

The survey found Americans more likely than most West Europeans to believe that their culture was superior; 55 percent of Americans said so. The only European country with a higher degree of self-belief was Italy, where 7 in 10 respondents proclaimed cultural superiority.

The Swedes, meantime, were the most self-critical. Only 2 in 10 said their culture was superior. Among the British and French, 3 in 10 said so.

Most countries displayed a clear negative correlation between wealth and strength of religious belief. The United States, though, has high levels of both religious belief and affluence.

While most Western Europeans expressed tolerance of homosexuality, fewer than half of Americans, Japanese and Israelis said it should be accepted.

There were stark differences in how strongly people in NATO countries felt that military force was sometimes necessary to maintain order. More than one-third of Turks and Americans said that they completely agree that it was sometimes necessary; one-fourth of Canadians, French and Italians said so; one-fifth of Britons agreed, as did only one-tenth of Germans and Spaniards.

At a time when leadership changes loom in Russia and possibly Pakistan, they were among only five places where people considered it more important to have a strong leader than a democratic government (the others were Ukraine, Bulgaria and the Palestinian territories). In 1991, a majority in newly democratic Russia said they preferred democratic government.

Solid majorities in the predominantly Muslim countries surveyed, except Turkey and Pakistan, said that democracy could work in their countries and was not just a Western way of doing things.

There was widespread agreement in most of Africa, Asia and the Middle East that morality required belief in God, with 99 percent of Egyptians saying so; but only one-tenth of Swedes and one-fifth of Britons agreed. Among Americans, nearly 6 in 10 linked God and morality.

The survey also underscored an explosion in technology use. Computer ownership was highest in South Korea, at 93 percent. But many developing countries remained in the single digits.