BBC Home
Explore the BBC
BBC News
Launch consoleBBC NEWS CHANNEL
Last Updated: Friday, 20 June, 2003, 11:21 GMT 12:21 UK
What do you think of America?
Have Your Say: What do you think of America?
Land of the free, home of junk food, or global policeman: What do you think of America?

The USA's role in the world was discussed in a unique global television debate hosted by the BBC.

The debate revealed the results of a ground-breaking, international survey of attitudes that will capture popular prejudices and convictions about America.

Under discussion was America's relations with other countries post-September 11, the country's cultural legacy and what the future holds for the world's only superpower.

The programme also revealed that News Online readers voted Homer Simpson as the Greatest American in history.

What do you think of America? Who is the greatest American? What is the USA's best, and worst, contribution to the world?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.


The following comments reflect the balance of opinions we have received:

Most American's long for the days of isolationism. If we thought that the world would leave us alone, we'd go inside, shut the door, and lock it tightly.
Mark, USA

Jealousy is a powerful emotion.
LP, Egham, UK
With so much of the world living in poverty, under the shadow of autocratic governments, it is easy to see why America is the target of so much hate. Jealousy is a powerful emotion.
LP, Egham, UK

If we compare the actions of the US (especially foreign policy) with the historical actions of the European imperialists, we cannot say they are any worse. But, when we compare their actions and policies with the ideals they preach, they are their own enemy.
David C, London, UK

America is a country of basically decent people who allow themselves to believe in a fantasy
Mike Peterson, Spain (Ex-USA)
America, we are told, is a country that was founded on freedom yet it was founded on mass slavery. America is a country where we are told free speech is valued yet when people speak out against the recent war they are vivified, fired or even attacked. America is thought of as rich yet many millions of its citizens live way below the poverty line, and we simply don't care. America is a country where racism is alive and well. America is a country of basically decent people who allow themselves to believe in a fantasy worthy of Disney rather than change things for the better.
Mike Peterson, Spain (Ex-USA)

America is still the leader of the western world and the champion of democracy, which could have perished if not for the sacrifices made by the US. My regret is that the American people needed and deserved a more ethical administration to lead them in the aftermath of 9/11.
Ken UK, England

I suppose that since America is such a young country, we shouldn't be surprised that they're now so gung-ho about making the kind of foreign policy mistakes that we in "Old Europe" were making 250 years ago.
Stuart W, UK

I have been to the US and it is beautiful but the people are self-centred, highly opinionated, morally limited and with Christian righteous, pro-Jewish values. It is scary how the country can become a dangerous weapon under a president with such a limited and narrow bandwidth.
James, India

I'd like to see more comments from residents of Iraq, Libya, Afganistan, Vietnam, Cambodia, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Panama, Croatia, Laos, Indonesia, and the other 30 or so countries the US has bombed since the end of the World War II. Any country the US cannot exploit or control it bombs back to the Stone Age.
Mark, Ireland

Americans are ambitious, funny, sympathetic, and smart
Maria C, USA (Ex-Philippines)
I came to the USA three years ago from the Philippines. It was not an easy transition. I found Americans to be too direct and rude. At first I associated with only other Filipino immigrants but eventually I met a wonderful American man and recently married him. I was also able to get a great job doing the same thing I was doing in the Philippines but making unbelievable money ($100,000/yr). Since I have married and began working with Americans, I have begun to see the admirable traits. Americans are ambitious, funny, sympathetic, and smart. People here are also opinionated. My husband is well-educated and we have well-educated friends. The view that Americans are ignorant is puzzling to me.
Maria C, USA (Ex-Philippines)

Thank you to everyone for your contributions. No nation is perfect and there is certainly room to improve. Please remember however that Americans are typical human beings. Arrogance, self-interest and naiveté are not uniquely American as this forum has amply demonstrated. The root causes of many of the world's problems precede and will outlive the US. We all have a responsibility to address them, as well as the flaws in human nature that ironically unite us.
Guy, USA

I always knew the BBC was very anti-American and anti-Israeli. I sent several postings to address this. G-d bless America and Israel.
Igor, USA

We don't hate the American people
John, UK
To Krista Little in the USA: we don't hate the American people nor does your cute name fill our hearts with fear. We hate what your government has done, because we see the disastrous outcomes of their policies on the rest of the world. We fear them, because they are unstoppable and determined to stubbornly continue on the same course regardless.
John, UK

Krista: considering that 85% of Americans don't even own a passport, perhaps you should be asking the question in reverse?
Jan Helens, Belgium

For those of you that have such strong criticisms of the US, I ask you, have you ever even been to the US? Do you actually know any Americans or have any as friends? People only hate or fear that which they are ignorant about.
Krista Little, USA

They have a special vision of their own history
Luc, France
The average American doesn't support critics or other ways of thinking. The US has nothing to do with the great tolerant democracy we used to know. Politicians there exploit their patriotism. They are totally misinformed but believed they are better informed than the rest of the world. And I think they have a special vision of their own history. By becoming ignorant Americans are becoming dangerous. The fear we have of them is nothing to do with jealousy.
Luc, France

How about a little wager? I'm betting that 99% of the Americans criticizing their own will still be here 5 years from now. I think that says a lot about the types of people that express their views on this site.
Bob, USA

America doesn't realise how nationalistic it is and that universals like freedom and liberty have many different interpretations within different cultural contexts
Katherine Barlow, United Kingdom

Americans aren't perfect but neither is anyone else
Mike, UK
Everyone loves to hate the winner if they are not a part of the same team. It is amazing how many NY Yankee hats you see on people's heads no matter what country you are in. Perhaps the bitterness needs to end and everyone should learn from American perseverance. Americans aren't perfect but neither is anyone else. Anyone that thinks Americans are too aggressive might want to consider the fact that it has only taken 200 plus years of existence to get where they are as a superpower. I say hats-off this July 4th and a pat on the back.
Mike, UK

America: a wonderful country full of genuinely nice people who are controlled and ruled by some exceptionally greedy individuals.
John Neal, UK

America seems to have no political left as a counter-balance. It has centre right (Democrats) and neo-Conservative (Republican). This combined with Christian Conservatism means that opposing views can be listened to but never taken into account when making important decisions. Too many people in power think too similarly to the others in power. e.g. only one person voted against the war in Afghanistan in the Senate.
Rahul, UK

[America] took me in when I was cast-off by my own country as an undesirable
Shah, USA
America? Greatest county in the world. Took me in when I was cast-off by my own country as an undesirable. Now on my way to becoming a millionaire. Love the country, people, culture, energy, and most of all the HOPE. Thank you America for giving me an opportunity at life. God Bless You Always.

Note to the BBC: Homer Simpson was the creation of a Canadian - he likened the character to his dad. So Homer's a Canadian. Who's having the last laugh here?
Shah, USA

The USA's only real contributions to the rest of the world are McDonalds and war. I can very well do without both.
Steve, UK

In spite of its many faults, such as violence, lack of a universal health care system for all of its citizens, and many mistakes in foreign policy, the USA continues to be a beacon of hope for countless millions of people all around the world looking for a better life for themselves and their children, what would the world be like without the USA? Lot worse that it is now, a hopeless place for sure.
A. P., USA

I served my country in the US Marines, and it pains me to see what this current administration is doing to America abroad and at home. It makes me wonder what is happening to the democracy I served.
Stephen McKenna, Thailand (American ex-pat)

I am not fat and I don't have a bust of John Wayne in my foyer
Patrick D, Detroit
I live in a great country, but I don't think I am better than anyone else. I am not fat and I don't have a bust of John Wayne in my foyer. I am really European... as a matter of fact, my ancestry is Irish, English, German, French, Italian, Russian, Greek, and Lebanese. I am an American mutt that shares your European blood. We are like blood relatives, yet divided by a large ocean. Let's get over this pathetic "divide" that has been created by the whole Iraq fiasco. We need each other now!
Patrick D., Detroit, United States

Some of the criticism of the US really makes me laugh. It's power is in it's tolerance, pluralism, and it basic liberties that allows the ENTIRE population to persue the piece of the pie. If you need an example, just think of what happens to a small business owner in Europe that fails. The poor business person will probably never get a second chance with the banks but in the US it is considered a part of the process. I know this is a fact because the bank I work for gives many business loans to European start-ups that have been turned down by everyone there. Now that's equality and the American way!
Robert Thomas, US

I just read the entire first two pages of comments and must say that they're all true, every one. The US is a huge mass of contradictions - I'm as embarrassed to be an American as I am proud.
Christopher Freeman, US

Nice place, shame about the guns.
Joe Horvath, Australia

The USA is a very patriotic nation, and can be a generous one
Keith, Canada
The USA is a very patriotic nation, and can be a generous one. The goals of the American Revolution have changed the world. The current US regime may be too trigger happy, but Sept 11 traumatized America, and has girded the Americans with a stronger national feeling.
Keith, Canada

I thank America. People have short memories. Brave Americans have fought for freedom for three hundred years. Americans died to free Europe. Americans died to stop the Japanese invading Australia & New Zealand. America is not perfect but without their ingenuity & fearlessness the rest of us would be enslaved, beheaded & worse. Go for it Mr President! You have my unqualified support. Use the big one if you have to. Better the 'mushroom' appears above the axis of evil than in New York or Los Angeles. I can handle the fall-out if you can.
Deniz Ronaldo , Australia

I love the USA, I moved over here from the UK 5 years ago. It is true what they say, there is more opportunity here. It's cheaper to live, you earn more and we don't have the Government always trying to create more taxes.
Christopher Jackson-Lockyer, USA

Most of us could not care less what citizens of other countries say about the USA and our presiden
Carolyn, USA
I've been reading the comments about my wonderful country and my courageous and steadfast president from citizens of other countries as well as some of my fellow Americans.and I'm laughing! What nonsense! America is the land of the free and the home of the brave and yes, the sole super power. Why? Because we earned it with our blood, sweat, tears and lives. Our flag flies over cemeteries full of fallen American soldiers throughout the world. Regardless of what other Americans have stated on this message board, most of us could not care less what citizens of other countries say about the USA and our president.
Carolyn, USA

In response to Carolyn: America earned it's pre-eminent position in the world today not through it's own blood and sweat, but (like the British Empire before it), through the forced labour, blood, and sweat of others, combined with the plundering of newly-found resources in an age of "discovery".
Frank Lee, USA

I have for years now watched that country degrade its own moral fibre
Caty Green, France
I am an aged American expatriate and ex-patriot. I grew up in a country that held high ideals and made honest efforts to live up to them. I have for years now watched that country degrade its own moral fibre. Finally we see those ideals dead in the water. What could be more heart-breaking to those of us who deeply loved our country, what could be more terrifying to the whole world!
Caty Green, France

It's easy to be critical but there's probably less wrong with the USA than with any other country. For the past two centuries the USA has been the World's safety valve - accepting misfits in droves. Since WWII it's been the example to which emerging democracies have aspired. Since 9-11 the USA has become just another country. The USA's best contribution to the World is technology: many people may not realise it but much British quality industrial technology since the mid-19th century has come from the USA. It's worst contribution to the World has been dumbing down - of TV, newspapers, film, food, education, diplomacy, morality, etc. The Bush administration is a prime example of the dumbing down of diplomacy and morality. However, history may yet judge 9-11 and Bush as major turning points in World history, hopefully for the better, with Bush being regarded as the greatest American!
JohnM, LyneMeads,UK

Is America perfect? No. But the good America brings to the world far exceeds the bad. We Americans should listen to what others say to try to improve ourselves. But I also think that much of the criticism is due to envy, misunderstanding, or sheer frustration. If Americans were really as naive as some suggest, the US wouldn't be the sole superpower in the world.

Another point, the surest way to give rise to a people's patriotism is to attack their country. All the bad-mouthing that America is currently enduring is serving to unite its citizens in a wave of patriotism, and will probably help President Bush get re-elected.
James, USA

I feel privileged to be allied with them
John, England
America is a great nation and I feel privileged to be allied with them. Besides the UK, the US are the driving force of a group of nations who would tackle dictators and terrorists head on instead of fussing around asking them to leave nicely. Long live the US
John, England

America is not the world' sonly superpower. China has been a superpower for many years and will overtake America in the next decade.
Sam, UK

America as a country is representative of many western nations whose only knowledge of the rest of the world is TV.I don't blame 'em but surely they are missing a lot. I wish they'd care to listen, travel and see the rest of the world.
Lawrence gwakisa, Tanzania

This program was generally pretty silly. What is more interesting is what Americans think of themselves. The view that most of the world have of Americans is from TV and Films and many of those these days seem to be about rogue elements in government & secret services etc. Also, very often films & TV programs portray ordinary Americans as ill-educated ill-informed rednecks. If that is the view that Americans have of themselves it cannot be surprised that others regard them in the same way. I, personally, love America and Americans. Like everybody else in the world at the most basic level they just want to get on with their lives and what is wrong with that? I would sooner the UK became the 51st state of America than the 14th state of Europe.
ANDY, UK

Since the Soviet Union collapsed the USA has been the country that stands up and sticks out the most
Bill Grant, USA
There's an old Japanese expression that says; "the nail that stands up gets knocked down." Since the Soviet Union collapsed the USA has been the country that stands up and sticks out the most, as such we have become a scapegoat for people to vent their frustrations and blame their problems on.
Bill Grant, USA

It's a pity that the American dream isn't still a reality.
Martin, UK

I'm convinced that, in the end, anti-Americanism says more about the person harbouring such sentiments than it does about Americans. It's intended to confirm one's own sense of superiority - a salve for wounded pride in the face of American successes. Jealousy and resentment are powerful emotions.
T. Bass, USA

America is a land of the brain washed public who can see no wrong in what is done in their name
Abdul, Egypt
America is a land of the brain washed public who can see no wrong in what is done in their name. If only the American people can look around and see that they need the world more then the world needs them.
Abdul, Egypt

I'm proud to be an American. However, I disapprove with our current leadership. President Bush and his administration have made poor decisions. President Bush and his administration needs a serious wake -up call.
MiShawn , USA

85% of Americans do not have a registered passport. For my US readers, this means 85% of Americans have never left the 'homeland'. Is there anything else to say?
Koko, Canada

People in Iran love America and if you ask anyone on the street they'll tell you they want to go to America
Amir Kirkolofti, Iran
People in Iran love America and if you ask anyone on the street they'll tell you they want to go to America. If only Iranians could be liberated from their regime as easy as the Iraqis were liberated from theirs.
Amir Kirkolofti, Iran

I never have hated America or ordinary Americans, but I am not at all pleased with the government of President Bush. When they disregarded the U.N and attacked Iraq, after bombing Afghanistan to the stone age. Actually the US is using Al-Qaeda as an excuse and wants to attack other countries by saying that the governments of these countries are aiding Al-Qaeda, and they don't even bother to give any evidence for it.
Farrukh Ismail, Pakistan

The USA dominates the world in almost every area. This programme then asks people from the dominated countries what they think of the dominant country. I could almost guarantee the result. And you call this a ground-breaking piece of work? It is also interesting to note the negative feedback from some in the dominant country who are bitter about the last election result - again the dominated speak out against the dominant. It is natural and normal and I am not the least bit surprised.
Alan Wyatt, USA/UK

You need us more than we need you
Marie, USA
We may not be perfect in the world's eye, but I am sick and tired of everyone in the world bashing us. You need us more than we need you. As far as I'm concerned. I hope we go back to isolationism.
Marie, USA

First, I am very critical of the Bush Administration. Second, it is true that many Americans are very ignorant of foreign counties. Third, this year alone around 4 million people will graduate from US colleges and universities. The US is characterized by this kind of dichotomy. Fourth, it is easy for Europeans to be multicultural; drive 200 miles and you are in another country. Drive the same distance here, and you haven't even left the same state (read "province"). We are physically isolated. Fifth when Europeans come here we hear some very silly things. You don't know us very well, either.
D. Paul Bostaph, United States

The land of manic political ideas and leaders with surreal concepts of the world
Dobrin, Switzerland
It is a great country and an amazing land. Meanwhile it is also the land of manic political ideas and political and military leaders with surreal concepts of the world. I am deeply convinced, that the majority of Americans do not deserve the image their leaders have earned them.
Dobrin, Switzerland

It is time the US stops and thinks what they want for the future, because all empires in the past suddenly disappeared with without trace. Wake up North America!
JC, Brazil

The USA is an upright and decent nation and will always have a close ally in the UK.
PB, England

You can't compare America to the British Empire 100 years ago. We were barbaric then and we didn't even pretend to have anyone else's interests in mind.
Dave Gerrelli, England

The comment that epitomised the findings of this debate was the final contribution from Joe Klein, who told George Bush to ignore this poll. In other words: "We don't have to listen to anybody else, we're Americans." With one ignorant statement, he completely validated the results of this programme.
Leona Whieldon, UK

It was rather interesting to hear a variety of views on my nation. A key point made was that many people around the world do not like our president. Perhaps one of our greatest strengths is the ability to change through the democratic process. I personally do not believe that America is any better than any other nation, we have just had good luck.
Will, USA

The US makes me uneasy. I'm sure their heart is mostly in the right place and liberals there will always prevent excesses, but the general thrust under this president looks too selfish. The world needs a liberal president willing to work with the UN if we are not to go back to "power blocks" and the danger they cause.
Phil, Scotland

If America prides itself in its ability to cure global ills, as in Iraq, why does it not support more countries financially? The minutest percentage of its defence budget could make a big difference to struggling countries.
David Kilkelly, UK

When was the last time somebody took a global survey about Jaques Chirac?
Matt L, USA

The US does things that are in its best interest - but which country doesn't? Which country would act better (or in history, has acted better) as the world's superpower?
Babdon Ayoola, USA

What was Britain doing during its world-leading days? Invasion and pillage. Britain would do the same, or even worse, if it had the economic power.
Yin Liu, China

When was the last time somebody took a global survey about what people think about Jaques Chirac? If you were to do a survey in the USA about France, the number of people who dislike the French would be much greater than the number of French people in your poll who said they disliked the USA.
Matt L, USA

I think calling McDonalds representative of our food and Jerry Springer of our common discourse is grossly inaccurate. Would it be fair to assume all Brits eat fish'n'chips and act like Patsy and Edina? Surely not.
Andy, USA

Americans can be fantastic at the individual level, but its foreign policy is predicated on the misapprehension that the rest of the world should share the same political and economic values. As for the benign USA, for almost every positive act of foreign intervention, one can highlight when its adventures have had less than benign consequences.
Mike, Australia

We need America, but America must realise that it needs us in equal measure
Phil Petravich, UK
We need America, but America must realise that it needs us in equal measure. It is a young nation compared to the others. Some old nations could be thought of as being senile and so in need of the exuberance of the USA. However, how many of us now wish that we had listened a little more to our older relatives and friends when we were young?
Phil Petravich, UK

What behaviour can you expect of a country who sought independence because it didn't wanted to pay taxes?
Gonzalo Arriaga, Finland

The USA is the lesser of two evils. It is by no means perfect. It exploits a lot of the world for its own benefit. But it also does a huge amount of good. Without the USA much of the world that is free and democratic at the moment would not be. I don't believe The US is bent on world domination. They want to remain the super power and keep everyone in line but they certainly do not want to be "ruling" countries that they see as problematic.
Brad, Australia

Frankly, I couldn't care less about the "American way of life," but I absolutely loath hypocritical international policy of Bush's Administration. The way they bully other countries, undermine authority of the UN and constantly violate international law is appalling.
NN, Ukraine

Even their national bird is just a good looking vulture...
Wayne Clarke, Canada

With great power comes great responsibility. Are we expecting the US to be responsible towards us, or towards its own people? Obviously, your resources are in America's best interest, it would require a tremendous amount of self-restraint not to steal them. It is the law of the jungle, the strongest has his way.
Pierre R H, France

Great country, grand food. Ignorant population. Horrible politics. Savage judicial system.
Oscar D. Hillgaar, Norway

They know very little about the world beyond their shores, despite the fact that their heritage is derived from all over the world
Michele, Singapore
What strikes me is how the most powerful country in the world, with all its resources and wealth manages to breed such an ignorant people. They know very little about the world beyond their shores, despite the fact that their collective heritage is derived from all over the world. Power breeds arrogance no doubt. Yet arrogance combined with ignorance is fatal.
Michele, Singapore

While the Americans will invariably by accused by many of being a bunch of TV watching dimwits and decrying cultural imperialism, the world votes Homer Simpson - a cultural export celebrating those very qualities -the greatest American. Irony and contradiction on too many levels to get into here.
Paul, USA

For the most part it's a great country but the Republicans and religious zealots keep spoiling things. Tax Religion!
Jason, Alaska

I really am not too much in love with America. I think that sometimes they behave as if they were the resident rulers of the globe. I think that they do not always appreciate other ways of running a country and that they always feel they need to prove themselves to the rest of the world.
Annika Lundburg, Denmark

I think the US might develop into a post-democratic country if the Christian neo-conservatives succeed in consolidating their power position by grasps on media, on law-institutions and manipulating the electoral system. Counterbalance by a really united Europe, preferably including the UK seems urgent. If not the only countering can be expected from China, India or Brazil; neither of these are ready for such a role before 2015-2020.
L. Jonker, Netherlands

America embodies the misuse of power
George Nasser, Bethlehem, Palestine
America embodies the misuse of power. It is the responsible for Middle-East conflict, the war on Iraq and the US unjust policies in the Arab and Islamic world. The US foreign policy has succeeded in creating hatred and wrath among the Arab masses due to the utter bias toward Israel.
George Nasser, Bethlehem, Palestine

America is a dream country for many people in Africa. What makes me angry is the same people who wait at the gate of the American embassy to get a visa complain how they hate America. So why do they want to go there? It is not right to Love its resources and hate its policies at the same time. You have to choose one. Either be in America and abide by the rules and regulations or don't dream to go there.

But still they dream to be there because it is the only country where you can earn your bread without fear of any thing. How can any one hate the land of opportunity? We have to also understand America like any other Nation which has its own programme and objectives that it wants to see in the world in line with its National advantage. So what is the problem with that?? Any way, I love America and Americans.
Neftegnaw, Ethiopia

I certainly do not envy Americans. I mean who would like to be that fat!
Laurent, France

Love it when I'm there, scared of it when here - so naive they should keep out of foreign politics
Marilyn Cameron, UK



SEE ALSO:
Interactive debate
13 Jun 03  |  wtwta


PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

News Front Page | World | UK | England | Northern Ireland | Scotland | Wales | Politics
Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health | Education
Have Your Say | Magazine | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific