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Monday, 5 August, 2002, 11:52 GMT 12:52 UK
Does the US have an image problem?
The US is suffering from a serious image problem, according to a new report by an influential New York-based policy group.

The report by the Council on Foreign Relations says the US Government is in need of an urgent public relations overhaul to improve its image in the international community.

It says the Bush administration has significantly failed to capture the hearts and minds of non-Americans, blaming a dramatic decline in funding for government departments dedicated to promoting US policy and values overseas.

Snubbing Kyoto and the newly-established International Criminal Court did no favours for the Bush administration either, according to the report.

Do you think the US is suffering from a serious image problem? If so, does it matter? How can America's image be improved on the world stage?

This Talking Point has now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

The stance of the US government rarely reflects the feelings of the nation as a whole

Mat, England
The worst thing about this whole debate is the fact that the actual American public has very little to do with it at all. The average American is in most cases a highly intelligent and deeply humane individual fully aware of the world at large. As many of the Americans who've commented on this debate point out the stance of the US government rarely reflects the feelings of the nation as a whole.
Mat, England

Here's the facts. President Bush has a 70 percent approval rating in America. Why? Because Americans like what he is doing. We like it even though we are very aware of the opinions of non-Americans and all their arguments.
Scott, USA

Isn't that just like an American to think that a marketing and PR campaign will fix America's world image. Judging from some of the earlier comments posted by some of my fellow Americans, it's crystal clear why we have an image problem. My experience is generally Europeans are better informed about America than most Americans. A PR campaign will be ineffective in changing America's image, if we continue with our parochial thought and education system. Improving the US image in the world will require the US to change its current trend of unilateralism and nationalism masquerading as patriotism.
Sandy, USA

Something has gone very wrong. Our government is totally out of touch, and out of control. People would be wrong to think that the UK and US are so different, however. We seem to do things in step. Take a quick look back: Reagan-Thatcher, Clinton-Blair... so who's waiting in the wings to set Britain back 50 years???
Matt, USA

Our offers of help may have selfish undertones but it comes with the best intentions

Sara, USA
I spent a significant amount of time living in the UK but the majority of my life in America. I was born and raised here and subjected to the brainwashing the American public school system sets forth as history courses. We are taught to believe that America is always right with a few minor exceptions. After living and experiencing the world beyond America, I have come to realize the truth about many things. We do have awful foreign policy but you have to remember that we usually attempt to aid countries in danger. Our offers of help may have selfish undertones but it comes with the best intentions. Please do not hold individual Americans responsible for the actions of our government.
Sara, USA

The comments on this forum prove that Europeans are just as misinformed about Americans as Americans supposedly are about the rest of the world. All it takes is a trip to any of our small towns off the beaten path and you will see the true spirit of America. And honestly, if the rest of the world would quit buying Coke, Pepsi, McDonald's etc. you wouldn't even be talking about us as an empire. The world has demand for our products, we don't force anyone to buy them.
Mike, USA

Of course we have an image problem. When you have the US government acting unilaterally with virtually no concern for other countries, it is not just an "image" problem, it is a very real problem. I am totally embarrassed by our government's exit from the Kyoto treaty. Please keep in mind that a half million more Americans voted for Al Gore than voted for George Bush. He does not represent or speak for many Americans, but mostly represents the interests if big business and nothing more.
Gerry Daley, USA

You buy American products and read about what you construe as American culture and then lash out against it

John, USA
Maybe our media should take a hint from the European media and start to criticise, analyse and magnify every last step and misstep of your governments. Then you too would have an image problem! Sorry but we live in a very large country. There is a tremendous amount of daily coverage on local, regional and national issues and of course, international. But not to the extent of the fetishisation of America that many non-Americans seem to have. You buy American products and read about our government and what you construe as American culture and then lash out against it. Get some help.
John, USA

The comments of some of the European posters on this topic demonstrates that more outward communication -- marketing - may be just what is needed. They have a simplistic view of the US that sounds as if they derived it entirely from television. Cartoons, mostly.
Paul, USA

I agree with Paul from the USA who suggests that better marketing is needed. The issue is not in the sell but in the substance of US foreign policy. The US acts unilaterally and in many cases against the wishes of the UN. It is often seen as pursuing a policy of economic expansionism. This is not a belief based on misinformation but one based on recent evidence.
Brian, UK

God forbid we should become a state of America. We have enough of the bad things about America here already like fast food, guns, and obesity. I don't think the US has ever had a good image. They are intent on war and their actions will destroy the Middle East. Why can't they stay out of other folks' affairs?
Jean, England

I agree with Jean. We should stay out of other people's affairs. I think we should withdraw all foreign aid, troops, and support. We should just close our borders and let each country go to hell in their own way.
Kathy, USA

Only in the land of Hollywood and New York marketing firms could the perception of America be termed a "marketing problem". America doesn't need a Ministry of Propaganda (which is what the Bush Administration seems keen on creating). It needs far better policies and a better outlook on the world. Sadly, the world can expect neither from this administration or from the American Public.
Andrew, USA

Much as it may irritate Europeans, the first duty of US politicians is to their electorate

Bill Healy, Ireland
Much as it may irritate Europeans, there are no votes outside the US for US politicians, and their first duty is to their electorate. When most US citizens are perfectly content within their borders, why are we surprised when the American government doesn't cater to European whims?
Bill Healy, Ireland

I think it becomes much easier to understand the actions and attitudes of the USA when you really see it for what it is - an empire. No matter how much marketing you do to enhance its public image, it's still in the tradition of Roman, British, and Soviet empires before it.
Scott Goodison, Australia

Of course it has an image problem! After years of making a mockery of everything the bill of rights was supposed to stand for, even the strongest American supporters question whether the Bush administration is more like a corporation trying to please shareholders than a body to represent the country and its people.
Hammad, London UK

America's image problem is a reflection of its many cultural problems

Anon, UK
The image that America presents to the world is of a culture based upon blame, where it's acceptable to sue food companies rather than face responsibility for what one eats. It interferes with the political processes of countries where it has a commercial interest yet ignores the plights of countries where it has no interests. America's image problem is a reflection of its many cultural problems.
Anon, UK

I believe the US's international popularity took a huge dive shortly after George W Bush became president. The US has become associated with arrogance, ignorance, political naivety and short-sighted policies - the same traits seem to represent George W Bush as an individual.
Chris B, England

I doubt if most Americans have a problem with the rest of the world not liking them. After all most Americans don't seem to be aware that there is a world outside of America.
Peter, UK

Did the imperialist Great Britain care?

Adam, England
Did the imperialist Great Britain care? One of the perks of being the world's dominant power is that image abroad is less important. However, the US has found itself in a tricky situation, relying on international support for its war on terror. Unfortunately, with Bush the US has an isolationist style President who has difficulty pointing out most countries on a map, at a time when it should be reaching out an improving its image abroad.
Adam, England

Many people here feel powerless in the face of big business and big government

Brett, USA
Please remember that we are a large country with an extremely large population made up of many different groups and cultures. Many of us do not agree with our government on many issues, especially foreign policy, but we do not have nearly as much control over the policies and actions of our government as everyone seems to think. I know America touts its perception of democracy continuously, but many people here feel powerless in the face of big business and big government. Many also feel that there are a host of issues we could and should be handling in a better, more co-operative manner.
Brett, USA

So America shouts very loudly about its achievements to a very annoying degree sometimes, but I would still prefer to become the 51st state than be part of any European Union!
Jason, Manchester, England

Jason, Manchester, England: No thank you. I do not want to be associated with a country that is so preoccupied with making money, causing wars and plundering the world's resources. If the world needs direction it needs to come from Europe. We have had enough war, poverty, and environmental plundering on this continent and others to have learnt from our past. The US is too young a nation to ever be able to understand this.
Mark, UK

This elitist European attitude is a joke

Mark, USA
Mark from the UK: Well, Europe, get it together and provide direction. How is the US holding you back? We have done more for Europe and the rest of the world than you can imagine. We're not perfect, but this elitist European attitude is a joke. Where were these criticisms when we were protecting Europe from the USSR for half a century? Maybe the French should have been given that job.
Mark, USA

The fact that the US Government has no intention of altering its course or of paying any heed to foreign criticism, instead choosing to initiate a propaganda campaign to distort and distract from its actions speaks volumes.
Ciaran, Ireland

I have lived overseas for many years and every time I return home I feel as if I have entered a bubble. It astounds me how little coverage there is on the major networks of events outside America. I used to wonder why my fellow Americans thought their way was the best, now I realise that the American media has its people convinced that it is the centre of the globe. No wonder people here seriously discuss invading Iraq while the rest of the world stands with its mouth wide open in disbelief at such a suggestion.
Robert, USA

Please remember that we're young. Europe had its growing pains too!

Cari, USA
It is a bit embarrassing to be an American these days. Thanks to current and previous administrations, we come across as elitist warmongerers who want to pollute the earth and stockpile weapons and money. Please remember that we're young. Europe had its growing pains too!
Cari, USA

Marketing - are you joking? America should do what it believes is right, regardless of the opinions of the rest of the world. America has many problems, but I wouldn't live anywhere else. And to Cari, USA: If you are embarrassed to be an American, move somewhere else.
Stephen, USA

I would ask the rest of the world not to confuse the people of the US with its government

Rachel, USA
I believe that the US government is being extremely open about its views (many of which I disagree with), so marketing is not the answer and, if anything, would make the world feel even more poorly toward the US Government. It is very important to note that the US Government does not represent most of the US. Bush received fewer than half the popular votes in the last presidential election. I would ask the rest of the world not to confuse the people of the US with its government.
Rachel, USA

Many people in the US see Europe's approach as ineffective - all talk, no action. Europe has failed to solve problems in the world. Instead they just fuss about them. Americans see our approach as one that works.
John Perdue, USA

The Americans take pride in their country and stand up for what is rightfully theirs. Contrast this to the UK, which gave away its now ruined fishing areas and is about to give away Gibraltar all in the spirit of 'co-operation'. I know who I'm more proud of.
Christopher Spicer, UK/USA

Marketing is not the problem - it's the product that is faulty

Jackson, UK
If the US administration relies on brand image to market its unilateralist foreign policy and justify the overt and covert use of violence around the world, George Bush's war on terrorism has proved a lacklustre sale. Non-Americans do not have confidence in brand 'Dubbya' and do not see the world in the simple terms of good and evil that he so frequently employs. Marketing is not the problem - it's the product that is faulty.
Jackson, UK

If America wants to improve its image then it should look to its recent forays onto the world stage. If they were a bit more international and a bit less imperial they would make a lot more friends. In Europe a more measured and educated approach is taken to world issues; why doesn't America follow our lead for once?
Rob, England

The cultural differences between Europe and the US are growing

Patrick, Philadelphia, USA
I can, in our defence, only say that most Americans that I know are a "live and let live" type of bunch. The cultural differences between Europe and the US are growing and that is unavoidable. The US is still primarily a more conservative nation when compared with some of our Western European comrades. But it is, in spite of its superpower status, interested first in its own welfare. I would dare any national government to say it is primarily interested in something else.
Patrick, Philadelphia, USA

As an outsider looking in, which is what it feels like being an American who lives and works in the UK, the problem is that America is so parochial in its views that it's simply unaware of the wider world. Anyone who thinks otherwise ought to try and be critical of American policy at the moment. I thought I was going to be lynched for questioning the rationale behind the bombing of a wedding in Afghanistan.
Larry Ward, England/USA

America's image should not matter to them if they believe they are doing the right thing. I believe the US is taking the correct approach to foreign policy while most other countries have a very naive way of looking at the world, particularly Europe. This is coming from someone who has lived in Mexico most of his life. Politically correct rhetoric and appeasement has destroyed many countries, thankfully the US will not fall for it.
Adrian Franco, Oxford, UK

It seems to be out of step with the rest of the world on so many issues

John, England
I think most people would agree that America seems somehow removed from reality these days. It may shock many Americans to learn that the rest of the world isn't desperate to emulate them. The US seems to think war and money is the only route to true happiness. It seems to be out of step with the rest of the world on so many issues.
John, England

The thing about America since President Bush II came to power is that it seems to be intent on looking after number one at other countries' expense (Kyoto and the steel industries being just two examples). Only when they need help do they remember the existence of other countries.
Susie, UK

If the American people need a thinktank to tell them that the world is not warming to their ways, maybe they should show a little more interest in what goes on beyond their own shores and how their government's actions affect others. No one likes to be dominated.
David Simms, New Zealand

I don't think America's image will matter to them, but this is part of the problem. I think the US is a great country with great people who have their hearts in the right place - but sometimes they aren't as appreciative to their friends as they could be. The slating given to the Royal Marines in Afghanistan will always stick in my mind. America can't go it alone in this world, as much as they want to. Britain will always be a friend, but it does so because it chooses to. Not everyone will stand so firmly by them.
Russ, UK

There is only an image problem if it presents a distorted picture of what is really going on. In this case, I think the image is pretty accurate.
Bob, USA

See also:

30 Jul 02 | Americas
02 Apr 01 | Americas
08 Jul 02 | Hardtalk
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