America turns 240 years old today. While relatively young compared to some other countries, that's still old enough to rack up a long of accomplishments and missteps alike. So what kind of birthday gift do you get a nation that's got it all?
How about the gift of the truth? Or, at least, the truth as a bunch of other countries see it. After all, what better way to ring in 240 years of country-hood than by knowing what countries like Poland, Sweden, and the India think of you? For that, we look to the Pew Research Center's recently published 2016 Global Attitudes Survey, which details how America and its citizens are seen in the eyes of nations across Europe and Asia.
The results…well, they're mixed.
First, some good news.
Americans work hard.
According to Pew, the majority of respondents from nearly every country polled (Spain, Poland, Sweden, Greece, Italy, Germany, Hungary, France, the U.K., the Netherlands, India, China, Japan, Australia, Canada and the U.S. itself) associated Americans with a strong work ethic. Over 50% of all the European countries included in the survey considered Americans hardworking. In fact, only in Japan and China did those numbers dip below half, at 26 and 39% respectively
They're also optimistic.
Those numbers got even better when respondents were asked about American optimism. Every European country polled on whether Americans were optimistic agreed at a rate of 70% or higher. Tied for the lead were Spain, Poland and Sweden, 80% of whose respondents thought Americans have a rosy outlook on life. Once again, numbers dipped in China, with only 45% of Chinese respondents considering optimism an American trait.
But Americans have problems, too.
Pew's survey painted a decidedly less comforting picture when it comes to how the rest of the world sees Americans in terms of tolerance. Majorities of respondents in China, Sweden and Australia did not consider tolerance an American trait, while only in Poland did associations between Americans and tolerance hit 70%.
They're arrogant, greedy, and violent.
This is where America's global standing really starts to take a beating. As Pew points out:
A median of 54% think arrogance is an attribute of Americans, and nearly as many say the same about greed (median of 52%). Slightly fewer across the countries surveyed think Americans are violent (median of 48%).
Around the world, it seems, Americans are slightly more likely to be thought of as haughty misers than not, and only slightly less likely to be considered violent. The association between Americans and violence spikes to 68%—the highest number out of all respondent nations—in Australia. Greece, however, seems to have the worst opinion of Americans when it comes to these three traits. There, respondents connected Americans with arrogance, greed, and violence at 72, 68, and 63%, respectively. India, meanwhile, appeared least likely to associate Americans with these undesirable qualities, ranking them at just 42, 36, and 28%, respectively.
The world still thinks America respects personal freedoms, but Europe is losing patience…
According to Pew, majorities in 10 of the 16 nations involved in the survey felt the United States upholds and protects individual freedoms and rights. However, among five major European countries (France, Germany, Poland, Spain, and the U.K.) those numbers have dropped significantly since 2013, from a median of 76% agreeing that the U.S. respects the personal freedoms of its citizens, down to 53%—a change, Pew noted, that can be attributed in part to revelations about the National Security Agency's digital surveillance programs.
Ultimately, though, America is doing alright.
When it comes to sheer favorability, Pew's survey isn't all doom and gloom. With the exception of Greece, every country polled put America's favorability at 50% or higher. Greece, on the other hand, showed a 58% unfavorable rating of America, a full 14 points more than even China's opinion of the U.S.
So there you have it America: 240 years old, and doing pretty well, considering.
Not a bad birthday present at all.