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August 18, 2004

U.S. Popularity in Latin America; Economist Magazine Bias

A poll from Latinobarometro asked "What is your opinion of the United States?" As reported in the August 14, 2004 issue of The Economist, there was considerable variance among countries. What was reported for 1996 and 2004 was

Favorability =[("very good" + "good") - (very bad" + bad")]

In 2004, the most favorable was Central America (about +70%, reading from the diagram) and the least favorable was Argentina, at -30%. The positive countries were Central America, Ecuador, Peru, Columbia, Paraguay, Chile, Venezuala, and Brazil. Uruguay and Bolivia were both at about zero. Mexico and Argentina were the only countries unfavorable to the Unite States.

How about the change from 1996 to 2004? Has Bush dissipated America's goodwill abroad? The biggest gain in favorability towards America was Columbia, at about a 60 point gain, and the biggest decline was Argentina, with a 50 point loss. Here are my estimates for all the changes:

> >
Change in Favorability towards the United States, 1996 to 2004
COUNTRY CHANGE (+ means more favorable)
Columbia +60
Central America +40
Peru +20
Ecuador 0
Chile 0
Venezuala 0
Bolivia 0
Mexico -10
Uruguay -20
Brazil -30
Paraguay -30
Argentina -50

I don't see much of a pattern in this. Three countries are more favorable, four are about the same, and five are less favorable.

Thus, I would conclude that Latin Americans are surprisingly favorable to the United States in view of the longstanding anti-Americanism of its Left (and maybe its Right too), and that the War Against Terror has not had a clear effect either way. Yet The Economist titles the table "Cool to Uncle Sam" and summarizes it as

"But Central America and some Andean countries apart, the region remains alienated from the United States (chart 8). The Anti-Americanism that surged over the war in Iraq has not yet subsided."

This is so contrary to what Chart 8 actually says, which I just described above, that I checked it over several times just to see if they'd gotten the chart description backwards by accident. But no, the chart numbers really do contradict their summary of it.

The Economist hates President Bush, and this shows up in a slide in the quality of its reporting.

Media bias is nothing new, of course. Kevin Hassett and John Lott have a 2004 working paper, "Is Newspaper Coverage of Economic Events Politically Biased?", quantifying the anti-Republican bias in the election year economic coverage of major newspapers. I mention this story mainly because I used to read and respect The Economist. I hadn't read it for a year or so, and haven't read it regularly for ten years or so, and I was shocked when I picked up the August 14 issue to read on the airplane recently.

Posted by erasmuse at August 18, 2004 11:35 PM

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Interesting numbers. They seem to suggest the best way for the US to make itself popular in a Latin American country is to cooperate with said country's military in counter-insurgency efforts.

Posted by: Chris Atwood at August 19, 2004 01:51 PM

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