par Robert O. Keohane
Princeton University


    In 1941 Henry Luce spoke of the coming of "the American century." Today commentators across the political spectrum emphasize America's dominant military capabilities and economic strength. Yet after sixty years of global leadership, the United States is far from universally admired worldwide. A series of polls taken in the winter of 2004 showed that in 16 of 22 countries surveyed, a plurality or majority of the public said that the United States had mainly a negative influence in the world. What is commonly called "anti-Americanism" - the expression of negative attitudes toward the United States - has spread far and wide, including in parts of the world where publics showed deep sympathy with the United States after the 9/11 attacks.
    The sensitivity of Americans to these expressions of dislike may say as much about America as about others' views of the United States. Alexis de Tocqueville commented on this subject in the mid 19th century: “The Americans, in their intercourse with strangers, appear impatient of the smallest censure and insatiable of praise... They unceasingly harass you to extort praise, and if you resist their entreaties they fall to praising themselves. It would seem as if, doubting their own merit, they wished to have it constantly exhibited before their eyes”.
    The undeniable upsurge in the expression of anti-American sentiment abroad since 2002 has led to anxieties among many Americans. It is not obvious, however, whether these sentiments are primarily a reaction to the Bush administration and its policies or whether they derive from more fundamental sources. As a way of distinguishing between fundamental and ephemeral sources of anti-Americanism, I wish to begin with a distinction between disliking "what America is" and "what America does." This distinction will lead to my first major theme, which is to distinguish among opinion, distrust, and bias.
    My second major theme is signaled by the title of this lecture: "Anti-Americanisms in world politics." My argument will be that we cannot understand anti-Americanism as if it were a single, unitary phenomenon. On the contrary, there are several major types of anti-Americanism, which have quite different sources and probably different effects as well. The third and last section of my remarks will sketch an argument about what Professor Katzenstein and I call the "polyvalence" of American society. Ultimately, we view anti Americanism as rooted in Americanism.

I - Opinion, Distrust, and Bias

We view anti-Americanism as a psychological tendency to hold negative views of the United States and of American society in general. Anti-Americanism is therefore an attitude. At two extremes of a continuum, attitudes can be characterized merely by opinion, or by bias.
    When we think about expressions of opinion toward the United States, three standard results can be quickly summarized.
    First, until shortly before the invasion of Iraq, many more respondents worldwide had favorable opinions of the United States than unfavorable. In a global poll taken in the spring and summer of 2002 poll, pluralities in 35 of 42 countries expressed favorable views. The big exception even then was the Middle East. Since early 2003, public views toward the United States have turned sharply negative, with the biggest swing from positive to negative in Europe, and the lowest absolute readings in the Middle East.
    Second, individuals' views toward America are multidimensional. Very few people hate all aspects of American. Indeed, many people seem to like and loath the United States and American society, at the same time.
    Third, attitudes toward the United States differ a great deal from region to region. Indeed, there is so much variation by country and region that it is more accurate to speak of anti Americanisms than of anti-Americanism.
    To understand anti-Americanism, we have to keep in mind all three big facts: the long-term favourable orientation of most people toward the United States, followed by the sharp turn downward between the spring of 2002 and the spring of 2003; multidimensionality - or what is commonly called ambivalence - and regional heterogeneity. These big facts tell us that the United States is not hated widely, although it may be distrusted; that the United States is not hated simply because it is "Mr. Big," and that recent American foreign policy is at least part of the story.
    The complexity of attitudes toward America is worth emphasizing. There is a perhaps apocryphal story about the Iranian students who participated in the holding of American hostages in 1979, asking how, after the crisis was over, they could obtain visas to the United States. "Yankee, go home - and take me with you!" Polling data support the view expressed in this story. In Islamic countries, respondents give much more positive responses to questions about American science and technology, or popular culture, than about American political institutions or foreign policies.
    Ambivalence is also reflected in the fact that in many countries, people simultaneously express dislike for America while they say that people who move there are better off as a result.
    While opinion may or may not have serious consequences, distrust and bias should be of serious concern to policy-makers, particularly if these negative predispositions become deeply entrenched in societies that are important to the United States. For distrust can translate easily into opposition or lack of support of the United States. They are likely to demand more evidence, or more compensation, from the United States before they are willing to support American policies. These demands are costly. People who not only distrust the United States but are also biased will process information differently than unbiased people. A recent report shows that Indonesian and Egyptian members of different focus groups list U.S. aid given to their countries during the last decade erroneously in the millions, rather than as $ 1 billion and $ 7.3 billion, respectively. That is, they underestimate it by two to three orders of magnitude. Furthermore, biased individuals are more likely to attribute bad policies to essential features of the United States, rather than merely to specific situations. They will tend to discount potentially favourable information and make negative information more salient.
    Some authors distinguish correctly between opinion and bias but then make the error of accepting polling data as "expressions of anti-Americanism." Clearly we need better evidence than this before concluding that anti-Americanism in the sense of deep distrust or bias is widespread. Andrei S. Markovits of the University of Michigan reports some such evidence, in an analysis of nearly one thousand articles written on the United States in Britain, France, Germany and Italy. Focusing on "non-political" topics such as film, theatre and sports, he found pervasive condescension and denigration toward American culture. One of his more telling examples compares European press coverage of the World Cup in the United States (1994) and in Korea and Japan (2002). In the American coverage even unexpected events that would appear to be positive (such as 60,000 people watching a match between Saudi Arabia and Morocco on a weekday afternoon) were reported negatively: such a high turnout only underlined the naivete and ignorance of the American public. In contrast, the South Korean and Japanese hosts received rave reviews.
    Attitudes toward the United States are too multidimensional for bias to be an accurate description of most people's views, as expressed either in public opinion polls or in public discourse. Yet in countries as diverse as China, France, Egypt and Indonesia, attitudes reflect a pervasive and sometimes institutionalized distrust, which creates skepticism toward statements by the United States government and a negative predisposition toward American policy. Overall, the finding of Professor Katzenstein, myself and our colleagues is that attitudes toward the United States are frequently better-characterized in terms of distrust than of either opinion or bias.

Tsunami relief as a Quasi-Experiment

Bias is the most fundamental and dangerous form of anti-Americanism. It can be seen as a form of prejudice and studied in similar ways. Paul Sniderman of Stanford University has conducted highly original research over the last fifteen years on prejudice, which distinguishes bias from opinion. In studying prejudice, researchers need to be aware that respondents sometimes conceal racist views, recognizing that they are not socially acceptable. Sniderman therefore devised computer-aided polling techniques that ask the same questions, except for precisely calibrated variations, to two or more experimentally controlled sets of respondents. In one such experiment, respondents are primed to express judgments on the behavior of a character in a narrative. For the treatment and control groups, everything is the same in the narrative except the ethnic affiliation of the protagonist. In another of Sniderman's experiments, subjects are given lists of things that make them angry, in such a way that they know that the investigator cannot identify which particular items they reacted to. But for the treatment group, "affirmative action" is included in addition to the items listed for the control group. By computing the mean "angry" responses, the investigator can determine what proportion of the treatment group reacted angrily to affirmative action. Such an experimental method could be of great value in distinguishing opinion from bias in expressions of anti-Americanism.
Lacking data from such an experiment, the worldwide response to the Asian tsunami of December 26, 2004 at least provides us with a rough quasi-experiment. The tsunami was an enormous tragedy for millions of people, and it generated an unprecedented outpouring of empathy and generosity worldwide. President Bush's apparent initial indifference generated much critical commentary. By January 7, 2005, however, the United States government had donated $350 million - about eight percent of the amount that had been contributed by all governments at that time - and had deployed its naval vessels in the area in a massive relief operation. The U.S. relief effort was focused on Southeast Asia and was not experienced directly by people in countries outside the region. But the American response was widely publicized. People's reactions to the American response could, we thought, serve as a test that would reveal something about people's attitudes.
Fortunately for our analysis, between January 8 and 16, 2005 Global Market Insite (GMI) conducted a poll of 1000 members of the urban publics in each of 20 countries, which included questions about the American tsunami relief effort. Since reactions to the U.S. response to the tsunami were based overwhelmingly not on personal experience but on media reports, variations in evaluations of the U.S. response are unlikely to reflect different personal experiences, particularly for publics outside of Asia. Individuals biased in favour of the United States could be expected to give positive responses when asked about the reaction of the American government; those biased against the United States could be expected to give more negative responses.
The GMI poll asked the following question: "The American government has donated $350 million to aid nations impacted by the tsunami, has deployed its military to aid the region, and has called on former President Clinton and President Bush Sr. to fundraise more money from the American people. Do you think the American government's reaction to the tsunami tragedy is adequate?"
The answers to this question were categorized as "agree," "disagree," and "don't know/neither." GMI also asked a fairly standard question about the United States:" Overall, how would you describe your feelings toward the United States?" The answers to this question were categorized as "positive," "negative," or "don/t know/neither."
Table 1 array the data by indicating the difference between "agree" or "positive," on the one hand, and "disagree" or "negative" on the other, for each of the twenty countries surveyed on the two questions. Positive answers indicate net favourable views toward the United States or the American tsunami relief efforts. Rank orders for each question are in parentheses. The first two columns of Table 2 seem to suggest that bias - perhaps both for and against the United States - had an impact on opinions about the adequacy of American tsunami relief efforts. There is an enormous range of views on the U.S.-led relief effort, disregarding U.S. respondents, who were overwhelmingly favorable. Sixty-two percent of the Russian public considered American efforts adequate, as compared to 34 percent who did not; at the other extreme, only 17 percent of the Greek public considered American efforts adequate, as compared to 73 percent who did not. None or almost none of these respondents had any personal experience of the operation on which they had opinions; they had to be reacting to media coverage, their own schema, and the nationally prevailing images of the American relief effort.

Table 1. Responses by Country: Favourable/unfavourable to U.S. and supportive or not of adequacy of the US relief effort (n=20).




Net favourable to US:


Net supportive of US relief effort:


Net supportive of own-country effort:

United States

69 (1)

54 (1)

54 (13)


60 (2)

-19 (13)

34 (17)


40 (3)

11 (6)

86 (5.5)


33 (4)

-1 (8)

88 (3.5)


25 (5)

-6 (14)

67 (12)


17 (6)

-2 (9)

79 (10)


16 (7)

-36 (17)

94 (1)


9 (8)

13 (3.5)

86 (5.5)


8 (9)

12 (5)

93 (2)


-1 (10.5)

9 (7)

84 (8)


-1 (10.5)

-11 (11)

10 (19)


-4 (12.5)

13 (3.5)

83 (9)


-4 (12.5)

-9 (10)

49 (14)


-6 (14)

-31 (16)

37 (16)


-8 (15)

-20 (14)

85 (7)


-10 (16)

-13 (12)

13 (18)


-16 (17)

-21 (15)

88 (3.5)

South Korea

-21 (18)

-55 (19)

-14 (20)


-36 (19)

-54 (18)

44 (15)


-60 (20)

-56 (20)

71 (11)

Source: Katzenstein and Keohane, eds., Anti-Americanism in World Politics (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2006). Original source of data: Global Market Insite report, February 2005.
Notes: Columns 1 and 2: Spearman's r: 0.68 (n=20, p< 0.01, from exact table, 2 - sided null hypothesis)
Columns 2 and 3: Spearman's r: 0.27 (not significant)

There exists a strong correlation between general views of the United States and views of the adequacy of American-led tsunami relief efforts, with a Spearman rank order coefficient well under the 0.01 level of significance. Three of the five publics most favourably disposed toward the United States in general, rank also among the five most favourable publics toward the U.S. relief effort, and conversely for the least favourable publics. This suggests to me that bias is involved - positive or negative.
The third column of Table 1 indicates clearly that, with only a few exceptions, publics rate their own country's performance highly favourably. Indeed, in about half the countries, publics are almost unanimously supportive of their own country's effort.
Publics are biased in favour of their own countries' performance. This generalization applies not only to countries such as Australia, which were generous (over $900 million in reported public and private donations by January 7) but also to countries that gave almost nothing, such as Hungary and Russia. And in every case they rate their own country ahead of the United States which at that time had provided $550 million in reported public and private donations. In only three countries (Russia, Mexico and Japan) did more than ten percent of the public both rate U.S. performance as adequate and their own country's performance as inadequate. Conversely, in no country did less than twenty percent of the public rate their own country's performance as adequate and the US performance as inadequate.
We conclude from this analysis that there exists substantial variation in the bias (positive or negative) toward the United States held by different publics, and that this variation is strongly correlated with general attitudes toward the United States. Much more tentatively, we infer that significant cross-national variation in bias exists, with negative bias particularly pronounced in France and Greece. The evidence is very strong that publics are positively biased toward their own countries' efforts, in a way that is consistent with widespread nationalism.

Policy implications

    Our findings suggest that the positions on anti-Americanism of both Left and Right are internally inconsistent. Broadly speaking, the American Left holds that anti-Americanism as measured by polls is what we define below as opinion rather than bias. It is largely a reaction to American policy, and indeed, often a justified reaction. The Left also frequently suggests that anti-Americanism poses a serious long-term problem for U.S. diplomacy, and that right-wing policies that induce it therefore need to be changed. But insofar as anti-Americanism reflects ephemeral opinion, changes in policy should be greeted enthusiastically by those who had earlier expressed negative views toward the United States. The long-term effects of anti-Americanism should therefore be small, unless periods of intense negative opinion lead to significant social movements or enduring institutional change. Conversely, the American Right argues that anti Americanism reflects a deep bias against the United States: people who hate freedom hate us for what we are. Yet the Right also tends to argue that anti-Americanism can be ignored: if the United States follows effective policies, views will follow. But since the essence of bias is the rejection of information inconsistent with one's prior view, broadly biased foreign publics should not be expected to change their opinions quickly in response to successes scored by a country that they fear and detest. Both Left and Right need to rethink their positions.
    The view I take is that most anti-Americanism so far is just opinion, and not necessarily consequential in the long term. However, the longer opinion remains negative, the greater the likelihood of moves toward distrust and especially bias. Distrust and bias are hard to eradicate and could have very serious long-term effects.

II - Types of Anti-Americanism

    As I said at the beginning of this talk, anti-Americanism is both multidimensional and heterogeneous. Drawing on this reality, Professor Katzenstein and I have identified four major types of anti-Americanism, along with some minor ones that I will not mention here.
"Liberal anti-Americanism" seems at first to be an oxymoron, since liberals broadly share many of the ideas that are characteristic of the American creed. But the United States is often criticized bitterly for not living up to its own ideals. A country dedicated to democracy and self-determination supported dictatorships around the world during the Cold War, and continued to do so in the Middle East after the Cold War had ended. The war against terrorism has led the United States to begin supporting a variety of otherwise unattractive, even repugnant, regimes and political practices. On economic issues, the United States claims to favour freedom of trade, but protects its own agriculture from competition stemming from developing countries, and seeks extensive patent and copyright protection for American drug firms and owners of intellectual property. Such behaviour opens the United States to charges of hypocrisy from people who share its professed ideals but lament its actions.
Liberal anti-Americanism is prevalent in the liberal societies of advanced industrialized countries, especially those colonized or influenced by Great Britain. No liberal anti-American ever detonated a bomb against Americans or planned an attack on the United States. The potential impact of liberal anti-Americanism would be not to generate attacks on the United States but to reduce support for American policy. The more the United States is seen as a self interested power parading under the banners of democracy and human rights, rather than a true proponent of those values, the less willing other liberals may be to defend it with words or deeds.
Since democracy comes in many stripes, we are wrong to mistake the American tree for the democratic forest. Indeed, the United States is more atypical than typical. What we denote as social anti-Americanism derives from a set of political institutions that embed liberal values in a broader set of social and political arrangements that help define market processes and outcomes left more autonomous in the U.S. This variant of liberalism is marked by a more encompassing support for a variety of social programs than those that are politically feasible or socially acceptable in the United States. Social democratic welfare states in Scandinavia, Christian democratic welfare states on the European continent, and developmental industrial states in Asia, such as Japan, are prime examples. Canada is a particularly interesting case of a polity that has moved in two directions simultaneously - toward market liberalism U.S.-style under the impact of NAFTA and toward a more European-style welfare state. In this it mirrors the stance of many smaller capitalist democracies which are market-liberal in the international economy and social or Christian democratic in their domestic arrangements.
We designate a third form of anti-Americanism as "sovereign-nationalist." These anti Americans focus less on correcting domestic market outcomes than on achieving political power and maintaining national autonomy and identity. The identities of sovereign nationalists often embody values that are at odds with America's. State sovereignty thus becomes a shield against unwanted intrusions from America. In varying proportions, sovereign nationalist anti-Americans emphasize sovereignty, nationalism, and state power.
China provides a prominent example of sovereign-nationalist anti-Americanism. The Chinese elites and public are highly nationalistic and very sensitive to threats to Chinese sovereignty. China is already a great power, and has aspirations to become more powerful yet. Yet it is still weaker than the United States. Hence the superior military capacity of the United States, and its expressed willingness to use that capacity (for instance, against an attack by China on Taiwan) create latent anti-Americanism. When the United States attacks China (as it did with the bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade in 1999) or seems to threaten it (as in the episode of the EC-3 spy plane in 2001), explicit anti-Americanism appears quickly. We characterize a fourth form of anti-Americanism as radical anti-Americanism. It is built around the belief that America's identity, as reflected in the internal economic and political power relations and institutional practices of the United States, ensures that its actions will be hostile to the furtherance of good values, practices, and institutions elsewhere in the world. For progress toward a better world to take place, the American economy and society will have to be transformed, either from within or without. Radical anti-Americanism was characteristic of Marxist-Leninist states such as the Soviet Union until its last few years and is still defining Cuba and North Korea today. Today, radical anti-Americanism is strongest in parts of the Islamic world. For those holding extreme versions of radical anti-Americanism, the West, and the United States in particular, are so incorrigibly bad that they must be destroyed. And since the people who live in these societies have renounced the path of righteousness and truth, they must be attacked and exterminated.
It should be clear that these four different types of anti-Americanism are not simply variants of the same schema, emotions, or set of norms, with only slight variations at the margin. On the contrary, adherents of different types of anti-Americanism can express antithetical attitudes. Radical Muslims oppose a popular culture that commercializes sex and portrays women as liberated from the control of men, and are also critical of secular-liberal values. Social and Christian democratic Europeans, by contrast, may love American popular culture but criticize the United States for the death penalty, and for not living up to secular values they share with liberals. Liberal anti-Americanism exists because its proponents regard the United States as failing to live up to its professed values - which are entirely opposed to those of religious radicals and are largely embraced by liberals. Secular radical anti-Americans may oppose the American embrace of capitalism, but may accept scientific rationalism, gender egalitarianism, and secularism - as Marxists have done. Anti-Americanism can be fostered by Islamic fundamentalism, idealistic liberalism, or Marxism. And it can be embraced by people who, not accepting any of these sets of beliefs, fear the practices or deplore the policies of the United States

III - Polyvalent America and Anti-Americanism

In another chapter that I do not have time to discuss today, Professor Katzenstein and I argue that there is little evidence, so far, that anti-Americanism - as a set of negative predispositions toward the United States - has had extensive effects on states policies and outcomes. Much of the resistance to American foreign policy elsewhere in the world is just that: resistance to policy, not to America as such.
This finding, along with the ones I have described more fully, leaves us with two puzzles. First, why does such a rich variety of' anti-American views persist? Second, why do persistent and adaptable anti-American views have so little direct impact on policy and political practice? Anti-Americanism generates expressive activity: demonstrating, marching, waving banners, even symbolically smashing the windows of a McDonald's restaurant in France. But it is not a political force that frequently overturns governments, leads American multinational firms to disguise their origins, or propels the United States government to make major policy changes.
We suggest a single answer to both puzzles. In a phrase, the symbolism generated by America is so polyvalent that it continually generates and diffuses anti-American views. The polyvalence of America embodies a rich variety of values. And different values associated with America resonate differently with the cognitive schemas held by individuals and reinforced by groups. When polyvalent American symbols connect with varied, shifting and complex cognitive schemas, the resulting reactions refract like a prism in sunlight. Many colors appear in the prism, just as America elicits many different reactions around the world. Often, different components of what is refracted will simultaneously attract and repel.
Anti- and pro-Americanism have as much to do with the conceptual lenses through which individuals living in very different societies view America, as with America itself. Iain Johnstonand Dani Stockmann report that when residents of Beijing in 1999 were asked simply to compare on an identity difference scale their perceptions of Americans with their views of Chinese, they placed them very far apart. But when, in the following year, Japanese, the antithesis of the Chinese, were added to the comparison, respondents reduced the perceived identity difference between Americans and Chinese. In other parts of the world, bilateral perceptions of regional enemies can also displace, to some extent, negative evaluations of the United States. For instance, in sharp contrast to the European continent the British press and public continue to view Germany and Germans primarily through the lens of German militarism, Nazi Germany, and World War II.
Because there is so much in America to dislike as well as to admire, polyvalence makes anti-Americanism persistent. American society is both extremely secular and deeply religious. This is played out in the tensions between blue "metro" and red "retro" America and the strong overtones of self-righteousness and moralism that conflict helps generate. If a society veers toward secularism, as much of Europe has, American religiosity is likely to become salient - odd, disturbing, and due to American power, vaguely threatening. How can a people who believe more strongly in the Virgin Birth than in the theory of evolution be trusted to lead an alliance of liberal societies? If a society adopts more fervently Islamic religious doctrine and practices, as has occurred throughout much of the Islamic world during the past quarter-century, the prominence of women in American society and the vulgarity and emphasis on sexuality that pervades much of American popular culture are likely to evoke loathing, even fear. Thus anti Americanism is closely linked to the polyvalence of American society. Anti-Americanism is heterogeneous and contradictory because American society is so heterogeneous and contradictory. "You can find anything you want," as Arlo Guthrie sang about "Alice's Restaurant." On a more intellectual plane, Hannah Arendt made a similar point when she wrote in 1954 "America has been both the dream and the nightmare of Europe."
The tropes of anti-Americanism date back to a dialogue about the American character that started in the aftermath of Columbus's discovery and Thomas More's invention of America in the 15'" and 16"' centuries. That dialogue is structured by two still to be resolved questions. Are Americans natural men in a Garden of Eden, operating in an imaginary space not bounded by geography or time? Or are they barbarians, uncivilized, and unrestrained in appetites and aspirations that both repudiate and challenge human reason and experience? French anti Americanism is deeply rooted in the latter conception. (Franklin story, 1778: Buffon and the Abbé Raynal.) Tocqueville and those who have followed his trail have vacillated between hope and fear of America. The historian David M. Kennedy argues that America is seen as an unconstrained place, with great potential for good or ill.
I began by quoting Henry Luce's prescient statement about the American Century, made during World War II. I return to Luce at the end. The second half of the 20`" century indeed inaugurated the American Century, which still continues today. In 1941 the United States was about to step onto centre stage in world politics, sometimes acting multilaterally, sometimes unilaterally, always powerfully. During the next 65 years the United States profoundly shaped the world. Others, wherever they were, had to react, positively or negatively, to America's impact. Yet during this time, the United States itself changed fundamentally. In 1941, exports and imports were both near all-time lows. For twenty years its borders had been virtually closed to immigration, except from Europe. The South was legally segregated, with African-Americans in an inferior position; and the North was in fact segregated in many respects. Racism was wide spread in both North and South. Hence, American soft power was slight - but so was its salience to most potentially hostile groups and governments abroad. By 2006 both American soft power and hard power had expanded enormously, and so had its salience to publics around the world. The American Century created enormous changes, some sought by the United States and others unsought and unanticipated. Resentment, and anti-Americanism, were among the undesired results of American power and engagement with the world. Anti-Americanism is as important for what it tells us about America as for its impact on world politics and American foreign policy. It poses a threat to America's collective self-esteem. This is no small matter. As Toqueville observed in the remark I quoted earlier: Americans "appear impatient of the smallest censure, and insatiable of praise."
The United States is both an open and a critical society. It is also deeply divided. Our own cacophony projects itself onto others, and can be amplified as it reverberates, via other societies, around the world. When Americans are polled, they express high levels of dissatisfaction with many aspects of American society and government policy. But these expressions of unfavourable opinion are typically not interpreted as anti-American. When non Americans are polled, similar views are often interpreted as anti-American. Studying anti Americanism should not lead us to pose the question "why do they hate us?" To the contrary, studying anti-Americanism should remind us of the old Pogo cartoon caption: "We have met the enemy, and he is us."

•    Katzenstein, Peter. J. et Keohane, Robert, eds., 2006, Anti-American in World Politics, Ithaca, Cornel University Press.
•    Global Market Insite Report, 2005, February.