The Pew Global Attitudes has been polling around the world and jumping on the media (Washington Post, CNN, PBS, NPR) to talk about opinion on the war and America.
The general outcome of the media that I have seen is suggesting we should reign in our foreign policy because it lacks popular support. I am not thrilled about the war but I do not want to step out on this slippery slope that following international (or domestic) polls is any way to design policy.
If global popular opinion (is there really such a thing?) supported the attack of the USSR in the 1960s would we have marched down the path of destruction? Would America have ever entered WWII? Would America give any aid to Israel or Egypt? Does world opinion support women's rights? laws against child labor? criminal rights? the right to vote? freedom of the press?
I do believe that international attention on the war presents a huge opportunity to communicate and shift policy. (If each international peace activists contacted their friends and business contacts in the states and asked them to rethink war support you could create international advocacy network but that is a different blog). I do not believe that international polling results ad value to the debate.
Who is guru is behind the international polling idea? The use of polling results in the US has not produced better policy or better politicians. It has merely taught leaders how to lie to us in ways that are least offensive. It has undermined real leadership that requires vision. The expansion of polling internationally is a bad idea.
The Pew Global Attitudes survey interviewed more than 38,000 people in 44 nations (read huge investment $$$$$) to find "Opinions about the U.S., however, are complicated and contradictory." (DUH)
I am sure that respected pollsters would have huge issues with the bias in questions that are translated into 63 languages and dialects. with the cultural sensitivity of asking people direct questions and with the nature of the questions. (How many countries allow political discourse?)
Someone should put the brakes on this trend before it waste any more money. We should all avoid taking polls and slam media that consistently relies on polling to simplify complex issues.