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America Against the World: How We Are Different and Why We Are Disliked Hardcover – May 2, 2006

3.0 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

It has become a media axiom that anti-Americanism is on the rise around the world, and though the foreign policies of George W. Bush are often cited as a motivating factor, it seems reasonable that there must be more to the animosity than one president's actions. Kohut, the director of the Pew Research Center, teams up with NPR commentator Stokes to present the results of an extensive Pew survey that polled more than 91,000 people in 50 nations to come up with an explanation that, when you strip away the extensive charts and tables, boils down to this: they hate us because we're different. But, Kohut and Stokes suggest, we're also misunderstood. People in other nations believe that America's unilateralism is motivated by hyperintense nationalism and religiosity, but polling data suggests most Americans don't feel that way—far from wanting to create a global empire, they're not even enthusiastic about bringing democracy to other nations. Though detailed, the survey results contain few real surprises, and the approach, which borders on wonkish, may have trouble finding its way to a general audience. (May 9)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* More than 70 percent of non-Americans think the world would be better off if there were another superpower to keep the U.S. in check. The Pew Research Center lends its reputation for nonpartisanship to the largest survey of world opinion aimed at learning why Americans have become so disliked abroad. Pew director Kohut and international economist Stokes examine the opinions of 91,000 respondents in 50 nations to explore the image change of the U.S. from champion of freedom and land of opportunity to world bully and exploiter. Kohut and Stokes examine the notion of American exceptionalism that has dominated world opinion since Alexis de Tocqueville and more current concerns about President Bush's unilateral approach in the war on terrorism since 9/11. They explore differences in American values versus those of other nations, how globalization affects concerns about the effect of American culture and policy on other nations, and what growing worldwide disapproval and even fear of the U.S. holds for the future. Not merely a dry, statistical account but a fascinating--and troubling--look at how the rest of the world views us. Vanessa Bush
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Times Books; 1st edition (May 2, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805077219
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805077216
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,295,319 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Loyd Eskildson HALL OF FAME on May 28, 2006
Format: Hardcover
We cannot be secure without the respect and understanding of others. One approach to falling support for America is to see the problem as a giant misunderstanding ("if they only knew we are generally religious, love our children, and have high-minded goals"), and another is to blame the global media for distorting and misreporting news about the U.S. A third approach, much more likely to lead to improvement, is based on objective analyses of what caused people overseas to form the positions that they have, and to ask what it might take to soften them. The Pew Research Center undertook a series of global opinion surveys from '02-'05 involving 91,000+ people in 50 nations to discover how the world views America and its people.

Allied nations, post Cold-War, now feel able to act independently of U.S. wishes. One startling conclusion is that over 70% of non-Americans believe the world would be improved if the U.S. faced a rival military power. Bush's early policy decisions (eg. backing away from the Kyoto treaty, other unilateral approaches) were unpopular abroad prior to 9/11. His re-election in '04 broadened dislike of American policies (already at a low point due to the Iraq invasion) to include Americans themselves.

Another interesting finding was that the proportion of religious belief in America (about 94%) is much higher than in Europe (eg. 50% in Germany), and closer to that in the Middle East. A related finding is that white evangelicals (ESPECIALLY conservatives) are much more pro-Israel than Americans as a whole!)

Other findings about Americans include the result that only about 1 in 4 Americans felt increased trade has been very good for the U.S. and/or themselves, though other studies in the book have reported much more positive findings. However, its report that most Americans are supportive of immigration from Mexico is STRONGLY at odds with most other reports. Thus, one starts to wonder how accurate polling is overall.
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Format: Hardcover
I found this book to be politically neutral. And I found the numerous tables, charts, and graphs fascinating. Sure, there may be some errors in the way the polls were taken (as well as in the choices of questions to ask). But Andrew Kohut and Bruce Stokes at least made an attempt to find out what people think of us. We see discussions of attitudes about religion in America, attitudes about terror, attitudes about the United Nations, nationalism, exceptionalism, and meddling in the affairs of others. And we see how those in other nations claim to feel about some of the same issues.

The authors say that anti-Americanism has grown in the past few years, especially in France. That may well be true. In addition, when they discuss American nationalism, they make an interesting point: our nationalism is not much like the whining "let's-get-even" style that some folks use to respond to "humiliation." In that sense, I think it is reasonable and fair to see it as relatively benign. I also think there is a good discussion of American values and American love of freedom and independence.

I recommend this book.
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Format: Paperback
The title is quite misleading, because this analysis of world opinion surveys shows relatively small differences in attitudes between Americans and people in most other countries. The book sets out ambitiously, asking tough questions on the reasons behind a serious decline in respect for the United States over most of the planet. Building on the new wealth of world opinion polling data, it offers a solid data-based analysis of the problem. Much of it involves detailed comparison of these surveys, done in a carefully non-partisan, social science manner. It becomes mainly a quantitative comparison of differences, which are not really that big.

In the background Kohut and Stokes also discuss qualitative differences, but this requires citing opinions of individual people. And though these personal views are the least scientific, they are also the most thought-provoking parts of the book. Perhaps most of the opinions cited concern America's internal debate over primary values, and probably this is the most relevant thing of all. For example, former U.S. ambassador to China J. Stapleton Roy claims, "The American system of checks and balances is predicated on the notion that power is corrupting. And the same principle is viable in the international community. Being the sole superpower is a dangerous position for the United States to be in".
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is, pretty much, a summary of a set of Pew Institute surveys of opinion on the U.S., as well as in the U.S., during the early 2000s. Not unremarkably, considering the narrow time frame of the surveys, the results indicate that view of the U.S. , on many criteria, were quite negative. In addition to presenting the results of these surveys, the book also compares and contrasts the views of U.S. citizens and those overseas, particularly in regards to how the U.S. is viewed internationally and how the U.S. views many nations. Not surprisingly (again), there is quite a large difference between how the U.S. sees how it is perceived overseas (during the time period covered) and how it actually was.

The book does a fair job at describing these results albeit the presentation could have been considerably improved. Many of the tables, for example, have labeling that leaves much to be desired. In addition, differences between Democrats, Republicans and Independents on many issues (i.e., Iraq, capital punishment, etc.) are discussed and compared with aggregate data in many nations overseas (no break out of foreign results by political left, right and center). This is a serious oversight in the book as it, to a large extent, overlooks the fact that opinion between the U.S. right, left and center is far closer to foreigners of similar political leanings rather than Democrats and Republicans (i.e.., the right in the U.S. and France, for example, is much more similar than the left and right in the U.S.)! Lastly and probably most importantly, causality for the differences in views between the U.S. and many foreign nations are not analyzed. Hence, to a large degree, the purpose of the book has been defeated.
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