Stephan Shakespeare writes:
On YouGov’s daily BrandIndex tracking of the British public’s perception of countries, the US has a net score of -31 (that means 19% of people have a positive view of America, 52% have a negative view), better than Israel on -39, and Iran on -55, but behind China on -7, and Russia on -27. Australia is on +37, and France on +4 and Germany on +12.
In other words, America is placed among the villains. This site, and this writer, are solidly pro-America, but we are in a beleaguered minority. In this context, those politicians driven by public opinion find it very hard to make the case for American foreign policy. As virtually all British politicians are now almost solely driven by public opinion, that means America is unable to rely on support from its most important ally.
Gordon Brown will soon succeed Tony Blair as Prime Minister. The ground has been well prepared for a switch in emphasis from Britain as America’s comrade-in-arms, to Britain as closer to Europe. Brown’s strategists, who have already spun that he will ‘stand up to America’, are counting on a halo effect in part from his painting himself as the man who brought our boys back from Iraq.
Conservative party strategists are worried that its earlier support for Blair on Iraq will mean that they will remain identified with his misadventure, while Brown is let off. As ConservativeHome reported, the pro-American Dr. Fox, Conservative spokesman on defence, was recently carpeted by the Conservative leadership and told to stop making pro-American noises. We’re changing tack.
David Cameron, the Conservative leader, has made an unofficial pact with pollsters: you tell me what the public is saying, and I’ll agree. So long as the polls continue to record the unpopularity of America, US policy will find few champions either among any of the three main political parties in Britain.
This is the consequence of a failure to lead public opinion. Other polls show that Britons are indeed concerned about losing the ‘War on Terror’, but they haven’t been asked to face up to the consequences of that; in the wake of attempted hijacks, they have said they support a ‘tougher’ policy, but they haven’t been told what that might mean. My own view as a pollster is that politicians should indeed be guided by what the public wants from them, but only if the public have been taken through a proper debate about the realistic alternatives.
Related link: American brands suffer from negativity towards America