Americans’ View of Greece: Irrelevant

Some Greeks living in Greece believe that Americans have a favorable view of them, whereas others think the opposite. And even Greek-Americans often attribute treatment by, say, a government agency that is subpar because of overextension or incompetence to: “they just have it in for me because I’m Greek – and we know they’re against the Greeks.”

The latest Gallup Poll, however, when juxtaposed with similar polls taken over the past 15 or so years, reveals a different conclusion: when it comes to Greece, Americans see it not so much as good or bad, but irrelevant.

At least, as compared to a couple of dozen other countries.

The 22 countries that Gallup asked Americans to rank, in order here by results of most to least favorable, are: Canada, Great Britain, Germany, Japan, France, India, Israel, South Korea, Mexico, Egypt, China, Cuba, Saudi Arabia, Russia, The Palestinian Authority, Libya, Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Iran, and North Korea.

Only the first nine countries on the list received favorable ratings that were higher than 50 percent, the United States’ two neighbors, Canada and Mexico, first and ninth, respectively, with favorability ratings of 93 and 58 percent.

The only European countries on the list, Great Britain, Germany, and France, all earned high marks, 90, 81, and 78 percent. The majority of the countries are in the Middle East, or in the case of North Korea, Russia, and Cuba, and to some extent, China, have had stretches of foreign policy turbulence with the United States.

So, why isn’t Greece on the list? The polls are based on “editorial judgment,” Gallup Media Specialist Stephanie Holgado told TNH, mainly focusing on countries “that are consistently relevant to the United States or are in the news.”

Since, 1999, however, Gallup only asked Americans about Greece in this poll once, in 2012, and the favorable rating was 62 percent. The Greek crisis, however, began long before that, and Greece was certainly front page news in numerous major American newspapers and the subject of many prime time U.S. newscasts.

Neli Esipova, a director of the Gallup World Poll, told TNH that although data about Greece is collected regularly for the World Poll, “we generally don’t ask Americans about Greece.”

It is clear from Esipova’s comments and supporting Gallup data that the organization – arguably the standard-bearer of polling – does not ignore Greece in conducting its surveys, but has determined that in Americans’ eyes, Greece is simply not nearly as important as a host of other countries.

Nations besides the 22 that comprise the 2014 poll that have appeared on similar polls since 1999 follow, the number of times they were on the list in parentheses: Australia (4), Brazil (4), Colombia (3), Indonesia (1), Italy (2), Jordan (6), Kenya (1), Kuwait (1), The Philippines (4), Poland (1), South Africa (4), Spain (2), Taiwan (5), Turkey (3), The Ukraine (1), Venezuela (3), Vietnam (4), Yemen (1), and Yugoslavia (1).

Using the 193 countries that comprise the United Nations as a barometer, Gallup has asked Americans only about 41 of them – 21 percent – over the past 15 years. Far from being in a special category, then, Greece is the very large typically category: the 79 percent of countries around the world that Americans do not seem to pay much attention to. Neither good nor bad, then, Greece in Americans’ eyes is, contextually, irrelevant.

Lastly, far from the “irrelevant” list being comprised of obscure nations, it also includes:

Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Denmark, Finland, Hungary, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Peru, Portugal, Peru, Sweden, Switzerland, Venezuela, and the United Arab Emirates, among others.

All in all, it is fair to say that Greece is in good company. If nothing else, the Poll tends to indicate that Americans are not particularly internationally-inclined, venturing beyond their borders even in their own scope of knowledge in a limited fashion, concentrating on a small handful of the world’s nations. It also underscores what a big world we live in and how it would be a wonder for most people living in whatever area of the globe to pay much attention to even a quarter of them, let alone a majority.
Whatever, then, the reasons for Greece being wholly irrelevant in the eyes of Americans, it does not appear to be Greek-specific in any way.

The most accurate answer, then, to questions asked of Greek-Americans in Greece about the American people as a whole: “don’t they care about our (insert problem here)?”  is:  “it’s not that they don’t care, they simply don’t even know about it.”



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