Sunday, March 21, 2004

Bias and the media: Deutsche Welle reports,

Researchers from the Washington-based Pew Research Center surveyed a cross-section of the population in the United States, eight European countries and lands in the Islamic world about various issues surrounding the Iraq War. The results showed that particularly in the Islamic world, contempt for the U.S. is growing.

I have seen the story reported in many other media outlets -- USA today, for example, noted

Resentment and opposition toward the United States have intensified in Europe and the Muslim world...

Which is why I was astonished to learn, in a post by Greg Djerejian, that this isn't what the Pew Report says. In fact, the picture the Poll presents on attitudes in the Muslim world is precisely the opposite. I quote from the Pew study:

In the predominantly Muslim countries surveyed, anger toward the United States remains pervasive, although the level of hatred has eased somewhat and support for the war on terrorism has inched up.

The study provides the following numbers.

Percent of people who have an unfavorable opinion of the United States:

Turkey, May 2003: 68
Turkey, May 2004: 45

Pakistan, May 2003: 71
Pakistan, May 2004: 50

Jordan, May 2003: 83
Jordan, May 2004: 67

Morocco, May 2003: 53
Morocco, May 2003: 47

It seems like over the past year, there has been a significant decline in anti-American opinion in the Muslim world. It is not, in fact, growing; did the reporters from Deutsche Well and USA Today even read the numbers?

The reports in the New York Times and BBC are especially significant. If Deutsche Well and USA Today are simply ignorant about the results of the Pew Study, the New York Times tries to spin it a different way. In an article entitled "Negative Views of U.S. Are Increasing in Europe, Poll Finds," the Times reports only on the increase of anti-American sentiment in Europe and mentions nothing about the significant decrease in the Muslim world. In a similar vein, the BBC briefly mentions the decrease in the Muslim world, and immediately follows it up with no less than ten paragraphs describing the high absolute levels of anti-American sentiment.

Yet the fact remains: in the aftermath of the Iraq war, anti-American sentiment in the Muslim world dropped sharply. This is a rather big elephant in the closet to ignore.

If this isn't bias, what is?


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