More than 50 percent of Britons believe that polygamy is legal in the United States; in fact, it is illegal in all 50 states. Almost one-third of Britons believe that Americans who have not paid their hospital fees or insurance premiums are not entitled to emergency medical care; in fact, such treatment must be provided by law.
Seventy percent of Britons think the United States has done a worse job than the European Union in reducing carbon emissions since 2000; in fact, America’s rate of growth of carbon emissions has decreased by almost ten percent since 2000, while that of the EU has increased by 2.3 percent.
Eighty percent of Britons believe that “from 1973 to 1990, the United States sold Saddam Hussein more than a quarter of his weapons.” In fact, the United States sold just 0.46 percent of Saddam’s arsenal to him; Russia, France, and China supplied 57 percent, 13 percent, and 12 percent, respectively.
The majority of Britons believe that since the Second World War, the United States has more often sided with non-Muslims than with Muslims. In fact, in 11 out of 12 major conflicts between Muslims and non-Muslims, Muslims and secular forces, or Arabs and non-Arabs, the United States has sided with Muslims and/or Arabs.
Indeed, a new opinion poll finds that British attitudes towards the United States are governed by ignorance of the facts on key issues such as crime, health care, and foreign policy. The survey was commissioned by America in the World, a London-based group that hopes to push back against rampant anti-Americanism in the United Kingdom by dispelling widely held myths about the United States.
But Britons are not the only Europeans who hold unbalanced views of the United States.
Take Germans, for example. The majority of them believe that America poses a greater threat to world peace than does Iran. This after the United States helped Germans rebuild their country after World War Two and then provided for their defense during five decades of the Cold War.
Meanwhile, six years after 9/11, growing numbers of Germans think the U.S. government is responsible for the destruction of the World Trade Center. As for the next generation of Germans, according to a recent poll of Berlin youth, only one-third of the city’s 15- to 17-year-old students know who built the Berlin Wall. Almost 14 percent think it was built by the Allies; two percent believe it was built by the United States.
The French, of course, are famous for heaping scorn on American fast food. But France’s dirty little culinary secret is that one out of every two French people visit McDonald’s at least once a year. In fact, McDonald’s is so popular in France that the country is now McDonald’s second-biggest moneymaker in the world after the United States. (McDonald’s success is spreading throughout the rest of Europe, too, where sales growth is outpacing that in America. McDonald’s is now one of the biggest private-sector employers on the continent, with a workforce of some 300,000.)