MEXICO CITY - The proportion of Mexicans who hold a positive
view of the United States has steadily shrunk in the last few years, and the
concerns of people in this country differ from those of their neighbours to
the north, according to two new surveys.
The percentage of Mexicans with a favourable opinion of the United States
plummeted from 72 to 41 percent in the past four years, and a mere four
percent support the U.S.-led war on Iraq, indicates a Latinobarómetro survey
which is to be released Thursday in Miami, but whose partial results were
reported Monday in Mexico.
Meanwhile, Global Views 2004, a study carried out by academic institutions
in the two countries, found few similarities between Mexican and U.S.
citizens with respect to their views on questions like security and foreign
The government of President George W. Bush should take a close look at these
polls, which show that their neighbour and trading partner is becoming more
and more distant, Marcelo Fuentes, a researcher at the University of La
Salle, told IPS.
Global Views 2004, whose results were published Monday, found that a
majority of respondents in the U.S. saw terrorism and chemical weapons as
the worst threats to security, while Mexicans were more worried about drug
trafficking and global economic crises.
The study, carried out by Mexico's Centre for Economic Research and
Teaching, the Mexican Council on Foreign Relations, and the Chicago Council
on Foreign Relations, reported that those interviewed in the United States
believed foreign policy should focus primarily on defending their jobs and
preventing the proliferation of chemical weapons.
Mexicans, by contrast, said foreign policy should defend the interests of
Mexicans living in other countries, and promote the sale of national
When asked what they thought about economic globalisation, 64 percent of the
U.S. respondents said it was "mostly good", a view that was shared by only
34 percent of the Mexicans.
Global Views 2004, which is based on surveys of 2,500 people in the United
States and Mexico, said some of the majority opinions expressed fly in the
face of what politicians in the two countries tend to think.
For example, 84 percent of Mexicans agree that security should be tightened,
and are even "willing to allow U.S. officials into Mexico to help guard
Mexico's borders, airports and seaports in the fight against" terrorism,
says the report.
"This runs counter to Mexico's traditional nationalism and suspicion of
foreign intervention by the United States," it adds, while pointing out that
"Leaders have a traditional, defensive attitude more in line with
Among the U.S. respondents, 64 percent were in favour of a migration accord
that would offer greater opportunities to Mexican immigrants "in exchange
for Mexican efforts to reduce illegal immigration and drug trafficking."
Fuentes said the survey by Latinobarómetro -- an independent polling firm
based in Santiago, Chile -- and Global Views 2004 once again highlight the
fact that not only do physical barriers like high walls and fences separate
Mexico and the United States, which share a 3,200-km border, but radically
different "sociopolitical realities" do so as well.
"The governments should take note of this, and act," said Fuentes.
But while Global Views 2004 underlines differences between Mexican and U.S.
respondents, it also shows some points on which they coincide.
A majority in both countries -- 55 percent in Mexico and 77 percent in the
United States -- said they believed the U.S. government should participate
in solving international problems with other governments.
Although the Latinobarómetro poll, whose technical details are not yet
available, found that a large portion of Mexicans do not see the United
States in a positive light, Global Views 2004 reported that Mexican
respondents tended to admire the U.S. form of government, and the freedom
and economic prosperity achieved by their northern neighbour.
"I see no contradictions, because the differences have to do with the fact
that Latinobarómetro focuses more on assessing the reactions of Mexicans to
the performance of the current U.S. administration, while the other study
has a more general focus," said Fuentes.
According to a poll carried out in 35 countries by the University of
Maryland Programme on International Policy Attitudes and GlobeScan, which
has a worldwide network of research institutes, 78 percent of Mexicans do
not want Bush to be reelected in the November presidential elections in the
United States, in which he will face off with Democratic candidate John
The results of Global Views 2004 are aimed at serving as tools to help
governments, legislators and other decision-makers keep in mind the
viewpoints of the public, said Andrés Rozental with the Mexican Council on
There is a heavy flow of trade between Mexico and the United States, which
are partners (along with Canada) in the North American Free Trade Agreement
(NAFTA), that went into effect in 1994.
When asked by Global Views 2004 how they felt about NAFTA, 44 percent of
Mexicans said it was good for the Mexican economy but 42 percent said it
benefited the United States more than Mexico.
Meanwhile, 42 percent of those surveyed in the United States said the trade
agreement was good for their country, but 69 percent said it benefited
Mexico more than the United States.
The poll also found that 89 percent of the Mexican respondents said their
country should pursue an independent foreign policy rather than follow the
U.S. lead in international questions.
But 45 percent of respondents in the United States said Mexico should follow
the U.S. lead in terms of foreign policy regarding international issues.
The survey states that "factors linked to its history, culture, and domestic
politics push Mexico in the...direction...(of) keeping a prudent distance
from its neighbour and largest trading partner, maintaining its
noninterventionist principles and pacifist diplomatic tradition, (and)
supporting a multilateral foreign policy orientation to counterbalance the
Of the 38.8 million "Latinos" living in the United States, 25.4 million are
of Mexican origin or descent.
Some 390,000 undocumented Mexican immigrants make it into the United States
every year, most of them with the help of "coyotes" or people traffickers.
But over one million are deported annually.
Most of the illegal drugs consumed in the United States -- the world's
largest market for narcotics -- enter the country through Mexico.
Up to 1993 it was possible to make it across the border between the two
countries at points near border cities. But since then, roads and populated
areas along the frontier have been closed off with high walls and fences,
and the controls were further stiffened after the Sep. 11, 2001 terror
attacks on New York and Washington.
Added to the language and cultural differences between the United States and
Mexico is the imbalance in terms of economic power, as well as continuous
conflicts in areas like human rights, protection of undocumented immigrants,
and the fight against drug trafficking.
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© 2004 IPS