Clueless Americans

August 15, 2007

As the U.S. struggles with a sagging public image in many Latin American countries, American adults show a stunning ignorance about the region, a new Zogby Interactive poll shows.

Zogby International just released the results of its latest poll. It seems that Americans know next to nothing about their (our) Latin American neighbors. The results are disturbing at best.

Zogby polled 7,362 adults across the nation in the last week of July this year. The poll has a margin error of +/- 1.2 percentage points.

Only 10% of those polled said they were familiar with Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, most commonly referred to as simply "Lula." Only 20% said they were familiar with Felipe Calderon. Aside from the fact that Brazil is the largest country in South America and Mexico is our neighbor, there are a few other reasons why it's surprising that these political figures are not well known. Lula represented a new beginning for Brazil, la nueva izquierda (the new Left). His victory was won after many years of trying to reach the presidency, extensive corruption of the Right wing government and a never before seen social movement that ousted the preceding president.

Calderon, for those of you who may not know, is the president of Mexico. His presidency has received extensive media coverage. I'm sure I've at least mentioned Lopez Obrador, his leftist opponent, and the scandalous elections that left many Mexicans (and a number of foreigners) disillusioned.

All of this made major headlines across the globe.

When asked about the least friendly countries to the United States, most Americans listed Cuba, Venezuela and Colombia. The funny thing is that for the past decade, Colombia has been one of the United States' closest allies.

Furthermore, 48% of Americans believe that NAFTA has harmed the United States more than Canada and Mexico, and has benefitted Mexico the most. Peter Hakim, president of the Inter-American Dialouge and a Zogby collaborator, is quoted as saying, "The poll results reveal that U.S. public opinion is totally confused about what's going on with trade." Actually, they reveal that Americans are totally confused about a lot of things.

There is some hope, though. The poll also showed that Americans are ready to improve relations with Cuba. They are ready to do away with the embargo and lift travel restrictions. More than half recognize that migrant workers make up an important part of the U.S. economy.