Thursday, January 20, 2005

Bad losers or what?

As preparations are made for the inauguration of President Bush for his second term (note to various rather hysterical politicians in Europe: it is also his last term as he is forbidden by constitutional arrangements from running again, so there is no need to hyperventilate and, yes, that means you, Prime Minister of Norway), several media organizations have decided to re-run the election. This time they will not have that pesky electorate to worry about.

Results have been somewhat mixed, depending rather on what the questions were and who was being asked. Thus the poll run jointly by the New York Times (generally a Democrat-leaning paper, though somewhat more balanced than, say, the BBC) and CBS (of Blathergate fame) produced responses that you would expect, though the two organizations seem a little disappointed and running the story as Americans conflicted on 2nd term.

Basically, says the NYT story through gritted teeth, Americans are optimistic about the future, which just shows that they are optimistic people. Well, of course. It is what distinguishes them from rather frightened and pessimistic Europeans and makes it possible for them to achieve things while the EU blathers on about “soft power”, i.e. no power. Time was, the British were like that, too.

There are also certain pessimistic responses. The majority thinks that the Social Security system needs to be overhauled but people remain dubious that Bush’s announced proposals will do the trick. No surprises there.

There is also a certain pessimism about Iraq in that the majority thinks that American troops will still be there at the end of the four-year term. Clearly, they were not asked whether they thought anything was being achieved, as those responses might have been too varied for two media companies’ taste.

In the meantime the BBC World Service conducted its own world-wide survey in 21 countries, a number of whom, like China, Lebanon and, increasingly, Russia have very little say in the choice of their own government. Nevertheless, the international polling firm GlobeScan asked 1,000 or so people in these 21 countries, all disparate in population, political culture and attitude towards questionnaires.

The majority in 16 countries (and after all, 1,000 or so people counts for a lot in a country like China or, even, Indonesia) said that President Bush was a negative phenomenon for global peace and security. In a BBC-commissioned poll? There’s a surprise.

It is quite clear what all these media companies would prefer: a system like that of the European Union, where the legislative and executive powers are vested in an unelected body and where politics goes on as a managerial process, regardless of troublesome electorates and where, therefore, exaggerated attention is paid to ridiculous opinion polls.