Sunday, January 9, 2005

Americans reach out to the world in a time of crisis, but compared to Europeans, they don’t trust foreigners — particularly the United Nation’s Secretary-General Kofi Annan, according to new polls from Gallup and Harris.

Almost three-quarters of the nation — 74 percent — are praying for the victims of the tsunami that devastated South Asia on Dec. 26, according to a Gallup poll released Friday.

About 45 percent already have contributed money to relief efforts, while 26 percent plan to contribute in the near future. Financial generosity was highest among those who attend church every week, with 54 percent of churchgoers contributing, the poll found.

Americans are, for the most part, satisfied with their outreach: 70 percent feel that the United States is doing enough to help tsunami victims, although 26 percent thought we could be doing even more.

The opinion varied along partisan lines, however. Among Republicans polled, 85 percent said American reaction to the crisis was adequate; the figure was 59 percent for Democrats and 62 percent among independents.

The tsunami was not necessarily the most important news event on record for Americans, however. The poll found that 46 percent of the respondents were following the tsunami story “very closely.”

The poll of 1,005 adults was conducted Jan. 3 to 5.

In the meantime, our sense of public trust varies a great deal from our European counterparts.

Citizens of France, Germany and Great Britain cited Mr. Annan as “the most highly trusted leader” on the planet, but he ranks 11th on the U.S. list, according to a Harris survey also released Friday.

President Bush was the most trusted among Americans.

“These significant differences are another example of the wide attitudinal divide between Europe and the U.S. — whether on Iraq, global warming, the Kyoto treaty or the role of the U.N.,” the poll noted.

Perceptions indeed differ. Filmmaker Michael Moore, for instance, had a notable European following. He was ranked 10th most trusted among the British and seventh among the French, but not cited at all by Americans.

The Dalai Lama was third on the French list, fourth on the German and sixth on the British list — but did not register with Americans, who cited an assorted group of statesmen, entertainers, religious leaders and politicians among their most trusted public figures.

Former President Jimmy Carter placed second on the U.S. list, followed by Oprah Winfrey, former NBC anchorman Tom Brokaw, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, evangelist the Rev. Billy Graham and Pope John Paul II.

Former President Bill Clinton ranked eighth, followed by Sen. Hillary Clinton, New York Democrat; Laura Bush, Mr. Annan and White House National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice.

South African leader Nelson Mandela ranked third in Britain — ahead of both Tony Blair and Prince Charles. Mr. Mandela was third in Germany and fourth in France — but 13th among Americans.

The four-nation survey was conducted between June and September last year, querying 22,166 Americans, 7,373 Britons, 6,947 Germans and 3,607 French. Respondents were asked to choose who they trusted most to reduce poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy and other global problems.

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