Brazilians not at all anti-American

This weekend I came across this poll of Brazilian attitudes by the Pew Research Center. It’s headlined “Brazilians upbeat about their country, despite its problems,” and overall the large majority seem hugely optimistic about their country.

Here are some results that struck me as interesting. Brazilians have favorable rather than unfavorable attitudes toward the United States by a 62%-29% margin. This is a wider margin than in Mexico or Argentina, where Pew conducted simultaneous surveys, and a slightly higher percentage than have warm feelings toward Barack Obama. The positive response to the United States seems to represent something more than the Obamania that swept some countries in Europe for a while.

In this poll, taken last spring, Brazilians expressed very positive feelings toward President Lula da Silva, who is nearing the end of his second term and is ineligible to run in the October 3 election; his former chief of staff Dilma Rouseff is the favorite to win. Nevertheless, Brazilians have underlying attitudes that suggest they were less than wholeheartedly supportive of Lula’s foreign policy initiatives toward Iran this year: 85% oppose Iran acquiring nuclear weapons and two-thirds of them approve of tougher economic sanctions to help prevent them from doing so. And 65% have negative feelings about Iran, comparable to the percentage of Americans who do so.

Lula’s political success and the popularity of his policies have led some to argue that Brazil represents a repudiation of the “Washington consensus” on the need for market capitalism and the rule of law. But that’s not the lesson most Brazilians seem to have drawn. Fully 75% believe people are better off with a market economy approach and only 13% have confidence in Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez. My conclusion is that support for democratic government and market capitalism, tempered by safety net measures like the bolsa familial introduced by former President Fernando Enrique Cardoso and expanded by President Lula, is strong in the world’s fifth most populous nation.

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