Greening Chinese attitudes? Yes and no.

Gallup has some data that point to a “greening” of the Chinese public:

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Fifty-seven percent of Chinese adults surveyed in 2011 — before the country’s economic slowdown grabbed headlines — prioritized protecting the environment, even at the risk of curbing economic growth. About one in five believed economic growth is more important. Chinese attitudes are typical of those in other emerging-market economies, where residents sided with the environment over the economy in earlier surveys.

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Although I believe that green issues are the area where the Chinese Party-state deserves the most criticism and will receive the most opposition politically in the future (after all, “clean water” is much more tangible to the masses than “free speech” and other tenets of liberalism), I’m disinclined to read much into these results. Why not? Well, somewhere between the 57% of Chinese that say protecting the environment is more important than growing the economy and the 77% who are generally satisfied with the Chinese government’s record of environmental protection lies the shadow of social desirability bias.

These two percentages (57% and 77%) seem to contradict each other unless a strong majority of Chinese already believe the government is putting the environment first, which not even the government seems to believe.  Instead, what we’re likely seeing is Chinese giving two “politically correct” answers and obfuscating the real data underneath.  As an educator I see this from students all the time, since they are conditioned to tell authority figures (and their peers) what they want to hear rather than offer genuine opinions and risk losing face.

Incidentally, the cohort that interests me is that small subset in the poll that believed in putting the environment first and were dissatisfied with China’s environmental record.  Who are these guys, and what are they doing?

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Sarko Feels the Love

French President Sarkozy’s Hollywood-style romance has apparently cost him political capital:

[A] new poll … suggested Sarkozy’s public romancing of supermodel-turned-singer Carla Bruni was the factor that had hurt his national image most.

Sarkozy and Bruni married secretly earlier this month but his critics saw the highly-publicized affair as a distraction too early in office.

The OpinionWay poll, conducted on the Internet for le Figaro and news channel LCI, found 82 percent of respondents believed Sarkozy’s private life fell short of that of a head of state.

Funny, I thought the French were supposed to be French when it comes to the private lives of their leaders.  Oh, I get it:  he should’ve stayed married and made Bruni his mistress instead.

Foreign Views of the Candidates

Though it doesn’t mention China, this Drudge-linked AP article on foreign views of the candidates has some amusing and interesting quotes, such as the German reaction to Barack Obama:

“Der schwarze Kennedy,” some German admirers are calling him: “The black JFK.”

“He is young, charming and sexy!” the mass-circulation newspaper Bild gushed. “Obama is now the ideal projection screen for hopes and expectations in Europe” and the U.S. alike, said Christian Hacke, a professor at the University of Bonn.

No telling whether or not Obama will work “I am a jelly donut” into his speeches.

Japanese media are closely tracking both Obama and the woman they refer to simply as “Hillary,” and focusing on the possibility that either could make history.

“The idea since the country’s founding—’You can’t become president if you’re not a white man’—has already been destroyed,” the Mainichi newspaper said in an editorial.

Notice that the Japanese media talks about Hillary Clinton the same way the Chinese do. Maybe it’s an Asian thing, but to be fair, Hillary bills herself (pun not intended) as “Hillary!” not “Hillary Clinton!” And Hillary! can be happy that the rest of Europe is reportedly Hillaryphilic:

But in Europe, where some see Obama as untested, support for Clinton is widespread, and nostalgia for her husband’s charisma runs deep. When scandals rocked the Clinton White House, most Europeans responded with a Gallic shrug.

“Nobody in Europe ever took Bill Clinton’s problems in office seriously,” said Patrick Dunleavy, a political scientist at the London School of Economics. “Nobody could ever understand why Americans were so upset. Bill Clinton was always a fantastic presence in Europe.”

The Republican presidential hopefuls, by contrast, are not highly regarded in Europe: Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee are seen as too religious, and the 71-year-old McCain as too old.

To Britons, history’s most popular postwar presidents were Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton because of their perceived levelheadedness and intelligence, said Dunleavy. The most despised? President Bush and Ronald Reagan “because they were seen as erratic and unpredictable,” he said.

Once again, the cliched “It wouldn’t be a big deal in France” meme is trotted out in defense of Clinton. It may be true but it doesn’t mean it’s not a tired comparison. Moving on, while there’s no question that Reagan was disliked by the European left for the strategic arms build-up in 1980s, I’m not sure that he was regarded as unpredictable. As for Bush, I agree that Europe’s impression of him involves one of those two synonyms. (P.S. Professor Dunleavy — unpredictable and erratic mean the same thing.) That said, two things puzzle me about this portrait of Europe’s perceptions of the American presidents.

Firstly, was Carter so beloved across the Atlantic when he was actually president? I’m not in a position where I can research this on a database, but I’m leaning towards “no.” With his charity Carter was for years the model ex-president, and his Nobel Peace Prize win showed how much his politics are in line with Europeans today, but other than being preferred to Reagan in the 1980 election, I can’t remember massive Carter support in the early 1980s. Is this a case of hindsight altering reality or am I missing something?

Secondly, as much as movement conservatives complain about Mitt Romney being a late-blooming conservative, it’s curious that Europeans apparently take him at his pro-evangelical word. Except for the last 2 or so years he’s spent running for president, Romney has been remarkably mum on religious matters. So I can only assume that the Europeans believe Romney is sincere (and therefore Hugh Hewitt’s trust in him is well-placed), or else Europe has a Mormon problem.