One of the more interesting contradictions about Americans is that we are woefully ignorant of most other nations, whether it be our neighbors in Canada (yes: they’re right above us) let alone nations in Africa, Europe or Asia.
Yet despite not knowing who is president of Great Britain (hint: they don’t even HAVE a president) according to Gallup most Americans are more than comfortable having strong opinions about the rest of the world they don’t know a thing about.
According to recent Gallup Polls, Americans get increasingly negative about the state of the economy the further you move away from our front porches. Most Americans when asked believe that the economy in their local city or state is doing pretty well. But when you ask about the country as a whole, or what is going on Europe, opinions drop drastically.
What makes these results particularly embarrassing is that a Gallup Poll released in late May showed that only 16% of Americans are actually “Closely Watching” the European monetary and financial situation. Which means that we’re pretty positive that things are worse over there, even if we don’t know what over there actually is.
This knowledge gap can play out in some significant ways in the upcoming presidential election depending on the state of our unemployment rate as well as how Obama manages his (as of June) fairly poorly organized message.
Historically the European and American economies are incredibly linked, with about 5% of American GDP coming from trade with Europe not to mention millions of entangled banks and contracts. If Europe really goes down the tubes, it will drag the U.S. economy down with it, something that in general President Obama would like to avoid at all costs.
At the same time, since Americans assume that things are bad in Europe in general, a failing or increasingly poor economy across the pond will not give the president any cover. Obama can’t very well claim that our struggles are linked to a downturn in Europe when most folks from Tampa Bay to Tuscaloosa think that most of Europe looks like the set of Borat anyway. No: Obama will have to somehow Gerry-rig the U.S. economy to keep his job, because explaining our situation in the context of the rest of the world is wasted energy. Americans are perfectly comfortable forming opinions on issues and places that we have no real knowledge of. Something that can go for or against you during a tight presidential election.