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The Common Enemy Rationale: An Attempt to Apply Concepts of Cognitive Consistency to the Portrayals of the United States in the Foreign Press

Joshua Woods*

Michigan State University

*Corresponding Author:
Joshua Woods
Michigan State University

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In discussions of the declining U.S. image in foreign countries, the emphasis is usually placed on either the shortcomings of U.S. policies and actions, or on the political, psychological and cultural circumstances in foreign countries. This dyadic approach ignores the important role of “third parties” in the development of international attitudes toward the United States. In this article, an attempt was made to demonstrate a reciprocal relationship between a foreign country’s press portrayals of the U.S. and its views of international terrorism. More than 2,000 articles from the mainstream print media in nine countries, published in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, provided the data to support this assumption. Related topics, including (a) the differences between press representations of the U.S. in the West versus in the Muslim World, and (b) the affects of press censorship on America’s image in China, are also discussed.


The author would like to convey appreciation to Vladimir Shlapentokh, senior director of the research project “World Attitudes toward America After 9/11,” which supplied the data for this analysis. Special gratitude goes to Stan Kaplowitz for his invaluable aid in the data analysis and to Toby Ten Eyck for his input. A note of thanks also goes to the reviewer of this manuscript for offering important suggestions to improve this text.


In the years since the terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C. on September 11, 2001, America’s image has become increasingly negative in many countries of the world. According to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, the number of Europeans who rated the U.S. “favorably” declined significantly between summer 2002 and spring 2004. In France, the U.S. favorability rating dropped during this period from 63 percent to 37 percent, in Germany from 61 percent to 38 percent, in Russia from 61 percent to 47 percent, and in Great Britain from 75 percent to 58 percent (Pew, 2004). The plight of America’s image in Muslim nations has been even worse. While attitudes toward the U.S. in Europe, the Middle East and Asia showed some signs of improving in 2005, America’s favorability rating has remained quite low in most regions of the world, particularly when compared to the ratings of other countries. In fact, even China was rated more favorably in 2005 than the U.S. in most of the European nations surveyed (Pew, 2005).

Although few experts refute the fact that the U.S. is broadly disliked in many countries, there is little consensus about what has caused this aversion. Most discussions on the topic focus either on the “nature” of the United States, or on the particular political and cultural aspects of other nations. Authors who refer to the United States suggest that the causes of these negative attitudes are external and produced by America itself. The authors highlight the deleterious effects of the U.S. foreign policy, military actions, and cultural expansion. As suggested by Sardar and Davies (2003), “America is an object of much fear and loathing, and this opinion is based on concrete experience with American power over the last five decades.” The same emphasis on U.S. foreign policies and actions can be found in several other books, such as a collection of essays by Vidal (2002a, see 2002b), Chomsky’s 9-11 (2001) and Johnson’s Blowback (2000). Other external factors, such as the role of the United States in globalization and the expansion of capitalism, have also been cited as a basis of “anti-Americanism.” The U.S. has been characterized as the global harbinger of “arrogant secularist materialism,” the destroyer of indigenous cultural traditions, a unilateral bully in international economic affairs, a pusher of unsafe modified foods, and an ominous threat to the environment, human rights and worker protection (Bourdieu, 1998; see Barber, 2002; Palast, 2002).

On the other side of the debate, many authors stress the internal, domestic factors underpinning negative views of America. They argue that the anger and hostility toward the U.S. depends less on U.S. actions than on the particular internal features of foreign countries. While some authors treat “anti-Americanism” in foreign lands as the result of “irrationality” (Hollander, 1992; Harris, 2003), or “envy” (Joffe, 2002; Hertsgaard, 2002), others point to the cultural differences between the U.S. and foreign countries (Huntington, 1993; Revel, 2002; Shlapentokh 1988). Many analysts also look to the internal politics within the given country as the driving force behind negative attitudes toward America (see Thom, 2003; Roger, 2003; Michas, 2002). They argue that anti-Americanism is a negative ideology (a sort of scapegoat mechanism) that is used by ruling elites, both political and religious, to justify their dominance in society, in spite of their evident failures. The opposition can also use this ideology in its struggle for political power.

In many cases, the arguments on both sides of the debate have been magnified and polarized by the authors’ ideological or political dispositions. To a certain degree, the emphasis placed on ideology explains why the debate over America’s image has remained centered on the dyadic relations between a given country and the United States. Without denying the credibility of this approach, the goal here is to add a “third party” to the equation. The main premise of this article argues that a country’s image of the U.S. is influenced by its perceptions of international terrorism. Depending on the context, the inverse causal order is also possible: A country’s perceptions of terrorism may be affected by its image of the United States.

While most studies on foreign attitudes toward the U.S. draw on public opinion data, this study is based on a content analysis of the mainstream press in nine countries (Belarus, China, Colombia, Egypt, Germany, India, Lithuania, Moldova, and Russia). Empirical evidence will be offered to support the interrelationship between a country’s press representation of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and its image of the United States. Insight on two additional topics, which are important to the study of global communication, will also be presented: (a) the differences between press representations of the U.S. in the West versus in the Muslim World, and (b) the affects of press censorship on America’s image in China.

Theoretical Background

Few political aphorisms remain as famous as the ancient dictum: “My enemy’s enemy is my friend.” The underlying logic of this phrase can be detected in any number of creative works, from Greek mythology to Shakespeare’s plays to several noted theories in the social sciences. This aphorism points to the important, if self-evident premise that people’s attitudes about a person, group, nation, or object are influenced, randomly or systematically, by the views and behavior of other people.

The question of how people’s perceptions are configured in the mind is one of the primary concerns of contemporary social psychology. Followers of the Gestalt tradition of psychology, going back to Heider (1946, 1958) and his “balance theory,” maintained that people desire balance in their attitudes toward sets of other people, objects, or issues. Heider’s theory (along with the various adaptations of his model) has been supported by several empirical studies (see Krosnick 1990; Ottati, Fishbein, and Middlestadt 1988; Newcomb 1961; Aronson and Cope 1968; Jones 1966; Zajonc and Burnstein 1965). Applying this theory to the adage cited above, social psychologists argue that a person’s negative attitude toward an enemy predetermines this person’s positive attitude about the enemy’s enemy. Important for the purpose of prediction is the contention that a balanced structure, or “triad,” tends to remain balanced, while imbalanced triads naturally move toward a state of internal congruence (Eagly & Chaiken, 1998). The “triads” discussed in this article include the United States, international terrorism and each of the nine foreign countries in the study.

One of the problems of balance theory, however, is that it treats people’s attitudes as simply positive or negative, and virtually disregards the magnitude of these feelings. Responding to this limitation, Newcomb (1968) created a model that takes the intensity of attitudes into account. Newcomb hypothesized that the tension produced by an imbalanced relationship (and the need for resolving this tension) increases as the extremity of the attitudes involved increases. Newcomb’s theory illustrates how fluctuations in the perceived danger of international terrorism may result in attitude change toward the United States. Likewise, a shift in a country’s attitudes toward the U.S. may bring changes in the attitudes toward international terrorism.

Focusing on large social and ethnic groups and entire nations, political scientists, specialists in international relations and social psychologists have applied the concept of balancing attitudes and the common-enemy rationale to the study of international relations and other developments including negotiations, conflict resolution, development of prejudice, patriotism and nationalism. Several mass media and communication studies have also drawn on these theories to describe a broad range of social processes, from media effects (Severin, 1991; Slater, 1999) to the relational ties in global telecommunications networks (Monge & Matei, 2004).

The richness of this idea lies in its consideration of “third parties” in the creation and development of people’s attitudes and beliefs. Sociologists have long understood that actors—whether political officials or newspaper editors—often organize their views of one person or object with respect to third parties (Simmel, 1950; Coser, 1964). As discussed above, many authors assume that negative attitudes toward the U.S. are produced by dyadic relations between the U.S. and other countries. In contrast, the underlying logic of this study suggests that after 9/11 people’s attitudes toward the U.S. were arranged in congruence with their attitudes toward international terrorism. To explore this relationship, the following hypothesis can be offered: The more negative a country’s press representation of 9/11, the more positive was its portrayal of the United States.


This study is based on an international research project initiated after 9/11 that measured the foreign press’ reaction to several issues surrounding the terrorist attacks. Articles from the mainstream press in Belarus, China, Colombia, Egypt, Germany, India, Lithuania, Moldova, and Russia provided the data. All of the articles were published during three brief periods in the first months after the attacks (September 12-15; October 8-11; and December 10-21, 2001). The group of countries selected for the project reflects a “purposive sample” based on several criteria, including geopolitical significance, nuclear capability, as well as the researchers’ interest in particular cultural, economic, and political differences between these nations. 1 Although the countries in this sample represent distinct regions of the world—the Middle East, Latin America, Asia, Eastern and Western Europe—generalizations across these regions should be made only with caution, and even then will remain impressionistic to some extent. However, our total sample does comprise a sizeable portion of the world’s population, and each country plays a unique and oftentimes powerful role in the regional and global political arenas. Moreover, in the wake of 9/11, there was a notable similarity in public opinion of the United States across the countries in these regions, particularly in the Muslim World and in Western Europe, according to the Pew Research Center (2004, 2005) and Gallup International (2001).

A multistage sampling procedure was used for collecting the units of analysis in this study. 2 For each country, we began by dividing the total universe of newspapers according to circulation size (stratified sampling). We then selected the top ten largest newspapers in each country. The size of the newspapers was determined using circulation data from multiple sources. 3 From this population, we picked up articles according to several criteria, including the article’s date of publication and substantive relevance to the U.S. or the events of 9/11. Any article that contained the views of more than one person was broken into separate units. The basic unit of analysis was either the written material produced by the byline author, or the quotes and paraphrases that the author attributed to other people. For this reason, the sample contains a total of 2,856 units of analysis, but only 2,369 articles. Sixty-four percent of these units represented the views of “authors,” and 36 percent were “quotes.” The sample of articles from each “high-circulation” newspaper included almost all of them published during the given time frame. Although we feel confident that the data are generalizable across a broader interpretation of the “mainstream press,” it is not representative of small newspapers with specialized political or ideological positions.

All members of our research team (“coders”) are native speakers of the languages they analyzed and are proficient in English. In India, five different coders were necessary to examine the five different languages used in the ten largest Indian newspapers (Hindi, Gujarati, Malayalam, Urdu, and Bengali). The inter-coder reliability of the data was tested using Cohen’s kappa, whichequals zero when the agreement between coders is at chance levels (Cohen 1960, pp. 37-46). Reliability checks were conducted on four different coder pairs on an average of 8 percent of the articles in the samples. The articles were selected randomly for the reliability checks. Each test was applied to a different language (Spanish, Chinese, German, and English) so that reliability could be compared across countries. For the German sample of articles, Cohen’s kappa was .61; for Chinese articles, .60; for Indian articles published in English, .574; and for Colombia, .510. Although an exact standard for kappa has not been clearly established, several authors have accepted similar levels of inter-coder agreement as reasonably good (see Landis & Koch 1977; Stemler 2001; Kvalseth 1989; Capozzoli et al., 1999; Rourke et al., 2001). The kappa coefficients stated above reflect the most rigorous measure of the study’s inter-coder agreement. In many cases, the coders selected items that were close in substantive content. By accepting “close matches” as agreement between coders, the kappa coefficients were higher, ranging from .70 to .80.

Before moving forward, the limitations of the data should be noted. First, the mainland Chinese press remained silent on some of the controversial issues surrounding the events of September 11. For instance, none of the ten largest newspapers in China published an article about the “root causes of 9/11,” a popular topic in other countries. One of the strategies we used to mitigate these limitations was to analyze the most widely circulated newspaper in Hong Kong, The Apple Daily, where restrictions on the press were weaker. In addition, we examined a popular Internet chat room in China, the Peoples Daily Online Forum. 4 As we will describe in detail later, these two publications painted a less favorable picture of the United States compared to the views published in the mainland press. For this reason, the Chinese sample was divided into two groups: a “mainland” representation, and what we call the “Hong Kong & Internet” response.

Due to logistical limitations, the samples in Lithuania, Moldova, and Belarus were drawn from only three major newspapers (as compared to the ten selected in the other countries), resulting in a reduced number of cases. The results from these countries have been influenced by some of the obvious challenges of conducting large-scale comparative studies.


Each coder surveyed the given press on five major issues related to the events of September 11. These issues were selected on the basis of a pilot study of more than 200 articles from around the globe. They represent the most popular international news items published in the first four days after the attacks. They include: 1) the depiction of 9/11; 2) the identification of the prime suspects; 3) suggestions on how the United States should respond; and 4) the general descriptions of America itself. For each of these issues, an extensive list of response options were compiled (a combined total of 111 alternatives were included in the codebook). In addition to these four quantitative indicators, the coders were also asked to give their own qualitative assessment of each respondent in the sample (“respondents” were either the byline author of an article, or someone quoted in an article). Answers ranged from 1 (“completely favorable toward the U.S.”) to 5 (“completely unfavorable toward the U.S.”).

The goal of this study was to use these five issues to measure how the foreign press assessed two different attitude objects: 1) the United States, and 2) the terrorist attacks on 9/11. This objective led us to a rather difficult question. How could we distinguish between “favorable” and “unfavorable” assessments of the U.S. and the 9/11 terrorists? To solve this problem, we used the public statements of President George W. Bush as a reference point. By “favorability,” then, we mean “agreement” with the official U.S. position, as articulated by the president. While the “official” stance should not be generalized directly to the views of the American people, a broad majority of the population supported this position in the wake of 9/11. 5 The official opinion was determined using a content analysis of 46 public speeches made by President Bush after 9/11. 6 “Agreement” with this position entailed the following: 1) clearly negative terms, such as “horrible, terrible, evil, or a killing of innocent people,” used to describe 9/11; 2) Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda, or Islamic fundamentalists named as the prime suspect; 3) support for a U.S.-led military response to 9/11; and 4) a favorable description of the United States, using terms such as “freedom-loving, democratic, compassionate, brave, or determined” (this is an abbreviated description of a far more extensive list of codes). As for the fifth issue (the qualitative indicator), the first two answers in the scale (“completely” and “mostly” favorable toward the U.S.) were used to measure the level of agreement with the official position.

Main Results

The five issues discussed above were assumed to reflect two latent variables: condemns 9/11 terrorism, and favorable toward U.S. A factor analysis was conducted to confirm this assumption. As shown in Table 1c, the first latent variable loads high only on the issues related to condemns 9/11 terrorism: “negative description of 9/11” (.861), “bin Laden named as perpetrator” (.884), and “support for military response” (.850). The second latent variable loads high only on the issues related to favorable toward U.S.: “favorable description of the U.S.” (.682) and “favorable coder assessment” (1.027). These two hypothesized variables were thought to be both related and distinct.

Based on the factor analysis, the three aspects of condemns 9/11 terrorism did indeed form a separate factor from the two items in the variable favorable toward U.S. Evidence was found that these items do form separate factors. The general statistical criterion is to keep the number of factors that have eigenvalues (variances) greater than one. As shown in Table 1b, two factors meet this criteria (eigenvalues = 3.1 and 1.2). A scree test also indicates that two factors are appropriate for this analysis. 7 Moreover, both the three-item scale and the two-item scale were shown to have sufficiently high measures of reliability (Cronbach’s alpha = .91, and .83, respectively).

To construct indices measuring the two latent variables, we averaged the standardized scores of the observed indicators that loaded high on each factor (see Table 3). The Pearson’s correlation between the two variables was .41. This association supports the theoretical assumption discussed at the beginning of the article. As shown in Figure 1, the more a country’s press condemned 9/11, identified Osama bin Laden as the perpetrator, and supported the idea of a military response, the more favorable was its perception of the United States. In other words, there is a strong positive correlation between the two latent variables discussed above, condemns 9/11 terrorism and favorable toward U.S.

Results by Issue and Country

The results by individual country revealed big differences between the press responses in the nine project countries. In terms of America’s image, a clear trend in the data positioned the German press on the “favorable” end of the spectrum and the Egyptian press on the “unfavorable” end. Interesting differences were also found in a comparison between the mainland press in China and the “Hong Kong & Internet” response.

Issue one: The depiction of 9/11. Although there was some variability in the responses between nations on this issue, most of the foreign press condemned the 9/11 attacks. In Germany, Lithuania, Belarus, China, Hong Kong & Internet, Moldova, and Russia, three-quarters or more of the articles and quotes in the samples used decidedly negative terms to characterize 9/11. As the German politician Ursula Kelders (2001) said: “This is so terrible. I am speechless. The situation is like a horror movie.” Egypt and to some extent India were less negative at 54 percent and 67 percent, respectively. In an open letter published in the Egyptian newspaper Afaq Arabia, Ahmad Almajhop wrote, “Oh Osama, you are a hero! You are a man who has all the characteristics that men need” (September 15, 2001). This type of commentary, however, was extremely rare in the overall sample.

Issue two: The prime suspects. There was somewhat less agreement with the U.S. on the issue of who carried out 9/11. Many authors were quick to point out that the United States had several foreign enemies, besides Osama bin Laden, who may have committed the act, or that the last major terrorist attack on U.S. soil had been perpetrated by an American citizen, Timothy McVeigh. Nevertheless, in the wake of 9/11, a majority of the press representation in all countries, with the exception of Egypt (11 percent), named Osama bin Laden as the prime suspect.

Issue three: The military response. The percentage of articles and quotes that endorsed the idea of using military force in response to 9/11 (the official U.S. position) dropped off considerably in comparison to the previous two issues. Germany was among the leading supporters of such actions, though even here the level of endorsement of the U.S. position was limited (30 percent). Clearly on the opposite pole, not a single article or quote in the Egyptian press supported a U.S.-led military response to 9/11.

Issue four: Descriptions of the United States. In the first days after the attacks, even as the United States faced the world as a victim, many authors described the country in unfavorable terms. Some of the popular words and phrases used in the Egyptian press included “religiously prejudiced,” “unfair or unjust,” and “arrogant.” Russian respondents often used terms such as “vulnerable,” “arrogant,” and “warlike,” while the Indian press emphasized U.S. indifference to terrorism prior to September 11. The Colombian and Chinese press were somewhat less critical of the country. Positive comments about the U.S. economy as well as the term “compassionate” ranked among the five most salient images of the U.S. in the mainland Chinese press. “Compassionate” also made the top-five list in Germany, along with “healthy democracy.” Popular terms in the Lithuanian press included “brave,” “freedom loving,” and “determined.” Taking into account the hundreds of statements in the Lithuanian and German press, 78 percent of descriptions of the U.S. in both countries were favorable. On the other end of the spectrum, this indicator dropped to 20 percent in Russia and 25 percent in Egypt.

Issue five: Coders’ assessment. Similar findings were seen in the coders’ evaluations of the press materials. Seventy-seven percent of the Germans were judged as “completely” or “mostly” favorable toward the United States. In Egypt this indicator dropped to 16 percent, demonstrating once again the polarity of the German and Egyptian cases.

Mainland Chinese press versus the Hong Kong & Internet response. On all five of the issues discussed above, the mainland Chinese press was more favorable toward the U.S. than the “Hong Kong & Internet” sample. Fewer of the authors and editors appearing in the Hong Kong newspaper (The Apple Daily) and the Chinese Internet chat room (The People’s Daily Online Forum) condemned the 9/11 attacks, identified bin Laden as the prime suspect, supported a military response and used favorable terms to describe the United States. These findings support previous research on the censorship of the Chinese press. The large party organs in China are thought to be heavily censored, while the press in Hong Kong and some online media are known for having more freedom to express dissenting views (Zhao, 1998; Zhao & Schiller, 2001). These differences in the level of censorship may explain why the mainland press was consistently more favorable toward the U.S. than the “Hong Kong & Internet” sample.

The events of 9/11 occurred at a time when China and the United States were redefining their political and economic relations. As suggested by Fung (2005), “In the wake of 9/11, the Chinese authorities attempted to restore Sino-American ties by suppressing anti-Americanism in the media and maintaining a coherent and consistent international foreign policy image.” For this reason, if the Chinese leadership eased restrictions on the press, the image of the U.S. would likely deteriorate.


There are several aspects of this study that require further explanation. The first point relates to the causal direction of our model. As discussed above, there was a positive correlation (.41) between the two latent variables, condemns 9/11 terrorism and favorable toward U.S. It should be noted, however, that while these data present clear evidence of an association, the causal direction of the model may go either way, depending on the social and historical context. In the first weeks after 9/11, it is likely that the dramatic terrorist attacks caused a sense of common fate in many countries, resulting in increased positive attitudes toward the United States in the foreign press. The inverse relationship, however, is also possible. That is, a smaller level of identification with the U.S. could cause a smaller level of condemnation of 9/11 and international terrorism in general. In the months and years following the 9/11 attacks, the United States responded with “overwhelming force” against those it identified as terrorists. The strong military response, according to several authors, was one cause of the decline in the U.S. favorability rating in many nations. If it is true that the foreign press co-orients its image of international terrorism in terms of its image of the United States, then an increase in negative attitudes toward the U.S. would stimulate a decrease in a foreign country’s identification with and support for the U.S.-led war on terror.

As a second clarification, the press response in some countries deviated significantly from what our model predicted. The favorable toward U.S. score of the mainland Chinese press (-.03) was somewhat less than expected, while its condemns 9/11 terrorism score (1.21) was higher than any other country in the sample. As can be seen in Figure 1, China is located farthest from the regression line that links these two variables. Its press’ unexpectedly high level of condemnation of terrorism may be explained, at least in part, by the state censorship in China, where, as discussed above, the phenomenon of “a thousand papers with one voice” still exists (Zhao, 1998, 166). With the suppression of critical reporting, and the authoritarian government’s decidedly negative attitude toward terrorism, any type of favorable or even neutral remark about 9/11 was likely prohibited. It should also be pointed out that the question of who carried out the attacks was rarely breached in the mainland Chinese press, and the mentioning of any possible perpetrator of the attacks, besides the official U.S. suspect, was probably also limited by the censors. The same type of state interference may explain the similar results found in Belarus (see Figure 1).

The Egyptian press represents another clear outlier compared to the other countries in the sample. Not only was it the least favorable country to the U.S., but even controlling for this unfavorability it was noteworthy in its refusal to condemn terrorism. It is probable that many Egyptians, unlike the authors from other countries, identified with those who were being blamed for the attacks. President Bush’s passionate response to 9/11, which contained religious overtones, not to mention the historically conflictual relations between the U.S. and the Middle East, probably accounts for the fact that the Egyptians were unwilling to agree with America’s prime suspect, its portrayal of the 9/11 attacks, and its plans for a military response.

Third, while the common threat of international terrorism has the power to bring countries together, there are several other factors that can tear them apart. Russia is an interesting case in point. It might be expected that the dramatic attacks by Chechen terrorists in Moscow and other regions of the country would lead to increased identification between Russia and the United States. To some extent, this happened. Several analysts have pointed out that for a brief period following 9/11 the problem of terrorism bolstered Russian-American relations. 8 President Vladimir Putin’s initial reaction to 9/11 was, by all accounts, sympathetic, and his solidarity with the U.S. was quite strong. Russia quickly became a member of the international anti-terrorist coalition, several measures were taken to allow U.S. troops in Central Asia, and official relations between the U.S. and Russia were warmer than at any time since WWII. However, there were many other factors that countered this increasingly warm relationship. Actions such as the expansion of U.S. influence within countries formerly controlled by Moscow, the inclusion of Baltic countries in NATO, envy of U.S. economic success, the Russian nationalists and communists’ dislike of American society or capitalism, and the necessity of the Kremlin to find a scapegoat for its failed economic reforms have all caused conflict and controversy between Russia and the United States.


There can be few analytical tasks more complicated than tracing the origin of one country’s attitudes toward another. The task is especially difficult in the case of the U.S., a country with high visibility in foreign affairs, no military or economic equals in the world, and countless international contacts and relations. In recent years, the attention given to America’s image abroad has been devoted to investigating the causes of “anti-Americanism.” The literature on this subject encompasses a polarized debate that focuses either on the shortcomings of U.S. actions in the international arena, or on the political, psychological and cultural circumstances in foreign countries. This dyadic approach ignores the important role of “third parties” in the development of international attitudes. In this article, an attempt was made, drawing on balance theory and related concepts, to show that in the case of 9/11, the more a country’s press identified with America’s negative image of the enemy, the more it evaluated the U.S. in favorable light. This finding stresses the importance of the U.S. government’s portrayal of international threats. A failure to convince other countries about the imminence of a global threat or the credibility of the U.S. strategy to reduce it will ultimately lead to a negative view of America abroad. However, the common enemy paradigm, with its realist logic, must be counterbalanced by an appreciation of other attitude determinants, such as moral impulses, culture, and human emotion. Any analysis of attitudes or behavior serves itself best by scuttling the old debate between realism and idealism, and searching for predictors among both cognitive interests and personal affect.


Table 1: Factor Analysis

Table 2:Foreign Attitudes toward 9/11, the United States, and the War on Terrorism

Table 3: Standardized Average Scores by Country on the Two Latent Variables

Country Key

1. Germany 8. Russia

2. Lithuania 9. Hong Kong & Internet

3. Colombia 10. Egypt

4. Moldova

5. Belarus

6. China

7. India


1. Russia, India and China are three of the largest foreign countries that possess nuclear weapons, and have strong geopolitical influences. Germany and Lithuania represent Western and Eastern European culture and politics, respectively. Moldova and Belarus, though regionally similar to Lithuania, were selected as nations where vestiges of the communist past remain. Columbia was selected as the representative from Latin America, and Egypt represents the Muslim world.

2. Due to the nature of content analysis research, rigorous probability samples are rarely drawn. Nearly 80 percent of the articles published in Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly from 1971 to 1995 used non-probability samples (Riffe & Freitag, 1996, cited in Riffe et al., 1998). In some ways, our study avoided this problem by drawing a near census of the materials published during the project’s targeted time frame.

3. The Audit Bureau of Circulations (January-June 2001,, the International Year Book: The Encyclopedia of the Newspaper Industry – 2001, and the Chinese Journalism Yearbook – 1999.

4. For examples of how the Chinese Internet has been used by public opinion researchers – and even by the Chinese government – to gauge public opinion in the country, see Xinhua News Agency 2002; Liu et al., 2001. For more about what “types of opinion” can be found on the Chinese Internet and how the Internet is monitored and restricted by the government, see Zhao and Schiller 2001; Link et al., 2002; Zhao 1998.

5. The president’s determination to punish those involved in the attacks on 9/11 was almost unanimously backed by the people; 62 percent and 31 percent of Americans advocated the start of a “long-term war” or the “punishment of specific terrorists,” respectively. Only 5 percent said that America “should not take military actions” (Gallup Organization, 2001). Eighty-nine percent of the Americans were either “very confident” (50 percent) or “somewhat confident” (39 percent) in President Bush’s ability to handle the events that resulted from 9/11 (Gallup Organization, 2002).

6. The speeches were published on the White House website September 11-25, and October 7-21, 2001 (see

7. The scree test is based on the idea that if a factor (or latent variable) is important, it will have a large variance (or eigenvalue). In other words, when the eigenvalues are plotted on a graph, the slope of the line should be particularly steep at the substantive factors, and relatively flat along the less important factors. As shown in Table 1b, the difference between factors 4 and 5 is greater than the difference between factors 3 and 4, which means that factor 3 is in the scree, and it is appropriate to keep only the first two factors.

8. See, for instance, an interview with Nikolai Zlobin (2003), Director of Russian and Asian Programs at the Center for Defense Information in the United States, in the Russian newspaper Izvestia.


About the Author

Joshua Woods is a doctoral student in sociology at Michigan State University and the co-director of the World Attitudes Project, a study of international press coverage of the United States. His latest book is "America: Sovereign Defender or Cowboy Nation?" (co-editor, Ashgate, 2005).

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