The American-Western European Values Gap

There is a great new report on The American-Western European Values Gap, from the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project conducted in the US, UK, France, Germany and Spain this Spring as part of a broader 23-nation poll.  It highlights several characteristics we mention in our book (Working with Americans) to help expanding organisations understand how these can impact them and which you shoul find helpful if you work with Europeans and/or Americans:

Views on International Engagement- the USA and Britain

About four-in-ten (39%) Americans say the U.S. should help other countries deal with their problems, while a narrow majority (52%) says the U.S. should deal with its own problems and let other countries deal with their problems as best they can. The British are nearly evenly divided; 45% say their country should help other countries deal with their problems and about the same number (48%) believe Britain should deal with its own problems. Last year, about the same number of Americans said their country should help other countries (45%) as said it should let other countries deal with their own problems (46%).

Cultural Superiority

About half of Americans (49%) agree with the statement, “Our people are not perfect, but our culture is superior to others;” in Britain only about a third or fewer (32% and 27%, respectively) think their culture is better than others. While opinions about cultural superiority have remained relatively stable over the years in the four Western European countries surveyed, Americans are now far less likely to say that their culture is better than others; six-in-ten Americans held this belief in 2002 and 55% did so in 2007. Belief in cultural superiority has declined among Americans across age, gender and education groups.

Individualism and the Role of the State

American opinions continue to differ considerably from those of Western Europeans when it comes to views of individualism and the role of the state. Nearly six-in-ten (58%) Americans believe it is more important for everyone to be free to pursue their life’s goals without interference from the state, while just 35% say it is more important for the state to play an active role in society so as to guarantee that nobody is in need. In contrast, 55% in Britain say the state should ensure that nobody is in need; about four-in-ten or fewer consider being free from state interference a higher priority. Asked if they agree that “success in life is pretty much determined by forces outside our control,” Americans again offer more individualistic views than those expressed by Western Europeans. Only 36% of Americans believe they have little control over their fate, compared with 41% in Britain.

Interestingly Pew, a not-for-profit, publishes these important business insights which I hope leaders take to heart; if not, their geographical expansions will result in lost money, time, brand equity and corporate reputations.

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