Global Issues >> Globalization


Globalization of Culture

A majority of Americans has a favorable view of American popular culture, though a large minority of the public is pessimistic about the quality of US movies and television. Americans are divided about the spread of American culture, but only a small minority considers the dominance of US culture a threat to other cultures. When it comes to globalization bringing greater cultural influences into the US, Americans express a positive attitude.

One of the most controversial aspects of globalization is the worldwide spread and dominance of American culture. Just as US goods flooded world markets in the post-Word War II era, US culture is now penetrating every continent through the dramatic growth of mass communications such as music, television, films and the Internet, as well as through the penetration of American corporations into foreign countries. From China to France to the Middle East, foreign leaders and activists have expressed fear that global culture may become too Americanized, destroying their own cultural, economic, and religious traditions. Where does the majority public stand?

Evaluation of American Culture

Polls show that a majority of Americans have a positive view of US culture. In the January 2004 PIPA poll, 55% said they had a favorable view of "American popular culture, such as music, television, and films". Forty-three percent found it to be unfavorable. This is a bit less favorable than when the question was asked in October 1999 and 60% had a favorable view and 39% said unfavorable. Those who expressed a "very favorable" view declined from 21% to 11% between 1999 and 2004. [1]

With regard to the content of films and television, though, a substantial minority has serious misgivings about the direction of US culture. In a February 1999 Los Angeles Times Poll, respondents were nearly divided on the question of the quality of American movies, with 47% saying they were satisfied and 42% saying they were dissatisfied. Five percent volunteered that they were neutral. A plurality (45%) expected the content of future American films to be about the same as it is now, but twice as many thought it would get worse rather than better (29% to 16%). [2] Thus, some may sympathize with other countries that might not want to readily accept US cultural dominance in certain areas.

Spreading American Culture

However Americans are divided about the value of spreading Americans culture around the world. In August 2002 an Investor's Business Daily/Christian Science Monitor poll found that only 47% felt that "American movies and popular culture" had a positive impact on "the rest of the world." Forty-four percent thought the impact was negative. In fact, in an October 1999 PIPA poll a plurality of 48% said they feel either mixed (43%) or bad (5%) feelings when they "hear about McDonalds opening up in cities around the world, or…the popularity of US TV shows in other countries." Forty-three percent had "good feelings".

At the same time, Americans reject the idea that US popular culture is a threat to foreign cultures. In October 1999 PIPA asked, "How much of a threat, if at all, do you think American popular culture, such as music, television and films, is to the cultures of other countries in the world?" Just 24% said American popular culture was a "very serious" (7%) or "serious" threat (17%) to other countries. By contrast 33% considered it only a minor threat, and a plurality (41%) said it was not a threat at all. They may also see foreign concerns as overblown. For example, French restrictions on the showing of foreign films-the only trade restriction presented based on cultural grounds-was the only restriction a majority of Americans (54%) rejected as illegitimate in PIPA's October 1999 poll. The public certainly does not view the spread of US culture as a threat serious enough to provoke a lethal reaction. When a December 2001 by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner and Public Opinion Strategies offered a list of 6 potential causes of international terrorism, just 10% cited the "spreading of US culture and values" as one of their top two choices. All of the others were cited by at least 21%. [3]

A strong majority thinks US culture had a lot of impact on other countries in the 20th century, and an overwhelming majority believes it will have equal or greater influence in the 21st century. When asked in a December 1999 CBS News survey "how much impact…the United States has had on popular culture in the rest of the world" in "this past century", 70% said it had "a lot." Another 22% said it had "some" and just 6% said the impact was "not much" or "none at all." In the same CBS survey, nearly 9 out of 10 said the US would have either more impact (34%) or the same impact (55%) on popular culture throughout the world than it has now. Only 20% felt the impact would be less. [4]

Impact of Other Cultures on US

When it comes to globalization bringing greater cultural influences into the US, Americans express a positive attitude. When asked in the January 2004 PIPA poll, to think about "how globalization has resulted in new ideas and cultural influences coming into the US from other countries," a strong majority of 68% regarded this as positive. Just 25% felt those influences to be negative.

In a 1998 Yankelovich poll, a near-unanimous majority (91%) agreed, "the global economy makes it more important than ever for all of us to understand people who are different than ourselves." [5]

In May 1999, a Pew poll found that 71% of Americans agreed that cultural diversity was a "major reason" for America's success. [6]