Borderline Identity Issues in North America, But Strong Support for Trade

Note:  EKOS gave permission to use their graphs in this posting.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel was in Mexico City last week,  where he and Mexico City Mayor Miguel Ángel Mancera signed an economic agreement  that aims to increase tourism, foreign investment and exports, and to facilitate university partnerships.  The agreement was development with assistance from The Brookings Institute; according to a Brookings press release, business and civic delegates from metropolitan areas across Mexico, the United States and Canada also planned to discuss the significant role of metropolitan areas in an integrated North American economy.

A recent cross-national poll shows varying degrees of willingness to deepen North American ties.  Mexicans would welcome deeper integration with the rest of North America on a range of policies (less so on energy policy). Americans are generally open to aligning environment and security policies (with pluralities saying they should integrate policies). Canadians are also positive toward environment and security cooperation; but they are less concerned now about border security than in the past.  Canadians appear more sensitive than Mexicans and Americans toward the tradeoffs of sovereignty and integration.

These are some of the findings of three separate surveys conducted in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. The study was coordinated by EKOS Research Associates on behalf of Robert Pastor and the Centre for North American Studies (CNAS) at American University.  Miguel Basáñez was also a key contributor to this research, and the Centro de Estudios de Opinión Pública fielded the face-to-face interviews in Mexico. The Canadian survey was based on EKOS’ probability-based, hybrid online/telephone research panel, Probit. The US survey was conducted using GfK’s Knowledge Networks’  KnowledgePanel.

The survey objectives included gauging attitudes toward trilateral relations and testing the appeal of a “North American idea.”  CNAS recently held a conference examining the rise and decline of NAFTA, and pointed, in part, to a lack of government leadership in creating a sense of a North American market and community. Continue reading

Midwestern Business Leaders Give Strong Support for Path to Citizenship

By Craig Kafura and Dina Smeltz

According to the Chicago Council’s September 2013 survey among businesses in the Midwest, support for immigration reform among Midwestern business leaders is strong, with majorities supporting comprehensive immigration reform and a pathway to citizenship,  And with good reason: immigration reform is expected to have a range of benefits to the economy. However, that support is not uniform: roughly three in ten Midwestern business leaders oppose comprehensive immigration reform that includes key aspects of enforcement as well as a path to citizenship.

So what drives some Midwestern business leaders to oppose immigration reform? It’s not what you’d think.  Our analysis shows that those who oppose a version of comprehensive immigration reform see it as too restrictive and would prefer a more straightforward path to citizenship for the eleven million undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States. 

Continue reading

Africa May Be Rising, but Not Lifting All Equally

There has been a lot of hopeful talk about Africa in the past year.

For instance, the World Bank has noted that several African countries, including Ethiopia, Mozambique, Niger, Sierra Leone and Rwanda are among the fastest growing countries worldwide.   The authors of The Fastest Billion: The Story Behind Africa’s Economic Revolution  also report that Africa now has more of the fastest-growing economies globally than any other continent. In its 2013 Annual Development Effectiveness Reviewthe African Development Bank echoes the same themethat Africa has become the world’s fastest growing region. And the Economist reports that over the past ten years real income per person on the continent has increased by more than 30 percent.

Amidst these optimistic assessments, the Afrobarometer released new survey findings from 34 African countries (with fieldwork spanning October 2011 through June 2013), which prompted some caveats to the emerging Africa thesis. Some of the results that comprise the Afrobarometer’s Lived Poverty Index findings across all 34 countries indicated that:

  • About two in ten overall report experiencing frequent shortages (going “many times” or “always” in the past year) in water (22%), medicines and medical care (20%), and food (17%).
  • One in ten say they have experienced a frequent shortage in cooking oil (13%).
  • Four in ten have experienced frequent shortages of cash income (44%).
  • Shortages were more often experienced in rural than urban areas.  Those in Burundi, Guinea, niger, Senegal and Togo experienced the highest average levels of lived poverty.

These results motivated some writers to highlight the disconnect between these findings and the Africa Rising narrative (for example, in the Christian Science Monitor and on the Afrobarometer’s website). If nothing else, the results seem to show that advances in Africa’s GDP growth are uneven and are not trickling down to the substantial impoverished segments of these populations.  The authors of Afrobarometer Policy Brief 1 that also compared trends across the decade and found that while lived poverty was decreased in some countries, “there are as many where lived poverty has increased.”

This is especially apparent within the context of other demographic trends. An African Development Bank brief shows that 44 percent of Africans fall below the poverty line of $1.25 a day, though this percentage has fallen about 4 percentage points since 2000. Sixty percent live below another often-used international poverty line of $2 dollars a day.  The McKinsey Global Institute’s Lions on the Move report found in their 27-country sample that 63 percent of Africans work in subsistence farming and informal employment, are therefore vulnerable to tremors  in the global economic system.

As others  (Javier Blas, Jan Hofmeyr, etc) have pointed out, poverty reduction has not moved as quickly as GDP growth rates. As Africa’s economy expands, it appears its inequality gap may as well.

Prime Minister Maliki Goes to Washington

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki met with President Obama today in Washington, reportedly to request assistance in the form of advanced military aircraft  to counter the reactivated insurgency in Iraq.  Maliki also took this request to the American people – or at least to readers of The New York Times –  in his op-ed published October 29th, which linked American to Iraqi interests in combating Al Qaeda and resolving the situation in Syria:

“These mutual interests include combating terrorism and resolving the conflict in Syria. The war in Syria has become a magnet that attracts sectarian extremists and terrorists from various parts of the world and gathers them in our neighborhood, with many slipping across our all-too-porous borders. We do not want Syria or Iraq to become bases for Al Qaeda operations, and neither does the United States.”

Prior to the meeting, a group of senators including Carl Levin,  John McCain, and Lindsay Graham sent a letter to President Obama criticizing Maliki’s unwillingness to share power with Sunni and Kurdish minorities.  They pitched the upcoming meeting as a chance to “re-engage with the American people about the continuing strategic importance of Iraq.”

Based on recent surveys, it’s not that likely that Americans would show enthusiasm about re-engaging.  For starters, a June 2013 Gallup poll found that a majority of Americans consider Iraq either unfriendly (40%) or an enemy (35%) compared to two in ten who consider it friendly but not an ally (17%) or an ally (4%).

Majorities in both an identically-wordede 2013  ABC News poll (58%) and the 2012 Chicago Council Survey (67%) said the Iraq war was not worth the costs.  Moreover,  in the Chicago Council poll, seven in ten agreed that the Iraq war worsened America’s relations with the Muslim world and that the experience of the Iraq war should make nations more cautious about using military force to deal with Rogue states.  Seven in ten also disagreed that the war will lead to the spread of democracy in the Middle East and that the threat of terrorism has been reduced by the war.


Other recent surveys with completely different wordings have found somewhat narrower divisions. A Pew 2013 survey also found the US public divided on whether the US made the right (41%) or wrong decision (44%) in using military force in Iraq. And another 2013 Gallup poll found that a slim majority of Americans believe the US made a mistake sending troops to fight in Iraq (53% vs. 42% not a mistake).

In his editorial, Prime Minister Maliki clarified “we are not asking for American boots on the ground.”  Good thing.  But the Chicago Council survey did show continued majority concern among Americans about international terrorism –  which is still the top threat – and some willingness for certain military actions against terrorism (especially airstrikes and targeted assassinations).  So in this case, if the target were truly Al Qaeda, perhaps Americans would endorse sending Apache helicopters, certainly instead of boots.