Photo: Foreign Policy Association I don’t like saying that the majority of Americans are ignorant when it comes to foreign policy, but when you read some of the statistics that were listed in a recent article in the magazine named after this very subject, it’s disconsolately hard to deny. Take my mother for example. She is the type of person who believes that President Obama is some kind of Arab/Kenyan/Communist secret agent who is trying to destroy America from the inside out. As I was living with my parents and going to graduate school, I would often come home from class and go off on these long-winded soliloquies in an attempt to talk sense into her. Eventually, though, I just stopped trying and/or caring. During a recent Skype call back home, I told my mother about how I was now on vacation in Thailand, having arrived from Cambodia where I currently live. “Oh, that must have been a really long flight,” she said. “No, mom. It’s about 10 hours by bus from Phnom Penh to Bangkok.” “But isn’t Cambodia next to Brazil?” I don’t know if she was confusing Cambodia and Colombia, or something else entirely. But I quickly steered the conversation to a lighter topic, such as my impending visit to a Bangkok zoo. As I anticipated,  the true meaning of my double entendre went over her head. As we approach election day in America, I adhere to this philosophy: a good foreign policy doesn’t really help a candidate, but a bad foreign policy can have the potential to ruin an entire candidacy. FPA released it’s National Opinion Ballot Report recently, which attempts to encapsulate the opinions of cognizant citizens on the topics presented in the Great Decision series. I touched on the Indonesia episode earlier this year. There were some interesting findings, many of which went against the conventional wisdom one would expect Americans to believe. But, then again, the individuals who took part in the survey seemed to be more involved, or at least interested, in foreign policy in general than the average American. The Foreign Policy Association aims to inspire Americans to learn about the world. However, what do foreigners think about America? True, they cannot vote, nor can they have a voice in the American electoral process, but outside opinions should not be dismissed as irrelevant. I am often asked about America’s perception abroad by my friends. So, I decided to conduct a survey of my university students in Cambodia on the upcoming American election and American and international politics in general. University students often hold strong opinions, and can be very ideological. It may offer the possibility of a blunt assessment about what foreigners understand about America. Or, it may just be the opinions of a few random students. But that’s what surveys are for. This was a paper-based survey which the students were instructed to fill out quietly and by themselves. It’s my smallest class (nine students), but also my most advanced. It is an academic writing course, not a political science one. I am only going to publish the results of the study; the analysis can be left up to the reader. Students: 9 Male: 3 Female: 6 Ages 17: 1 18: 5 19: 1 20: 1 25: 1 Question 1: Do you know who Barack Obama is? Yes: 9 No: 0 Question 2: Do you know who Mitt Romney is? Yes: 0 No: 9 Question 3: Do you know about the upcoming elections in the United States? Yes: 8 No: 1 Question 4: Do you know who the Vice President of the United States is? Yes: 1 (student answered incorrectly when the questionnaire said: “If yes, write the name in the blank.”) No: 8 Question 5: Do you believe the United States is friendly with Cambodia? Yes: 7 No: 2 Question 6: Write which country you feel is friendliest with Cambodia. China: 6 votes Russia: 2 votes Vietnam: 1 vote Question 7: Do you think the United States gives Cambodia economic assistance/aid? Yes: 4 No: 5 Question 8: Would you like the United States to provide more economic assistance/aid to Cambodia? Yes: 1 No: 8 Question 9: Do you think the United States is more concerned with peace or power? Peace: 2 Power: 7 Question 10: Write one word that you associate with the United States. Money: 5 Bombs: 1 Guns: 1 Power: 1 Iphone: 1


Survey: Cambodian Students and American Politics

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