Advocacy Group Releases Poll Results Which Reinforce Group’s Position

Poll results that promote the point-of-view of the commissioning group as news? Sure, if the poll knocks America:

Rude immigration officials and visa delays keep millions of foreign visitors away from the United States, hurt the country’s already battered image, and cost the U.S. billions of dollars in lost revenue, according to an advocacy group formed to push for a better system.

To drive home the point, the Discover America Partnership released the result of a global survey on Monday which showed that international travelers see the United States as the world’s worst country in terms of getting a visa and, once you have it, making your way past rude immigration officials.

Unfriendly ain’t the worst that can happen to travellers to a foreign country, but it’s awfully important to the make-feel-nice industries.

UPDATE: Once again, someone else discovers that I am dumb as a stump:

– Musings from Brian J. Noggle, who misses the point. The poll isn’t news because it “knocks America,” it is news because how people around the world view America impacts America in a variety of very important ways.

Well, I didn’t review the actual survey because I was not so inclined to delve into the material; instead, I wanted to point out, in my glib minimalist way:

  • The report is probably getting more media play because it reflects badly on America, albeit in a trivial way. Of course, I’ve got nothing to prove this, which is the beauty of glib minimalism. I just have to assert and rage against the machine. Take it for what it’s worth, which is not much, but hey, it’s a free site.
  • “Unfriendliness” in government officials is a relatively minor inconvenience compared to running into the religious police, getting shot during a civil uprising, or getting thrown in a foreign jail. But everyone has different priorities, I guess.
  • Regardless of its methodology, the survey’s findings are trivial and ultimately unimportant. After all, it’s measuring perceived unfriendliness of immigration officials. They’re government bureaucrats. Ask anyone about any government official and you’re likely to come up with an unfavorable reading on the old tricorder.
  • Finally, that a group of tourist-oriented companies would band together and find that tourism could be made better through some action of the government on their behalf is hardly shocking.

Still, I missed the point, which is changes to our immigration and visa policy to suit the needs of the study producers is good. No, I got that. Simple changes would benefit you. I got it.

But let’s look at the study’s other details (summary PDF) which can be spun otherwise than “U.S. is most unfriendly country to visitors.”

For example, once you get past the unfriendly, apparently they’re not afraid of the things that frighten Americans:

Immigration officials far outpace the threat of crime or terrorism as something international travelers worry about when considering coming to the US.

In spite of the raging unfriendliness, the visitors like the United States:

  • 63% of travelers feel more favorable towards the U.S. as a result of their visit.
  • 61% agree that, once a person visits the U.S., they become friendlier towards the country and its policies.
  • 72% report that once they get past government officials at the airport, the U.S. travel experience is “great.”
  • Nearly 9 in 10 travelers tell their friends, relatives about their travel experiences most or all of the time.


  • In every travel category but the point of entry experience, America ranks in the top three: travelers want to come to the U.S.
  • Travelers are willing to wait an average of 46.5 days to get a visa to visit the U.S.
  • More than 7 out of 10 travelers say that U.S. policies in the world would not stop them from visiting the U.S.

Yeah, it sounds a hell of a lot like the tourist street is rising up at our unfriendliness.

Meanwhile, since I am feeling minimalistly glib, allow me to mock some of the survey itself (survey results PDF).

For starters, 100% of the survey respondents had travelled off of their continent in the preceding year and a half, so we’re not talking about first time travellers. 65% are college graduates, compared to a thumbnail where college graduation rates by country top out at 40% (gathered here). The survey was taken on the Internet (or so I assume based on this question: “What regions have you traveled to? Just click on a region to indicate you have traveled there in the past 18 months.”

So the survey looks at well-travelled, well-educated, well-connected people. The sort who might easily look down on stupid foreign government officials, maybe. But that’s only what I assume based on my firsthand knowledge with frequent travellers abroad. Maybe I need to hang out with more down-to-earth jetsetters.

Now, here is our respondents’ breakdown by country:

What is your country of citizenship—that is, what country are you a citizen of?

United Kingdom















United Arab Emirates


Refused/not sure

Now, let’s look at the questions:

    Which ONE location on the map indicated BEST meets the requirement?
    Offers good value for the money/Has convenient air service from [respondent’s country] and reasonable travel time

Let’s look again at that list, broken out differently:

Respondents from Europe 35
Respondents from Asia/Australia 35
Respondents from South America 26

To put that in perspective:

Respondents from a different hemisphere 96 (minimum)

So tell me again how any of the responses about the US being a good value or being reachable in a “reasonable” amount of travel time might be hampered by the fact that we’re a large ocean, a small ocean, or a pretty good sea away from the respondents? What, aren’t the Canadians, the Mexicans, and the Caribbean people not worthy of an opinion?

I mean, heck’s pecs, I think Illinois is a heckuva bargain for the travel dollar and is very convenient for travelling to. Because I can freaking walk there.

But I am belaboring my point when I could berecreate some other point which probably won’t be blogged.

So let me make sure I am missing the point completely, because I rather hate to nick the point, or rather to merely backboard-rim the point instead of a complete air ball:

A study commissioned by a group representing the tourism industry (neverminding projections that international travel to the United States will grow this year by 5.5% (source) has discovered that a number of well-travelled, well-educated, Internet-survey-taking foreign travellers think that U.S. immigration and customs officials are rude, and Reuters ran the story because of its ability to cast ill on America.

Because frankly, that is my point.

Regardless of whether the travel procedures are onerous, which I have no doubt they are, the proper way to encourage a meaningful reflection on the process is not to shout from the rooftops FOREIGNERS SAY AMERICA IS UNFRIENDLY, but particularly if you’re trying to sell a solution to Americans.

Instead, perhaps an appeal to the generosity of Americans who want to share the experience of this beautiful nation and its myriad landscapes and culturescapes with other people who obviously view America favorably.

Oh, but no, I miss the point of a public policy initiative coming from a trade group based in Washington, D.C., who thinks the best mechanism to initiate American public policy reflection is the reproach of foreign opinion. Because I am a dumb, ugly, and unfriendly American, no doubt.

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6 thoughts on “Advocacy Group Releases Poll Results Which Reinforce Group’s Position

  1. The projected rise in international tourism to the U.S. is driven largely by rising tourism from Canada and Mexico, and masks declines in the number of visitors coming from France, Britain, other countries that have long been big sources of foreign visitors to the U.S. Visitation from those countries is actually declining.

    Also, while the number of Chinese traveling abroad is surging, the number visiting the U.S. is declining.

    Those are bad trends – bad for the tourism industry, sure, but also bad for America’s global public diplomacy efforts, as multiple research shows that foreigners who visit the U.S. have a much more positive opinion of the U.S. than foreigners who don’t. Given that reality, the U.S. would benefit from addressing whatever issues, including border-entry unfriendliness and visa application hassles, that are causing more foreigners to stay away, as long as we can do so without compromising security.

    That is the message of the opinion survey that you are deriding.

  2. I guess the best thing about the “American Experience” for the foreign visitor is, once they leave the scrutiny of the immigration/customs officials, the ease in which they can do whatever they like (within reason) without further hassle.

    Those few minutes spent answering questions are as important to us as it should be trivial to them. Now, if they had to check in daily or weekly, and had to produce papers every time they turned around, then there might be some area of concern, but otherwise, they should all just get over it…and enjoy the visit.

  3. Right, I get it.

    Because some foreigners think our officials are unfriendly, we should alter our security.

    I don’t think “Because someone thinks” is a good call to action for any action, especially security.

  4. Being the lazy person I am, I’m not going to go read the pdf’s *grin* but it occurs to me to wonder if these people were asked to compare their experience entering the US with any other countries or was it just the experience of entering our country?

    I mean, how do we rate compared to say… China? maybe Australia? And could some of the irritation with Customs officials be because they’ve just gotten off an 8 to 14 hour plane flight…

    Amazing the things that go into whether or not someone is annoyed by public officials.

  5. No, no, they didn’t actually have to come to America to participate; the survey asked them of their impression of American government entry procedures. Whether or not they’d been to America.

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