A new survey asks U.S. students about the high-profile case of the American convicted of murder in Perugia. A surprisingly high number say they consider Amanda Knox's fate when weighing whether to study abroad in Italy.
Study in Italy? No grazie. Young Americans seem to have grown less attracted by the opportunity to spend a semester or two at an Italian university. And according to a new survey the Amanda Knox case is partly to blame.
Conducted by the Rome campus of Loyola University and the Italy-USA Foundation, the study "American Students' Thoughts on Italy" looked into overall attitudes of potential young visitors to Italy. But the poll also specifically tried to gauge the effect on prospective exchange students of the high-profile case of the Seattle native convicted for the murder of her British roommate Meredith Kercher, while the two were part of a study abroad program in the Italian city of Perugia.
A sampling of 800 American students were asked if the Knox case would affect their decision of whether to study in Italy. Twenty-seven percent of respondents said that it wouldn't affect their choice at all, 13% thought it would, and 47% said that it would have some impact, but would not be a determining factor.
The case has been a blow to the image of foreign study in Italy, historically one of the preferred destinations for American university students, drawn by the country's lifestyle and cultural heritage. But ill will has apparently been spread by the December 2009 conviction of Knox for the murder committed two years earlier, for which her Italian boyfriend and fellow student Raffaele Sollecito and a Perugia resident, Rudy Guede, were also found guilty.
In the United States a so-called "Party of Amanda," has formed around the convicted co-ed, including family, friends, judges, politicians and businessmen who see her as a "victim" of the Italian judicial system and of a media lynching. Supporters have asked for the intervention of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and even Donald Trump has proposed a boycott of Italy until Knox is freed from jail.
The new study finds that attitudes about Italy have suffered because of the comments by Trump, who has recently indicated a desire to run for president in 2012. The billionaire's call for a boycott feeds negative attitudes about the U.S., as a place where "innocent Americans are persecuted," with 24% of respondents saying their view on Italy has been affected by the comments.
More generally, the study shows a recent overall decline in Italy's share of the US travel dollars. In 2007, Italy had a market share of 19.3% of all American tourism abroad; in 2009, it fell to 17.5%. The main reasons cited are neither Knox nor Trump, but the weak U.S. economy and strong euro. For those who have decided not to come to Italy for vacation or study abroad, the strength of the euro is given as the main reason (16%), with others citing the threat of terrorism in Europe (6%), and political instability (5%).
Read the original article in Italian