The link below takes us to an essay which was written by Denis Lacorne, he is French and he directs the masters programme on American Politics at L'Institut d'Etudes Politiques in Paris.
It includes the results from a SOFRES (SOFRES is part of TNS, a leading market research group) poll done in 2000 which had the open-ended question, 'When you think of the United States, what words and images come to your mind?', 56% of French answered negatively to this question and the most common issue that came up was that of violence (21%). All of the findings can be found on the last two pages of the essay.
Denis has also detailed 'three quick swings' of public opinion which has occured since 11th September, 2001. The first phase is that of empathy, the idea that the french government have imposed a three minute silence and hundreds of drawings elementary schools in normandy sent to the US embassy, then the second phase is the different opinion France took on American intervention in Iraq, 78% of a polled sample, opposed the American Intervention and more surprising, a quarter of the French said they were 'on the iraqi side'. The third stage is that of reconciliation and the preperation for the G8 summit, giving oppertunity for friendly relations.
What's interesting is that Denis mentions ...
'We Believe we know a great deal about America, but in fact we know very little...There are numerous reasons for such ignorance: nigligence, lack of depth research, excessive reliance on hearsay and reductionist stereotypes, old-fashioned prejudices, and no doubt, a certain arrogance, based on a feeling of European cultural and moral superiority'
Is this another way of saying France is more cultured than America? Or at least, does the French think it is? The essay is detailed and worth reading, it was written in 2005 however, but it offers some interesting data results and opinions from what seems a reliable source, rather than the abundance of blogs swimming around the web.