The state of transatlantic public opinion
Today the German Marshall Fund of the United States released a survey of American, German, and French public opinion that was conducted in late November. The results suggest that public attitudes towards the countries across the Atlantic are not great — but at least they’re improving: While disapproval of President Bush’s foreign policy decisions remains ...
Today the German Marshall Fund of the United States released a survey of American, German, and French public opinion that was conducted in late November. The results suggest that public attitudes towards the countries across the Atlantic are not great -- but at least they're improving:
Today the German Marshall Fund of the United States released a survey of American, German, and French public opinion that was conducted in late November. The results suggest that public attitudes towards the countries across the Atlantic are not great — but at least they’re improving:
While disapproval of President Bush’s foreign policy decisions remains quite high in Europe, attitudes toward the United States are not as clear-cut. When asked how they felt about the U.S. taking a strong role in world affairs, majorities in France and Germany said that it was undesirable – 65% and 57%, respectively. While these figures would appear quite negative, they actually represent an improvement of 8 and 3 percentage points in France and Germany, since June, 2004. Continued discontent with American leadership in France and Germany has kept support for a more independent Europe high. When asked whether the United States and the European Union should become closer or take more independent approaches to foreign and security policy 66% of French and 54% of German respondents said the European Union should take a more independent approach. On the face of it, this may seem to be a bad sign for U.S.-European relations, but the trends on this data are positive. In this last round of polling we found that the number of French and German respondents who said that the U.S. and the EU should become closer actually increased by 5 and 4 percentage points, respectively, since June. Additionally, the number of German respondents who said that the EU should take a more independent approach dropped by 10 percentage points over the same period…. There can be little doubt that the transatlantic rift that developed during the lead-up to the war in Iraq is still present. Yet, the reelection of President George W. Bush, whose decisions are often viewed as the primary reason for this rift, does not seem to have put any further strain on U.S.-European relations, at least not at the level of public opinion. If anything, damage to the transatlantic relationship appears to be showing the first signs of recovery as evidenced by a modest increase among French and German respondents in their desire to work more closely with the United States, as well as a decrease in their opposition to American leadership in world affairs. In addition, given the level of agreement in terms of American attitudes about what France and Germany can do to heal the transatlantic divide, and French and German attitudes about what the U.S. can do to mend the rift, there seems to be ample room to begin a U.S.-European rapprochement. Increased diplomacy and efforts to strengthen the EU’s military capabilities would most likely lie at the heart of any thaw Also promising for U.S.-European relations are the high favorability ratings of both the U.S. and NATO by citizens on both sides of the Atlantic. As the survey details, American, French, and German respondents not only agree on the benefits of these institutions, but they also agree in large part on their problems. This fact alone is good news as these organizations have traditionally helped to buttress the U.S.-European relationship. Revamping and refining these institutions to meet the needs of the 21st century could offer a possible avenue for rebuilding transatlantic ties.
The most interesting finding in the survey is the congruence between American and European attitudes about how to deal with Iran:
Respondents were asked to choose between two courses of action for preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. One choice, described as supported by many American policymakers, included the threat of military action. The other, “European” choice emphasized diplomacy and soft power. Despite the identification of the first option as the “American” choice, only 30% of American respondents selected this course. Fifty-five percent of Americans supported the “European” approach, as did 82% of French and 91% of the German respondents. American support for a “soft power” strategy vis-à-vis Iran went up even further when the supporters of military action were offered a chance to change their position in return for European support on keeping Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Over 39% of Americans who initially chose the “American” position were willing to change their approach in order to gain the support of European allies.
You can read the summary essay by clicking here — and here’s a link to the topline survey results. FULL DISCLOSURE: This seems an appropriate moment to mention that I was recently named a non-resident transatlantic fellow of the German Marshall Fund of the United States. Furthermore, “During his time with GMF, he will advise on the design and analysis of public opinion surveys on foreign policy and collaborate with the Trade and Development program on the transatlantic trade relationship.” Which means that one of my responsibilities was offering my (minor) input to this survey instrument.
Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and co-host of the Space the Nation podcast. Twitter: @dandrezner
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