Closer Than You Think
Media commentary and reportage often portray the United States and Europe as far apart on a range of social and economic issues. Our survey found unexpected levels of agreement in several areas, including public attitudes toward globalization, global warming, biotechnology, and immigration. Globalization: Conventional wisdom is that Europeans are much more sensitive to this issue ...
Media commentary and reportage often portray the United States and Europe as far apart on a range of social and economic issues. Our survey found unexpected levels of agreement in several areas, including public attitudes toward globalization, global warming, biotechnology, and immigration.
Globalization: Conventional wisdom is that Europeans are much more sensitive to this issue than Americans because of Europe’s political history and its hesitancy to embrace lightly constrained market capitalism. Moreover, European elites often suggest that their hands are tied in trade negotiations because of a strong popular resistance to greater liberalization.
Our findings on globalization suggest that Americans are slightly more supportive than Europeans, but the differences are not dramatic [see chart above]. A slight majority of Americans think globalization is good for the United States and for their own standard of living; Europeans are somewhat less positive. Polish respondents are clearly less enthusiastic about globalization as they understand it. When we leave Poland out of the weighted European average, U.S. and Western European attitudes become even closer.
Global warming: We asked respondents to rate different “threats” to their country. Fifty percent of Europeans and 46 percent of Americans say global warming is a high-priority threat. More Americans (17 percent) than Europeans (8 percent) say global warming is not important, but it seems safe to say that public opinion in the United States on this issue is largely in line with that of Europe but out of step with the Bush administration’s policies. When asked to rate President George W. Bush’s performance on specific issues, Americans and Europeans both give him their lowest rating for his handling of this topic.
Biotechnology: During the last four years, the European Union has limited greatly the imports of U.S. food that contains genetically modified organisms (GMOs) on the grounds that these biotech products may present unspecified health and environmental risks. We asked respondents if they strongly support, moderately support, moderately oppose, or strongly oppose the use of biotechnology in agriculture and food production: Sixty-six percent of Europeans are opposed to some degree, compared with 45 percent of Americans. However, though a majority of Americans do support biotechnology in agriculture, this level of opposition is somewhat surprising given that U.S. companies dominate this field and that GMOs have been used in the United States for over a decade.
Immigration: Sixty percent of Americans and 38 percent of Europeans rate the level of threat posed by “large number of immigrants and refugees coming into your country” in the highest category. Great Britain (54 percent) and Italy (52 percent) come close to the U.S. levels. By contrast, only 23 percent of German respondents see this threat as extremely important, despite the major debate that immigration policy has provoked in that country. We also asked if respondents favor or oppose immigration restriction as a means for combating terrorism. In this case, 77 percent of Americans and 63 percent of Europeans favor the use of such limits for that specific purpose. Again, Great Britain (74 percent) and Italy (75 percent) have the highest percentages favoring restrictions, and Germans provide the least support for this proposal (44 percent).
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