Do Americans really hate Europe that much?

Back in June, shortly after Mitt Romney’s entry into the race, I wrote a short piece noting the anti-European rhetoric in Mitt Romney’s announcement of his candidacy, and predicting that Republicans would try to pain the president as a Brussels bureaucrat. After all, the “European” charge is a one-stop-shop shorthand for socialist economic policies, timidity ...

Mike Hewitt/ALLSPORT
Mike Hewitt/ALLSPORT
Mike Hewitt/ALLSPORT

Back in June, shortly after Mitt Romney's entry into the race, I wrote a short piece noting the anti-European rhetoric in Mitt Romney's announcement of his candidacy, and predicting that Republicans would try to pain the president as a Brussels bureaucrat. After all, the "European" charge is a one-stop-shop shorthand for socialist economic policies, timidity in foreign affairs, and suggesting that there's something not-quite-American about the president without getting into dangerous racial territory.

Judging by last night's New Hampshire victory speech, Romney is doubling down on this line of attack:

“President Obama wants to ‘fundamentally transform’ America. We want to restore America to the founding principles that made this country great.

Back in June, shortly after Mitt Romney’s entry into the race, I wrote a short piece noting the anti-European rhetoric in Mitt Romney’s announcement of his candidacy, and predicting that Republicans would try to pain the president as a Brussels bureaucrat. After all, the “European” charge is a one-stop-shop shorthand for socialist economic policies, timidity in foreign affairs, and suggesting that there’s something not-quite-American about the president without getting into dangerous racial territory.

Judging by last night’s New Hampshire victory speech, Romney is doubling down on this line of attack:

“President Obama wants to ‘fundamentally transform’ America. We want to restore America to the founding principles that made this country great.

“He wants to turn America into a European-style entitlement society. We want to ensure that we remain a free and prosperous land of opportunity.

“This president takes his inspiration from the capitals of Europe; we look to the cities and small towns of America.

And later:

“I want you to remember when our White House reflected the best of who we are, not the worst of what Europe has become.

On MSNBC this morning, Chris Matthews thought this was an effective tactic, saying something to the effect of, “A lot of Americans have done their European vacations. They thought the French were rude to them and Venice smells.” (This isn’t an exact quote. The clip isn’t posted yet.)

But I’m still not quite convinced that Americans are that hostile to Europe. Granted, this hasn’t been a great year for the European economic model, but it hasn’t exactly been a great one for the American economic model either. As Andrew Sullivan notes, Americans probably wouldn’t mind Germany’s unemployment rate. 

Americans may not want to live in Europe, but they don’t really hate it. A 2009 Pew Research Center poll found that 77 percent of Americans have favorable views of Britain, 66 percent for Germany and 62 percent for France. (The French number nearly doubled since 2003 when tensions were high over the Iraq War.)

Granted these numbers are from before the worst of the financial crisis (Although another poll released this year found that 55 percent of Americans have a favorable view of the E.U.) but I’m still not sure that U.S. hostility toward Europe — particularly in the general electorate — is as palpable as Romney seems to think it is.

Also, does Romney really want to come into office having spent his entire campaign bashing longtime U.S. allies?

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy  Twitter: @joshuakeating

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