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~ New Transatlantic Trends Survey released: Majority of EU and U.S. respondents felt NATO is essential;
Youth drive American views on Asia; majority of Europeans feel EU membership has helped their country’s economy ~
WASHINGTON, DC (September 14, 2011) – The 10th annual Transatlantic Trends survey out today reveals that Americans may be turning their focus away from Europe, as a majority of U.S. respondents said that their national interests lie more with the countries of Asia than with the European Union.
Transatlantic Trends 2011 (www.transatlantictrends.org) shows that a slight majority of Americans (51%) feel that Asian countries, such as China, Japan, or South Korea, were more important to their country‟s national interests than were the countries of the EU (38%). On the other hand, 52% of those living in the EU countries polled thought that the United States was more important to their national interests than the countries of Asia (37%). This year‟s results mark a notable reversal in U.S. attitudes from 2004, when a majority of Americans (54%) viewed the countries of Europe as more important to their vital interests than the countries of Asia (29%).
“Transatlantic Trends marks a potential sea change for the transatlantic relationship,” said GMF President Craig Kennedy. “We may have arrived at a watershed moment when the United States looks west to the Far East as its first instinct. This is a moment when transatlantic leaders need to step up and lead.”
“And yet,” remarked Angelo Benessia, Chairman of the Compagnia di San Paolo, “on both sides of the Atlantic there’s the awareness that the US and the EU share fundamental common values. There is still, in political and cultural terms, a ‘Free World’ which has however lost its economic primacy. Restarting and redefining economic growth in free and just societies could prove to be the common priority on which the transatlantic leaders should work together again.”
Transatlantic Trends 2011 is a comprehensive annual survey of American and European public opinion. Polling was conducted by TNS Opinion between May 25 and June 17, 2011, in the United States, Turkey, and 12 European Union member states: Bulgaria, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. The survey is a project of the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) and the Compagnia di San Paolo, with additional support from the Fundação Luso-Americana, Fundación BBVA, the Communitas Foundation, and the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs.
TRANSATLANTIC RELATIONS AND U.S. LEADERSHIP
The transatlantic relationship remains strong as 71% of U.S. respondents and 68% of EU respondents said they felt that their countries had enough common values to be able to cooperate on international problems. European views of U.S. leadership also remained high. Seventy-five percent of people in the 12 EU countries polled approved of Obama‟s handling of international policies, a higher approval rating than they gave their own governments (54%). However U.S. public opinion is strongly polarized: 85% of Democrats approved of Obama‟s handling of international policies, but Republicans were four times less likely to approve (21%). The data also revealed that Europeans are less likely to approve of the president‟s specific foreign policies, continuing a trend found last year. In Europe, the only foreign policy area where his approval was almost as high as his general approval came in his handling of international terrorism. On average in the EU, 73% approved of the American president in that capacity, likely influenced by his administration‟s success in eliminating Osama bin Laden.
YOUTH FAVOR CHINA
A generation gap has emerged among Americans with regard to China. Young people in the United States viewed China more positively than older Americans. Close to three-in-five (59%) Americans between the ages of 18-24 had a favorable opinion of China, but that favorable opinion was only shared by 33% of the 45-54 age group, 37% of those between 55 and 64, and 36% of those 65 or older. This gap became more apparent when asked about U.S. national interests. Seventy-six percent of younger Americans (aged 18-24) identified the countries of Asia, such as China, Japan, and South Korea, to be more important than the countries of the European Union (17%). However, there was hardly any age gap when the same question was posed to EU respondents. Forty-one percent of 18-24 year olds felt Asia was most important to their national interests, a response within five percentage points of answers from the 25-34 year olds, 35-44 year olds, and 45-54 year olds. Despite U.S. youth viewing China as important to national interests, Europeans were much more likely than Americans to believe China was as an economic opportunity rather than a threat. This year, majorities in the Netherlands (67%), Sweden (65%), the UK (58%), and Germany (57%) as well as around half of the population in Bulgaria (49%) and Romania (51%) considered China an economic opportunity. This trend was reversed in the United States as 63% of respondents felt China was an economic threat and only 31% viewed the country as an opportunity. Americans are also somewhat more likely to see China as a military threat than those in the EU.
Many countries in the EU have reacted to the economic crisis by implementing austerity measures. When Europeans were asked whether they would prefer to decrease, maintain current levels, or increase government spending, half of those in the EU (50%) preferred to decrease spending. At the same time, Americans (61%) were also much more likely to want to decrease spending than either of the other options. While 67% of EU respondents considered EU membership good for the economy, the euro did not enjoy the same support. Only 40% of respondents in eurozone countries felt the euro had been good for their country‟s economy. Only 40% of the respondents in the EU felt that the euro had been or would be good for their country‟s economy.
They survey also found that personal economic pain was not abating in Europe and the United States. In America, 82% of respondents (up seven percentage points from 2010) had been personally affected by the economic crisis, while the average in the EU remained stable at (61%). Additionally, majorities across the EU (56%) disapproved of their governments’ management of the economy.
While a transatlantic opinion gap still exists on certain security topics, the survey also revealed notable shifts in public opinion on some key security policies. For the first time, a majority of Americans (56%) were pessimistic about the prospects of stabilizing the situation in Afghanistan, and European pessimism remained high (66%). American and European responses were nearly identical on several major security policy issues: 66% of U.S. and EU respondents felt that troop levels should be reduced or withdrawn from Afghanistan; 62% felt that NATO is essential; and three-quarters of Europeans and Americans remained concerned about Iran acquiring nuclear weapons.
LIBYA AND THE TRANSATLANTIC ROLE IN THE MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA
Please note that the survey was conducted before the most recent developments in Libya.
Regarding the intervention in Libya, EU respondents were, on average, evenly divided, with 48% approving and 47% disapproving, while a majority of U.S. respondents (59%) approved of international intervention. However, both EU and U.S. respondents were much more likely to approve of the Libyan intervention by international forces than they were to support sending their own countries‟ troops to assist the rebels. Only 31% of U.S. respondents and 32% of EU respondents supported sending troops from their own countries to assist the rebels who oppose Gaddafi.
Despite a majority approval from U.S. respondents on the Libyan intervention, Europeans were much more in favor of democracy promotion around the world than Americans – and these opinions were similar for democracy promotion specifically in the Middle East and North Africa. A solid majority of EU respondents (64%) said it should be the role of the European Union to support democracy in cases such as the Middle East and North Africa, while 29% said the EU should stay out completely. In the United States, only 43% agreed and half of the Americans (50%) said that the United States should stay out completely.
CONTINUITY AND CHANGE IN TURKEY
Although Turkish feelings for the EU and United States warmed somewhat over the past year, a majority of Turks still view the EU and United States unfavorably. A plurality of the Turks considered Turkey‟s neighbors in the Middle East as more important to the country‟s economic interests (43%) and security interests (42%) than countries of the EU (33%). While there was a 10-point increase over the last year (to 48%) in the percentage of Turks who thought Turkish membership in the EU would be a good thing, support remained much lower than it was in 2004 (73%).
For the full report and topline data, see www.transatlantictrends.org
This survey is a project of the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) and the Compagnia di San Paolo, with additional support from the Fundação Luso-Americana, Fundación BBVA, the Communitas Foundation, and the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs.
Opinion was commissioned to conduct the survey using Computer Assisted Telephone Interviews in all countries except Bulgaria, Poland, Slovakia, Romania, and Turkey, where lower telephone penetration necessitated the use of face-to-face interviews. In all countries, a random sample of approximately 1,000 men and women, 18 years of age and older, was interviewed. Interviews were conducted between May 25 and June 17, 2011.For results based on the national samples in each of the 14 countries surveyed, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of error attributable to sampling and other random effects is plus or minus three percentage points. For results based on the total EU sample, the margin of error is plus or minus one percentage point. Please see www.transatlantictrends.org for more detailed methodology.