SURVEY: Obama Foreign Policy Approval Rating Drops on Both Sides of the Atlantic; Europeans Want More Independence in Transatlantic Relationship

SURVEY: Obama Foreign Policy Approval Rating Drops on Both Sides of the Atlantic; Europeans Want More Independence in Transatlantic Relationship

~Transatlantic Trends: U.S. & European majorities view Russia unfavorably, support economic and political support for Ukraine; majorities in Europe wish to accommodate the U.K. rather than see it leave the EU; plurality of Americans feel illegal immigrants should be given opportunity to legalize their status ~


Washington DC, (Sept. 10, 2014) — The 13th annual Transatlantic Trends survey out today revealsa majority of Americans disapproved of President Barack Obama’s international policies (53%) and while a majority of Europeans approved, that number decreased five percentage points from 2013 (64% from 69%). Transatlantic Trends 2014 shows the most notable shift in opinion was in Germany, where 56% of respondents — a 20 percentage point drop from last year — retained a positive opinion of Obama’s international policies, while 38%, a 19 percentage point increase from 2013, disagreed.

A division emerged between European and U.S. respondents on what future they would prefer for the transatlantic security partnership. Fifty percent of Europeans said they would prefer to see their country take a more independent approach from the United States, up 8 percentage points from last year. The most remarkable response was from Germany. For the first time a majority said they would prefer their country take an approach in security and diplomatic affairs that was more independent from the United States (57%, up 17 percentage points from 2013). In the United States, however, a 34% plurality would like the relationship to become closer; only 19% in Germany wanted the same.

“The turbulence in transatlantic relations over the past year is mirrored in this year’s Transatlantic Trends data,” said GMF President Karen Donfried. “However, the challenges posed by Russian actions in Ukraine and crises across the Middle East underscore the importance of strengthened transatlantic cooperation.”

Transatlantic Trends 2014 is an annual survey of U.S. and European public opinion conducted by the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) and the Compagnia di San Paolo, with additional support from the Barrow Cadbury Trust, the BBVA Foundation, and the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs. Ten European Union member states were surveyed: France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom, as well as the United States, Russia, and Turkey. Polling was conducted by TNS Opinion between June 2 and June 26, 2014.

Seventy-one percent of Americans said their opinion of Russia was unfavorable and 68% of Europeans agreed. Transatlantic majorities wanted to continue economic and political support for Ukraine, even if that meant a risk of continued conflict with Russia; a majority of Americans polled were willing to give NATO membership to Ukraine (68%), while a majority of Europeans were willing to offer it EU membership (52%). A majority of Russians polled said their country should act to maintain its influence over Ukraine, even if there is a risk of conflict with the EU (53%). (Note: polling was conducted between June 2 and June 26, prior to the downing of flight MH17.)

When asked whether illegal immigrants should be required to return to their country of origin or should be given the opportunity to obtain legal status, a plurality of Americans (45%) said illegal immigrants should be able to obtain legal status in the United States; 27% felt they should be require to return. Of those Americans who supported legalization, 86% agreed that the legal status should include a path to U.S. citizenship; only 11% disagreed.


The Transatlantic Relationship

A little more than half of EU respondents (56%) said it was desirable that the United States exert strong leadership in world affairs, almost unchanged from 2013. Favorable opinion of the United States dropped three percentage points in Europe from last year, to 67%. The favorability of the United States in Germany however dropped from 68% in 2013 to 58% this year.

Nearly three-in-four Americans (70%) — up 13 percentage points since last year — said it was desirable for the EU to exercise strong leadership, as did 73% of European respondents. Favorable opinion of the EU rose seven percentage points in the United States (57%), while in Europe, a majority expressed a favorable view as well (65%). Favorability of the EU also rose among Turkish respondents; 45% described their opinion of the EU as favorable, a ten percentage point increase since 2013, and 31% of Turks said EU leadership is desirable, a five percentage point increase since last year.

Opinion of Russia and Russian global leadership continued to decline on both sides of the Atlantic. Sixty-eight percent of Europeans and 53% of Americans said they considered Russian leadership undesirable; 71% of Americans (up 23 percentage points since 2012) and 68% of Europeans (up 13 percentage points since 2012) said their opinion of Russia was unfavorable.

Asked again this year about Chinese global leadership, a majority of Americans (55%, an increase of eight percentage points since 2013) said they found it undesirable, as did 65% of Europeans and 70% of Turks.

The Economy, The EU, and Immigration

A majority of European respondents (73%) said the EU was not doing enough to combat the economic crisis, particularly in the countries most affected, such as Spain (88%) and Italy (87%).

Sixty-five percent considered EU membership to have been beneficial to their countries while 28% said it had been bad, the highest numbers responding “bad” being in Greece (42%), the U.K. (40%), Italy (36%), and Portugal (36%). Among those who said membership in the EU was bad for their country, 45% said it was because the EU has harmed their national economy.

For the first time this year, Transatlantic Trends asked about discussions about the U.K. leaving the EU. A majority of respondents (51%) in the EU said other member states should do more to accommodate British concerns. Thirty-eight percent thought it would be better if the U.K. left the EU; only in France did a majority (52%) hold the view that the U.K should exit.

Transatlantic majorities disapproved of their own governments’ handling of immigration — Americans: 71% and Europeans in general: 60%. Majorities approved in Sweden (60%) and Poland (50%).

Transatlantic Security Cooperation

NATO was seen as “still essential” by 61% of EU respondents and 58% of Americans, both up three percentage points from 2013.

For the first time this year, Transatlantic Trends asked which kinds of missions NATO should be engaged in. Majorities of Americans (59%), Europeans (73%), and Turks (57%) said it should be engaged in the territorial defense of Europe. When asked if the organization should conduct out-of-area missions, a majority of Europeans (51%) said NATO should not conduct military operations outside of the United States and Europe, whereas a plurality of Americans said it should (49%). Turks were evenly split; 41% said NATO should operate out-of-area missions, 42% said it should not.


Transatlantic Trends polled in Russia for the second time in 2014 (the first was 2012). Russians strongly oppose U.S. leadership: 81% of respondents consider U.S. global leadership undesirable, a 17 percentage point increase since 2012. Sixty-two percent said the same of European leadership, up 18 percentage points from 2012. Eighty-six percent of Russians disapprove of Obama’s handling of international policies, whereas 83% said they approved of their own government’s handling of foreign affairs. Eighty-seven percent of Russian respondents said they disapprove of Obama’s management of relations with their country. Seventy-two percent of Russians viewed the United States with disfavor; 52% said they felt the same about the EU.

When asked what they saw a the most important issues facing their country at the moment, a plurality (29%) of respondents named the economy; international instability was second-most named (22%), while corruption was the third-most cited concern (11%). Half of Russian respondents, down eight percentage points from 2012, reported having been affected by the economic crisis. Fifty-three percent said Russia should act to maintain its influence over Ukraine, even if there was a risk this could cause conflict with the EU; 29% said it should not.


For the full report, methodology, and topline data, see

Media Contacts:

In the United States (Washington): Kelsey Glover, +1 513 319 6103,
In Europe (Brussels): Sarah Halls, +32 484 491 078,
In Sweden: Anna Tornberg, +46 8 511 768 70,
In Spain: Silvia Churruca Zarasqueta, +34913745210, +34 629175147 (mobile),

Comments are closed.