Greece was included in Transatlantic Trends for the first time in 2014. The poll data show a public deeply worried by the economic crisis, and voicing alienation from the EU and NATO — but from its own government as well.
Only 31% of Greek respondents thought U.S. leadership was desirable — the lowest approval rate for any EU member state — and only 33% of Greeks approved of U.S. President Barack Obama’s handling of international policies, as opposed to 64% of Europeans who approved. Only 40% of Greeks regarded the United States favorably; more than two-thirds (69%, compared to 50% of Europeans) wanted their country to take a more independent approach in the transatlantic relationship.
Greeks were also the least likely in Europe to describe a strong EU leadership role as desirable (59%), and at the same time the most likely to describe it as undesirable (38%). Sixty-six percent of Greek respondents also disapproved of their own government’s management of foreign policy. A majority of Greeks (51%) also said their view of the European Union was unfavorable.
Only in Greece did a majority describe strong Russian leadership as desirable (52%). Greeks were also the only respondents in the survey with a positive view of Russia, with 65% describing their view as positive; they were also the most likely to disapprove of U.S. Russia policy (62%). Nearly two-thirds of Greeks (60%) wanted their country to manage its relationship with Russia independently, rather than together with the other member states of the EU. Greeks were also the most likely to describe Chinese leadership as desirable (53%). It was also the only country aside from Russia where a majority (62%) held a favorable view of China.
THE ECONOMY, THE EU, AND IMMIGRATION
Forty-nine percent of Greek respondents — the highest response for this category — said the state of their economy was the most important issue facing their country. Asked whether they had been personally affected by the economic crisis, 95% said they had been — the highest value among the countries surveyed. Fifty-three percent said membership in the EU had been good for their country (as opposed to 65% of Europeans); 42% said it had been bad,
the highest negative response among the countries surveyed. Thirty-four percent of Greek respondents who said the EU had been good for their country agreed that this was because it “allows freedom of travel, work, and study within its borders.” Forty-four percent of Greek respondents who said the EU had been bad for their country said that this was because it had harmed their country’s economy. Sixty-nine percent of Greeks thought the euro had been bad for their country. Twenty-two percent of Greeks thought the EU was still not doing enough to combat the crisis, 61% thought both the EU and the affected countries were not doing enough,and only 4% said that the countries affected were not doing enough without blaming the EU as well. The feeling that the EU should not be given more budgetary authority ran particularly high in Greece (79%).
Disapproval of national immigration policy in Greece was the second-highest registered in the survey (75%). When asked why immigrants come to their country, 72% of Greeks mentioned work, and 56% mentioned “to seek asylum.” A majority of Greeks favored more restrictive refugee policies (56%). Eighty-four percent of Greek respondents were concerned by immigration from outside the EU. A large majority in Greece (70%) thought first-generation immigrants were not integrating well; the same number, however, felt that their children were doing much better. Ninety-five percent of those polled in Greece thought emigration is a problem for their country; 55% said they had considered moving abroad.
TRANSATLANTIC SECURITY COOPERATION
When asked whether they preferred managing specific relationships together with the United States, other members of the EU, or independently, two-thirds of Greek respondents (62%) said they preferred their country to manage its relationship with China independently rather than together with other members of the EU; 53% said the same of the Middle East. Greece was the only country in Europe in which a majority described NATO as “no longer essential” for its security (52%). While a majority of Greeks (51%) said NATO should continue to be engaged in territorial defense, 69% were of the opinion that it should not undertake out-of-area missions. A plurality of Greeks (49%) felt NATO should not attempt to establish stability in places like Afghanistan, but 47% said it should.
Greece was the only country in the survey in which a plurality of respondents (49%) disapproved of providing continued political and economic support to Ukraine, even if there was a risk of continued conflict with Russia — with majorities on both sides of the Atlantic disagreeing (United States: 57%; EU: 58%). However, a plurality of Greeks (49%) favored offering NATO membership to Ukraine, and 61% were willing to offer it EU membership. At the same time, Greeks were also the most likely to disapprove of stronger sanctions against Russia (61%).