Transatlantic Trends 2014 shows a Dutch public that sees itself firmly ensconced in the EU and NATO, but that prefers traditional instruments like economic aid and sanctions for Western engagement in the conflict over Ukraine.
Two-thirds of Dutch respondents (68%) said that U.S. leadership was desirable; only 28% said it was not. Seventy-four percent of Dutch respondents approved of U.S. President Barack Obama’s handling of international policies — ten percentage points higher than the European average — and 75% said they regarded the United States favorably, up six percentage points since 2013. A plurality of Dutch respondents (47%), however, wanted their country to take a more independent approach in the transatlantic relationship, as opposed to 32% who wanted it to remain about the same.
Seventy-four percent said EU leadership was desirable, and 67% said they held a favorable view of the EU. Sixty percent of the Dutch also approved of their own government’s foreign policies; 33% said they disapproved.
Sixty-eight percent (up five percentage points since 2013) felt that Russian global leadership was undesirable; 73% of Dutch respondents said their view of Russia was unfavorable, a six percent increase from 2013. A plurality of Dutch respondents (48%) wanted their country to manage its relationship with Russia together with other member states of the EU, rather than independently (38%). Dutch views of Chinese leadership were much more mixed, with 45% saying it was desirable, and 47% saying it was not. Forty-five percent held a favorable view of China; 42% said their view was unfavorable.
THE ECONOMY, THE EU, AND IMMIGRATION
When asked about the most important issue facing their country, Dutch respondents were torn between the state of their economy and healthcare (both 29%). Asked whether they had been personally affected by the economic crisis, 53% said they had not been affected, a reversal from 2013 when 54% said they had been.
Sixty-three percent said membership in the EU had been good for their country (as opposed to 65% of Europeans); 26% said it had been bad. Thirty-one percent of Dutch respondents who said the EU had been good for their country, when asked why they said this, chose the response “the EU is a community of democracies that should act together”; 24% said “the European Union has strengthened European economies.” Forty percent of Dutch respondents who said the EU had been bad for their countrysaid that this was because there was too much authority in the European Union. Asked whether the euro had been bad for their economy, Dutch responses were mixed. Forty-seven percent said it had been good, 45% said it had been bad.
Dutch respondents were also of two minds concerning the prospect of the United Kingdom leaving the European Union. Forty-five percent said the U.K.’s concerns should be accommodated within the Union, while 40% said the United Kingdom should leave the EU.
Fourteen percent of Dutch respondents thought the EU was still not doing enough to combat the economic crisis; 40% thought both the EU and the countries affected were not doing enough, and 14% said that the countries affected were not doing enough without blaming the EU as well. Sixty-seven percent of those polled in the Netherlands thought that the EU should not be given more budgetary authority.
Fifty-seven percent of Dutch respondents said they disapproved of their country’s handling of immigration. When asked why immigrants come to their country, 56% mentioned “to seek social benefits” and 47% cited “to seek asylum,” while 45% said “to work.” The Dutch had mixed feelings about their country’s refugee policies, with 36% saying the current policies were about right, and 34% favoring more restrictive refugee policies. Dutch respondents were split about immigration from inside the EU, with 49% saying they were worried and 49% saying they were not; 56% were worried about immigration from outside the EU. Fifty percent (up eight percentage points from 2013) felt that first-generation immigrants were integrating poorly, but 66% of Dutch respondents said that the second generation was integrating well.
TRANSATLANTIC SECURITY COOPERATION
Asked whether they preferred managing specific relationships with other members of the EU or independently, a plurality of Dutch respondents (48%) said they preferred their country to manage its relationship with China in an EU context; a plurality (47%) said the same of the Middle East.
Eighty-one percent of Dutch respondents (up nine percentage points from 2013) said NATO was still essential for their country’s security. Eighty-three percent — the highest response rate in this category — said NATO should continue to be engaged in the territorial defense of Europe. Fifty-eight percent felt it should also continue to conduct out-of-area missions. Fifty percent felt that NATO should provide arms or training to help other countries defend them-selves, though responses were more mixed if Ukraine was mentioned as a specific example, with 47% saying it should not, and 45% saying it should. Sixty-two percent agreed that NATO should attempt to establish stability in places like Afghanistan.
Fifty-three percent approved of providing continued political and economic support to Ukraine, even if there was a risk of increasing conflict with Russia; 39% disapproved.
Fifty-one percent of Dutch respondents disapproved of offering NATO membership to Ukraine, and 57% were unwilling to offer it EU membership. Seventy-four percent did not want to send military supplies and equipment to Ukraine. However, two-thirds (65%) were willing to increase economic assistance to Ukraine, and 67% said they approved of stronger sanctions against Russia.