Transatlantic Trends 2014 reflects a Polish public opinion that is staunchly Atlanticist and has warmed to U.S. President Barack Obama, but is at the same time firmly supportive of the European Union. In its intense support for Ukraine’s westward course, it is second to no other country in NATO and the EU.
Poland’s desire for strong U.S. leadership increased by 11 percentage points from 2013, with 61% of Polish respondents saying that it was desirable and 29% saying it was undesirable.
Seventy-eight percent of Polish respondents reported that they had a favorable opinion of the United States, compared to 67% of Europeans in general. A plurality of Poles wished for the transatlantic relationship to become closer (37%, the largest group in the survey to choose this option, and up five percentage points since 2013), while 36% said it should remain about the same, and 22% expressed a desire for more independence (compared to a European average of 50%). Sixty-eight percent approved of President Obama’s handling of international policies (up eight percentage points since 2013). But Polish opinion was split about his handling of relations with Russia, with 41% approving and 40% disapproving.
Polish respondents also continued to want strong leadership from the European Union (73%), as well, and showed highly favorable views of the European Union (76%) — which made Poland the only country in the survey where respondents’ opinion of the EU was more strongly expressed than their desire for global EU leadership. Conversely, 81% of Polish respondents felt that Russian leadership was undesirable (46% said it was “very” undesirable), and 70% held an unfavorable view of Russia. Sixty-nine percent said the same of Chinese leadership, but only 41% said they had an unfavorable opinion of China.
A majority of Polish respondents approved of the way their government is handling international policies in general (52%), but disapproved of the way the Polish government is managing relations with Russia (55%).
THE ECONOMY, EU, AND IMMIGRATION
When asked what the most important issue facing Poland at the moment was, a plurality of Poles cited unemployment (44%), as compared to 27% of Europeans in general. Fifty-two percent of respondents in Poland felt personally affected by the economic crisis, a decrease of eight percentage points from 2013, while 42% of respondents reported that they were not affected.
Poland was among the countries most enthusiastic about their membership in the European Union. Seventy-three percent said that it had been a good thing for their country, while only 13% described it as bad. Among Poles who said that membership has been a good thing, 43% said that it was because “the EU allows freedom of travel, work, and study within its borders”; 24% said that the EU had “strengthened European economies.”
A majority of Polish respondents (50%) approved of the way their government is handling immigration, while 36% disapproved. This is in contrast to the United States and Europe in general, where 71% and 60%, respectively, disapproved of government handling of immigration.
TRANSATLANTIC SECURITY COOPERATION
The number of respondents in Poland who felt that NATO is still essential for their country’s security increased dramatically from 2013, by 15 percentage points to 62%. Eighty-two percent of Polish respondents said that NATO should be engaged in the territorial defense of Europe. Fifty-eight percent of Poles said that NATO should provide arms and training to help other countries defend themselves, while 52% of European respondents disagreed. But when Ukraine was mentioned, Polish support dropped somewhat, to 52%. Poles were split on out-of-area operations by NATO, with 43% saying the alliance should conduct such operations, and 42% said it should not. Fifty-two percent of Poles, however, said NATO should attempt to establish stability in places like Afghanistan.
Polish respondents showed the most favorable opinion of Ukraine in the entire survey (56%). Poland was among the countries with the most respondents in favor of providing economic and political support to Ukraine even if it risks increasing conflict with Russia (67%, second only to Sweden’s 73%). Sixty-three percent of Poles supported offering NATO membership to Ukraine (EU average: 46% in favor and 47% opposed). Polish respondents also registered the highest support for offering EU membership to Ukraine (69%), as opposed to 52% of Europeans. When asked about economic support for Ukraine, Polish respondents were also more enthusiastic than the European average(78% of Poles, compared to 68% of Europeans). Poland was the only country in which a majority (52%) supported sending military supplies and equipment to Ukraine. Seventy-seven percent of Poles supported stronger economic sanctions against Russia, the highest support registered for this option.