Transatlantic Trends 2014 revealed a Spanish public that was deeply concerned about domestic issues, from the state of the economy to unemployment and corruption, as well as immigrants, refugees, and emigration — and rather more lukewarm about the
transatlantic relationship. Still, Spanish respondents were in favor of helping Ukraine integrate into Western institutions.
Spanish respondents were more charitable to the United States and EU than in 2013. Sixty-six percent of Spaniards expressed a favorable opinion of the United States, up four percentage points from 2013; however, a majority (59%) of Spanish respondents found strong U.S. leader-ship in world affairs undesirable, though this represents an eight percentage point decrease from 2013. Fifty-five percent of Spanish respondents said they approved of U.S. President Barack Obama’s international policies (nine percentage points below the EU average of 64%). At the same time, 58% of Spanish respondents said they wanted the partnership in diplomatic and security affairs between the United States and the EU to take a more independent approach, up six percentage points since 2013. Only 28% (down six percentage points since 2013) said they wanted it to become closer.
Sixty-four percent of Spaniards had a favorable opinion of the EU (up five percentage points since 2013), and 65% found strong EU leadership desirable (up nine percentage points since 2013). Sixty-two percent said they disapproved of their own government’s international policies.
The Spanish were the most likely (at 84%) to consider Russian leadership undesirable, and 67% (up nine percentage points from 2013) expressed an unfavorable opinion of Russia. Eighty percent felt that Chinese leadership was undesirable, but feelings about China itself were more mixed, with 56% expressing an unfavorable opinion, and 35% having a favorable opinion.
THE ECONOMY,THE EU, AND IMMIGRATION
Economic concerns continue to dominate public opinion in Spain. Forty-three percent of Spanish respondents cited unemployment as the most important issue facing their country, while 23% cited the economy. Spaniards were the most likely to say corruption was the most important issue facing their country (22%). Eighty-one percent of Spaniards said they have been affected by the economic crisis, compared to 82% in 2013 and 80% in 2012. Only Greece (95%) and Portugal (91%) had higher percentages saying they were affected by the economic crisis.
Seventy-one percent of Spaniards said both the EU and their own government were not doing enough to combat the economic crisis, while 15% blamed the EU alone; only 3% blamed the countries most severely affected for not doing enough to combat the crisis themselves. Still,61% felt that EU membership had been a good thing for their country. When those who said the EU had been a good thing for their countrywere asked why, Spanish respondents were divided: 32% said the EU is “a community of democracies that should act together” and 31% said the EU “allows freedom of travel, work, and study within its borders.” When thosewhosaid the EU had been a bad thingfor Spain were asked why, 53% said the EU had harmed the Spanish economy, and 21% said the EU had too much authority. Negative feelings about the euro remained stable from last year, with 62% saying it had been bad for Spain’s economy, and 33% saying it had been good.
Spanish anxiety over the economy was matched by concern about immigration. Spanish respondents were the most likely to disapprove of their government’s management of immigration (77%). When asked why immigrants come to their country, 74% of Spaniards mentioned “to work” as the first or second most important reason, and 45% cited “to seek social benefits.” Fifty-three percent said they were worried about immigration from within the EU; 54% felt worried by immigration from outside the EU as well. Forty percent felt that Spain’s refugee policies should be more restrictive. And while majorities in Spain thought that first-generation immigrants (59%) and their children (69%) were integrating well, 87% were concerned about emigration.
TRANSATLANTIC SECURITY COOPERATION
Fifty-six percent (up four percentage points since 2013) of Spanish respondents believed NATO is still essential for their country’s security; 38% said it is no longer essential. Seventy-three percent of Spanish respondents said NATO should continue to be engaged in the territorial defense of Europe; however, 55% said it should not engage in military operations outside of Europe and North America. Spanish respondents were the most opposed, after Italy, to providing arms or training to help other countries defend themselves (61% and 70%, respectively). However, Spanish respondents were the second most likely to support NATO attempts to establish security in places like Afghanistan (67%); only Portugal had a higher percentage in favor (69%).
Spanish respondents reacted with mixed feelings when asked whether the European Union should continue to provide economic and political support to Ukraine even in case of risking increasing conflict with Russia: 48% agreed that it should, while 43% said it should not. Still,57% were willing to offer NATO membership to Ukraine, and 62% said they would support EU membership for Ukraine. Sixty-three percent were in favor of increasing economic assistance; however, 67% felt Ukraine should not be sent military supplies and equipment. Yet Spanish respondents (71%) were second only to respondents in Poland (77%) in their support for stronger sanctions against Russia.