Transatlantic Trends Key Findings 2005

Posted in United States , Europe | 07-Sep-05

After a first term marked by a crisis in transatlantic relations around the war in Iraq, the re-election of George W. Bush in 2004 seemed likely to some observers to prolong estrangement between the United States and Europe. Strikingly, President Bush launched his second term with an ambitious diplomatic effort to improve relations with Europe, setting a new tone of cooperation and identifying democracy promotion as the centerpiece of his foreign policy, a goal on which he hoped Americans and Europeans could agree. Six months into this new term, as the Administration looked for signs of a new spirit of transatlantic cooperation, the European Union (EU) found itself in crisis with the French and Dutch rejections of the referenda on the proposed European constitutional treaty. Many worried that a prolonged period of “introspection” about its future would turn the EU inward, away from foreign policy challenges in the Balkans, the Middle East, and beyond.

Conducted in June 2005, this survey allows us to evaluate the impact of President Bush’s efforts to mend relations with Europe, as well as European attitudes toward the EU at a time of crisis. We found that the Administration’s efforts have not yet moved European public opinion, although concerns about increased anti- Americanism have also not materialized. Europeans continue to feel positively about the EU even after the referenda rejections, and most Europeans have not made up their minds whether the inclusion of Turkey would be good or bad for the EU. Notably, Europeans support the goal of democracy promotion even more than Americans.

Americans continue to be divided about President Bush after his re-election and especially about international institutions like the United Nations. However, on many issues there is considerable bipartisan agreement. Significant popular support exists on both sides of the Atlantic for the United States and Europe to work together to face global problems. Large majorities of both major political parties in the United States want the EU to exert international leadership just as large majorities of Europeans would like to see the EU cooperate with the United States.

Transatlantic Trends is a comprehensive annual survey of American and European public opinion. Polling was conducted in the United States and ten European countries: France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Turkey, and the United Kingdom. The survey is a project of the German Marshall Fund of the United States and the Compagnia di San Paolo, with additional support from the Fundação Luso-Americana and Fundación BBVA.

Key findings of this survey include1:

  • Despite major diplomatic efforts to improve transatlantic relations in the first six months of the second Bush presidency, there has been little change in European public opinion toward the United States.

  • At the same time, there is no evidence of increased anti-Americanism. Europeans continue to distinguish their more negative feelings toward President Bush from their evaluations of the United States taking a leading role in world affairs.

  • Even after the rejections of the EU constitution, Europeans continue to have positive feelings about the EU. Strikingly, Europeans who see themselves as more likely to be personally affected by an economic downturn or by immigration do not show significantly cooler feelings toward the EU.

  • While negative attitudes toward Turkish membership in the EU have increased since last year, even in Turkey, the largest percentage of Europeans (EU9 42%) remain ambivalent, seeing Turkish membership in the EU as neither good nor bad.

  • Seventy percent of Europeans (EU9) want the EU to become a “superpower” like the United States, but they differ on what being a superpower means: Twenty-six percent believe that the EU should concentrate on economic power and do not want to increase military spending, while 35% value both military and economic power and are willing to pay for them.

  • A majority of Europeans (EU9 60%) support a single EU seat on the UN Security Council, even if this would replace the seats currently held by France and the UK, including 62% of French and 64% of German respondents. Only the UK disagreed, with 55% opposed.

  • Europeans are more likely than Americans to support democracy promotion (EU9 74% to 51%). Both Europeans and Americans strongly prefer “soft power” options to promote democracy, with only 39% of Americans and 32% of Europeans (EU9) who support sending military forces.

  • Republican support for democracy promotion more closely mirrors Europeans’ with 76% favorable, compared to only 43% of Democrats. While both parties support soft power options, nearly twice the percentage of Republicans (57%) than Democrats (29%) support military intervention.

  • As the United States and Europe (EU9) look forward toward engagement with China, there is agreement on both sides that respect for human rights needs to be considered, even if this means limiting economic relations.

  • Americans and Europeans show no consensus concerning options for dealing with the possibility that Iran may develop nuclear weapons, although only a small minority in both supports military intervention, 5% of Europeans (EU9) and 15% of Americans.

  • More Americans than Europeans think they will be personally affected by international terrorism (71% to 53%), while more Europeans see themselves as likely to be personally affected by global warming (73% to 64%).

  • Americans remain divided on the Bush presidency, but attitudes on foreign policy show agreement among Democrats and Republicans on “hard” threats like the spread of nuclear weapons and terrorism. More Democrats than Republicans see themselves as likely to be personally affected by global warming and the spread of AIDS.

  • Democrats support President Bush’s policies to improve relations with Europe more strongly than Republicans, with 67% of Democrats who agree that relations with the EU should become closer, compared to 34% of Republicans.

1 Unless otherwise noted, all Europe-wide percentages refer to E10 in sections one and five and to EU9 in sections two and three where we discuss the opinions of current EU members.

If you want to read the full study click here.