The German Marshall Fund released its 2008 transatlantic trends poll yesterday, which shows a thaw in transatlantic relations. From the press release:
“Based on common values and shared interests, the survey shows that Americans and Europeans want closer relations,” said Craig Kennedy, president of the German Marshall Fund of the United States. “Whether it’s the result of world events, a new U.S. administration on the horizon, or insecurity on several fronts, a new American president will have the opportunity to not only improve the United States’ standing in the world, but perhaps also to ask more of European leaders.”
However, despite perceived common values and a general interest in the same topics, Europeans generally feel that Europe should act more independently, although the number of Europeans who want closer relations with the US is increasing. Interestingly, though, few Europeans think that Europe should take a 'go it alone' course, with the majority favouring partnership with the US in addressing threats. This could be taken to mean that Europeans want Europe to be more assertive in such a partnership, or simply that the general population hasn't thought this through and exhibits a well-known but surprisingly extreme differential response to differently phrased questions (31% want closer relations, 67% want to address international threats in partnership).
Some further findings:
- Europeans generally (47%) expect relations to improve under Obama, and to stay the same under McCain
- Fewer Americans (40%) think relations will approve under Obama, but most agree with Europeans on McCain
- Europeans view American leadership unfavourably, but disapproval of President Bush is even higher
- Fewer Europeans think that relations have gotten worse in the past year compared to 2007, more think that they have improved, but the plurality thinks they have stayed the same.
- In contrast with Europeans, a slight majority of Americans want closer relations with Europe, and even more (75%) want the US to address international threats in partnership with Europe.
- The largest differences on 'issues' between Americans and Europeans are on fighting the Taleban (76% of Americans support it, 43% of Europeans), on nuclear weapons in Iran (69% of Americans think they will be affected, 52% of Europeans), and on climate change (67% of Americans think it will affect them, 82% of Europeans).
What might be the most significant result for transatlantic relations is that there is a considerable increase of support for NATO in Europe. In the past few years, there had been a slow downward slide, but this year support went up nearly across the board, and in all major countries. In France, support shot up 7 percentage points, to 62%, the highest since 2002. And this poll was taken prior to the South Ossetia war.
SPIEGEL online has some more thoughts on the findings: "Europeans Back Obama but Not Necessarily His Policies"
Related posts on Atlantic Review: