Transatlantic Trends 2010: Obama more popular than his policies
WASHINGTON, DC (September 15, 2010) — A new transatlantic public opinion survey out today reveals that the remarkable popularity of U.S. President Barack Obama in Europe does not translate into blanket support in Europe for his handling of specific foreign policy problems.
Transatlantic Trends 2010 (www.transatlantictrends.org) shows that, while 78% of those surveyed in 11 European Union countries approve of Barack Obama’s foreign policies, and 55% find it desirable that the United States exert strong global leadership, just 49% approve of how he has dealt with Afghanistan and Iran.
“Barack Obama’s popularity in Europe affords him more chances to convince Europeans about his policies, but Transatlantic Trends reveals the fault lines that remain across the Atlantic and the work that is left to be done,” said Craig Kennedy, president of the German Marshall Fund of the United States.
“This year’s survey tells a lot about the EU’s difficulty to think of itself on the global scene,” said Angelo Benessia, chairman of the Compagnia di San Paolo. “Surprisingly, several countries cannot accept the rise of new powers like China, the euro is the scapegoat for the global crisis, and Turkey’s accession is seen with a mixture of fatalism and concern.”
Transatlantic Trends 2010 — a project of the German Marshall Fund of the United States and the Compagnia di San Paolo in Turin, Italy, with additional support from the Fundação Luso-Americana (Portugal), the Fundación BBVA (Spain), and the Tipping Point Foundation (Bulgaria) — measures broad public opinion in the United States, Turkey, and 11 European Union countries and gauges transatlantic relations through interviews with more than 13,000 people. For the ninth consecutive year, participants were asked their views on each other and on global threats, foreign policy objectives, world leadership, and multilateral institutions.
THE OBAMA PUZZLE: THE WHOLE IS MORE THAN THE SUM OF ITS PARTS
Transatlantic Trends 2010 found that President Obama is still viewed more positively in Europe than the United States, and continues to be more popular than President George W. Bush had ever been in the 11 EU countries included in the survey. While 78% of Europeans approved of his handling of international policies in general (a slight drop from 83% in 2009), fewer than half of Europeans responded positively when asked specifically about his handling of Afghanistan and Iran. Unlike Europeans, Americans have similar or higher approval rates for many of his specific policies. The majority of Americans approved of his policies toward Russia (61%), climate change (56%), Afghanistan (54%), and Iran (52%). However, American approval for his handling the Middle East dips below the halfway mark (48%).
A CRISIS OF THE EURO, NOT THE EU
There was little support for Europe’s common currency in the countries surveyed that use the euro. When asked whether using the euro has been a good or bad thing for their country’s economy, almost all majorities in the eurozone sample responded negatively. The euro was not appealing from the outside either. Majorities of the British (83%) and Polish (53%), and a plurality of Bulgarians (42%), thought that using the euro would be a bad thing for their economies. However, more than half of the EU respondents (57%) felt that economic difficulties in Europe should lead to greater commitment to build a stronger European Union.
A CONTINUING DIVIDE ON TRANSATLANTIC SECURITY
The survey demonstrated waning optimism on major security issues like Afghanistan and Iran but found that NATO remains a popular alliance. All surveyed countries had troops stationed in Afghanistan at the time of the fieldwork and, as in previous years, the United States was the only country where a slight majority of respondents (51%) felt optimistic about stabilizing the situation in Afghanistan. Only 23% of EU respondents were optimistic. However, this year’s survey shows that majorities or pluralities in all countries surveyed, including 62% in the EU and 77% in the United States, still support NATO being prepared to act outside of Europe to defend members from threats to their security.
DIFFERENT TRANSATLANTIC VIEWS ON THE RISE OF ASIA
The overwhelming majority of EU respondents (81%) predicted that the United States is likely to exert strong leadership in the future, and a strong majority (75%) also said that the European Union will exert leadership. However, EU and U.S. respondents were divided about the role Asia would play in global affairs. Seven-in-ten respondents (71%) in America found it very likely that China will exert strong leadership in the future, while only a third of Europeans (34%) thought the same scenario is very likely. Nevertheless, EU respondents (31%) were somewhat more likely than Americans (21%) to describe their relations with China as good. When asked about India, the majority of EU respondents (54%) thought it was unlikely that the world’s most populous democracy will exert strong leadership in world affairs five years from now, while 74% of Americans believed that India was likely to play a leading role.
TURKEY AND THE WEST: DRIFTING AWAY
Majorities in every EU country surveyed think that Turkey doesn’t share enough common values to be part of the West. In 2004, 73% of the Turkish respondents said membership would be a good thing, but support has dropped to 38% by 2010. A plurality of Turks (48%) were not concerned about Iran acquiring nuclear weapons, in sharp contrast with EU (79%) and U.S. (86%) respondents who were concerned. In addition, the percentage of Turks who said Turkey should act in closest cooperation with countries in the Middle East on international matters has doubled to 20% from 2009. This was accompanied by a nine-point decline in those who said Turkey should cooperate with EU countries (13%) and those who said Turkey should act alone on international matters (34%). Only 6% of respondents had a preference to work closely with the United States.
For the full report and topline data, see www.transatlantictrends.org
Transatlantic Trends is a project of the German Marshall Fund of the United States (www.gmfus.org) and the Compagnia di San Paolo (www.compagnia.torino.it) with additional support from Fundação Luso-Americana (www.flad.pt), Fundación BBVA (www.fbbva.es), and the Tipping Point Foundation.
TNS Opinion conducted the survey and collected the data from the United States, Turkey, and 11 European Union countries: Germany, France, Great Britain, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Romania, and Bulgaria. Interviews were conducted by telephone using CATI (Computer Assisted Telephone Interviews) in all countries except Poland, Slovakia, Turkey, Bulgaria, and Romania (where lower telephone penetration necessitates face-to-face interviews), between June 1 and June 29, 2010. In each country, a random sample of approximately 1,000 men and women, 18 years of age and older, were interviewed. The margin of error is plus/minus 3 percentage points. Please see www.transatlantictrends.org
for more detailed methodology.