Transatlantic Trends 2023: Public Opinion in a Shifting Global Order
Berlin, Brussels, Paris, and Washington, DC (September 12, 2023) — The German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) today publishes the 2023 edition of its Transatlantic Trends study. This flagship publication of GMF assesses public opinion on contemporary issues related to global order, transatlantic relations, security and defense, China, and global challenges. Amid the ongoing war in Ukraine and a general shifting geopolitical order, as demonstrated by the G20 summit in Delhi this weekend, this survey conducted in 14 countries provides an overview of major trends in transatlantic relations at a decisive moment.
Data from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Türkiye, the United Kingdom, and the United States shows that both sides of the Atlantic detect the emergence of a more competitive and multipolar world. However, there are significant national and generational divides in geopolitical perceptions, with an emerging transatlantic consensus among the youngest cohort.
Respondents expect the global order to change significantly in the next five years. Only slightly more than one-third of respondents (37%) believe the US will retain its position as the most influential actor in global affairs in the coming five years. Some 30% predict instead that China will assume that role. Today, the United States is seen as the most influential actor in global affairs by a clear majority on both sides of the Atlantic (64%), outstripping the EU (17%), China (14%) and Russia (5%).
On transatlantic relations, among the 14 countries surveyed, most respondents expect the relationship between the US and Europe to remain the same (55%). The shares of those expecting changes in transatlantic relationships, whether for the better (22%) or for the worse (13%), decreased from 2022. Asked about their perception of the other countries covered in the survey, foreign publics are most likely to describe Canada (71%), Germany (70%) and Sweden (69%) as reliable partners. Romania (34%) and Türkiye (26%) are seen as the least reliable. Despite Washington’s steady support for Ukraine, the perceived reliability of the United States rests stable since last year but has not increased.
Clear majorities of respondents see NATO as important for national security (77%) and favor US involvement in European security and defense (71%), though support for the latter has fallen slightly in EU member states since 2022.
In EU member states, respondents see the EU as important for national security (79%) and want the bloc to do more on security and defense (54%). Outside the EU, the perception of the European Union as a reliable partner has increased since last year among respondents outside the bloc (up 6 percentage points to 61%).
Immigration or climate change is seen as the most important security challenge in 11 of the 14 countries surveyed. Russia, or war between countries, are viewed as the top security concern in only three of the surveyed countries.
Support for Ukraine is high. A majority of respondents believe the country should be offered NATO membership (61%) and EU membership (63%), in addition to providing financial support for reconstruction (69%). In a notable partisan gap, Democrat-leaning respondents in the US prefer these policies much more than their Republican-leaning counterparts. The public in Europe seems divided on the question: respondents in France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Türkiye are more hesitant to support the above-mentioned policies than publics in Lithuania, Poland, Spain, and the United Kingdom.
China’s global influence is seen negatively by 57% of those surveyed, but the willingness to cooperate with China in many policy areas has increased and outweighs any preference for a tougher approach in the fields of new technologies, trade, and energy and raw materials. In case of an invasion of Taiwan by China, publics would strongly favor diplomatic action (51%) and sanctions (27%) over sending arms (9%) or troops (4%). Only small shares of respondents (between 10% and 15%) would want their country to refrain from any response.
An average of 50% in the 14 countries surveyed see their nation’s democracy in a good state while 44% describe it as in a bad state. More than one-third in Türkiye (37%) see the country’s democracy in danger (46% in 2022). Around one-quarter of respondents in Italy (28%), Poland (27%), the United States (25%), and France (23%) say the same about their nation’s democracy.
There is a distinct generational gap in many countries on several questions: Young respondents (aged 18-24) hold more positive views of China than the oldest age cohorts, are less enthusiastic about US global influence, and are more likely to anticipate seeing the EU as an influential global player in the next five years.
The 2023 edition of Transatlantic Trends surveyed public opinion in the same 14 countries as in 2022, allowing for useful year-on-year comparisons.
For more information on the data and/or to speak with the project leads in Europe and the United States, please reach out to the media relations contacts below.
Polling was conducted by Kantar Public in late June 2023 through online panels with self-completion with samples of 1,500 respondents per country. Individuals in the following countries were surveyed: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Lithuania, The Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Türkiye Data has been weighted for gender, age, and region (according to national standards). The confidence interval is 95%, and the margin of error is ±2.5%.
About the German Marshall Fund:
The German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit, transatlantic organization headquartered in Washington, DC, with offices in Ankara, Belgrade, Berlin, Brussels, Bucharest, Paris, and Warsaw. GMF envisions a democratic, secure, and prosperous world in which freedom and individual dignity prevail. GMF strives to champion democratic values and the transatlantic alliance by strengthening civil society, forging bold and innovative policy ideas, and developing a new generation of leaders to tackle global challenges. GMF delivers hope by upholding the dignity of the individual and defending freedom in the spirit of the Marshall Plan. Learn more about GMF’s work at www.gmfus.org.
Media Relations Contacts:
- Angelina Sutalo, Senior Press Officer (Brussels): [email protected]
- Chris Schaefer, Press Officer (Washington, DC): [email protected]