The Transatlantic Public Is War-averse and Wants a More Geopolitical EU in a Multipolar World
On the contrary, these events reinforced their vision of a multipolar world, their aversion to the risk of war, and their desire for a more geopolitical European Union. This is shown by the results of the German Marshall Fund’s latest annual Transatlantic Trends, a public opinion survey conducted in 14 countries: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Türkiye, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
All countries anticipate a decline in the influence of the United States in the world within five years, which is perceived as inevitable, including Americans themselves. While 62% of Europeans and 86% of Americans believe the United States is currently the most influential country, only 36% and 60% respectively believe that this will still be the case in 2027. The anticipated decline of the United States is expected to benefit China (25% in 2027, +12 points) while the EU’s influence is predicted to remain stable (15%), just above Russia’s (10%, +4 points). The French, along with the Italians, are the only ones to believe that China will be more influential (37%) than the United States (26%) within five years. Italy and France are also the most likely to say that the influence of the United States in the world is negative (39% and 34%), followed closely by Germany, the United Kingdom and Canada (31%).
Despite the United States’ reengagement in Europe and NATO in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, perceptions of its reliability as a partner have changed little since 2021 (65%, +5 points).
Despite the United States’ reengagement in Europe and NATO in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, perceptions of its reliability as a partner have changed little since 2021 (65%, +5 points). The involvement of the United States in the security and defense of Europe is still favored in all countries surveyed (72%)—except for Türkiye—with a 27-point increase among Swedes (72% vs. 45% in 2021), an 11-point one among Spaniards (71% vs. 60%), and a 9-point one among the Dutch (75% vs. 66%). The French also view US involvement in Europe more favorably than they did last year, though in relatively lower terms (60% vs. 55%).
The European Union enjoys a very positive image in every country surveyed except Türkiye. Its influence in international affairs is often perceived as positive (51%) or even very positive (14%). On the other hand, the perception of China’s influence has deteriorated, with 57% of respondents considering it negative (compared to 46% in 2021). The most negative public opinions of China are to be found in Sweden (66%), Germany (65%), and Canada (62%). As for Russia, 73% of respondents consider its influence to be negative, including nearly 80% of the Portuguese, Dutch, and Poles.
The north-south and east-west divergences within the EU are fading and giving way to an increasingly shared analysis of strategic issues. All Europeans consider NATO and the EU as equally important (81%) to their national security—a remarkable development. This holds true including in countries traditionally oriented toward NATO, such as Poland or Germany, where respectively 85% and 75% of respondents consider the EU as important for their country’s security, while 94% of Portuguese, 87% of Lithuanians, 88% of Romanians, and 82% of Spaniards share the same opinion. Strikingly, six years after Brexit, two-thirds of Britons (67%) believe the EU is important for the United Kingdom’s security. Adhering to the idea of complementarity between NATO and the EU, the French consider both as equally important (72% and 73%) in ensuring France’s security.
We observe the same complementarity when choosing the framework within which to manage relations with Russia. European citizens favor working through the EU (36%) ahead of NATO (24%), bilateral cooperation between national governments and the United States being the last choice (9%). For relations with China, the EU is also preferred (46%) and only 11% of Europeans wish to work with the United States. This sentiment is particularly strong in France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, and Sweden. There is no “transatlantic reflex”: the United States is not seen as a privileged partner against the backdrop of divergent strategic interests between Washington and European capitals. Americans also express limited interest in cooperating with the EU in the face of Russia and China.
Regarding Taiwan, the results show a clear aversion to the risk of military escalation, with respondents favoring diplomacy or sanctions over arms deliveries in the case of an invasion, while only 2% would support the deployment of troops.
Regarding Taiwan, the results show a clear aversion to the risk of military escalation, with respondents favoring diplomacy (35%) or sanctions (32%) over arms deliveries (4%) in the case of an invasion, while only 2% would support the deployment of troops. Americans are also very reluctant to intervene militarily (7%). In general, China is not seen as a military threat, including by Americans, of which only 8% think of China as a military threat, which goes against President Joe Biden’s strong statement that the United States would defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion.
In the current strategic environment, these results reveal that the affirmation of a geopolitical EU, which can act on major strategic issues, has become a wish widely shared by European populations. France has worked to Europeanize the debate on strategic autonomy and is today among the countries perceived as the most reliable (67%). This favorable perception of France should encourage it to go beyond the Franco-German framework, which no longer works, and to strengthen its relations with other countries such as the Netherlands and Spain, as well as the Baltic and Nordic countries, but also to strive to repair relations that have deteriorated, with Poland primarily. French participation in the Ukrainian army training mission in Poland, under the aegis of the European Union, would contribute to this in a very concrete way.
This is a translation of an article was published in French in L’Opinion on September 28, 2022, under the headline “La France doit dépasser le cadre franco-allemand qui ne fonctionne plus.”