Transatlantic Trends 2020: New Polling Shows China’s Growing Influence in Europe and the U.S. After Pandemic Outbreak, but Influence Increasingly Viewed as Negative
25% of French respondents view NATO as “not important” to their security; 65% of Americans support U.S. involvement in European security on bipartisan basis; Iran viewed as top security threat by U.S., France, Germany
BERLIN, PARIS, WASHINGTON (June 30, 2020)— China’s perceived global influence has spiked in the U.S. and in the European Union’s two most powerful countries, according to “Transatlantic Trends 2020,” a newly-published public opinion survey conducted in the United States, France, and Germany by the German Marshall Fund of the United States, the Bertelsmann Foundation, and Institut Montaigne.
Before the COVID crisis emerged, the percentage of respondents who viewed China as most influential (when compared to the U.S., EU, and Russia) was 6% in the U.S., 12% in Germany, and 13% in France. When re-surveyed in May, the percentages doubled: to 14% in the U.S., 20% in Germany, and 28% in France.
Beijing’s influence is seen as increasingly negative, with double digit increases since January 2020—a 10 point increase in France (up from 48% to 58%), a 10 point increase in Germany (up from 51% to 61%), and an 11 point increase in the United States (up from 46% to 57%).
A full presentation of the results can be found at: https://www.gmfus.org/publications/transatlantic-trends-2020
The United States’ perceived global influence has waned: while 76% of Americans currently see the U.S. as the leading global power, only 55% of French and 54% of Germans do (a drop in 8-13 points since before the pandemic).
Americans, French, and Germans all agree that Germany’s influence has grown through the coronavirus crisis (though with dramatic generational differences). The U.S., French and German perception of Germany as Europe’s most influential power grew by 4 points, 8 points and 13 points, respectively, between January and May.
When polled in January, slightly more than half of Americans viewed the UK as the most influential country in Europe (53%), a perception only shared by 8% of German and 6% of French respondents. This view did not change in May: 52% of Americans still viewed the UK’s as Europe’s most influential country; but it did drop slightly among French and Germans (2 points each).
When it comes to security issues, Iran is considered by all three countries as the issue of greatest concern, with public opinions—especially in the U.S. (40%) and Germany (49%) willing to see their respective governments increasing their involvement. Though a quarter of French respondents are in favor of generally decreasing involvement in international security issues, 28% of French respondents support more involvement in restricting Iran’s access to nuclear weapons.
Despite differences, the survey finds resilience in the transatlantic relationship: a solid, bipartisan majority of Americans (65%) see a responsibility for the United States to be involved in the defense and security of Europe. A plurality of 45% in France expressed support for U.S. involvement in the defense and security of Europe; but almost as many (41%) think the U.S. should not play a role. In contrast, only 29% of Germans and 21% of Americans are against U.S. involvement in Europe’s security.
Additional key findings include:
Transatlantic Influence and Cooperation:
- Despite Brexit, a majority of Americans perceive the UK as the leading power in Europe, whereas more than 3 out of 4 French and Germans say that Germany is the leading power. Among respondents in France and the U.S., the EU’s influence has declined since the COVID-19 outbreak
- Americans view health crises as the most important issues for the U.S. and EU to cooperate on, while Europeans still think climate change is the most urgent agenda item. However, regarding issues outside of health crisis and climate change, there seems to be generally little appetite for transatlantic cooperation, even on issues of shared concern such as Iran and China.
- Support for increasing defense spending is inversely correlated with current spending in France, Germany and the United States. Compared to all three countries, Germans are the most in favor of increasing military expenditure with a total of 35% who want to either increase (25%) or heavily increase (10%) defense spending. 29% of French and 23% of American respondents shared this opinion about their respective country’s spending.
- 25% of French respondents judge NATO as “not at all important” or “not very important” for their security, as compared to 15% of Germans and 10% of Americans sharing the same opinion. Almost a quarter of French do not have an opinion or do not know what NATO is.
- The French are the most skeptical of American involvement in European defense and security and split between 45% saying the U.S. should be involved and 41% saying the U.S. should not be involved. 59% of Germans and 65% of Americans believe that the U.S. should be somewhat or greatly involved.
- Before the pandemic, a plurality of Americans (31%) and Germans (42%) found the economic relationship between the EU and the United States equally balanced, while almost half (47%) of French saw themselves disadvantaged in the relationship. This still holds largely true.
- There is a general consensus in all three countries in favor of higher taxation of large U.S technology companies with a plurality of 38%-43% in all countries in favor.
- The top concern of Americans and French is the protection of personal data (86% and 82%, respectively, are very or somewhat concerned). In the United States respondents are nearly equally worried about cyberattacks on critical infrastructure (83%) and the spread of fake news and political manipulation (82%). In Germany, respondents are most worried about cyberattacks on critical infrastructure (77%), with worries about fake news closely behind (75%).
- Content regulation is most often seen as the responsibility of social media companies; but there is a lack of clear consensus in France and Germany, where opinion is also split between national governments and the EU needing to play a role.
The “Transatlantic Trends” findings, are part of a comprehensive survey and analysis exploring the major trends shaping transatlantic relations today, focusing on international cooperation in security and defense, the perception of China's influence in the world, trade, and digital policy. Polling was conducted by Kantar earlier this year, with a selection of questions re-surveyed last month to account for potential impacts of COVID-19 on public opinion.
For more information on the data or to speak with the project leads in Paris, Berlin, or Washington, please respond directly to this email or contact any of the project leads below.
Polling was conducted by Kantar and data for the survey was collected from a nationally representative population aged 18 and older in all three countries: United States (1001 respondents), France (1004 respondents) and Germany (1001 respondents). The collection method of the data consisted of interviewing via an online survey, using recruitment via online response panels. Fieldwork was conducted in all three countries between 9-22 Januray 2020. A second field work was conducted between 11-19 May 2020 to determine the impact that the crisis posed by the covid-19 would carry on respondents.
About the Bertelsmann Foundation:
The Bertelsmann Foundation, established in 2008, was created to promote and strengthen the transatlantic relationship. Through research, analysis, forums, and audiovisual and multimedia content, we seek to educate and engage our audience on the most pressing economic, political, and social challenges facing the United States and Europe.
About the German Marshall Fund:
The German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) strengthens transatlantic cooperation on regional, national, and global challenges and opportunities in the spirit of the Marshall Plan. GMF contributes research and analysis and convenes leaders on transatlantic issues relevant to policymakers. GMF offers rising leaders opportunities to develop their skills and networks through transatlantic exchange, and supports civil society in the Balkans and Black Sea regions by fostering democratic initiatives, rule of law, and regional cooperation. Founded in 1972 as a non-partisan, nonprofit organization through a gift from Germany as a permanent memorial to Marshall Plan assistance, GMF maintains a strong presence on both sides of the Atlantic. In addition to its headquarters in Washington, DC, GMF has offices in Berlin, Paris, Brussels, Belgrade, Ankara, Bucharest, and Warsaw. Learn more about GMF’s work at www.gmfus.org.
About Institut Montaigne:
Institut Montaigne is a nonprofit, independent think tank based in Paris, France. Our mission is to craft public policy proposals aimed at shaping political debates and decision making in France and Europe. We bring together leaders from a diverse range of backgrounds - government, civil society, corporations and academia - to produce balanced analyses, international benchmarking and evidence-based research. We promote a balanced vision of society, in which open and competitive markets go hand in hand with equality of opportunity and social cohesion. Our strong commitment to representative democracy and citizen participation, on the one hand, and European sovereignty and integration, on the other, form the intellectual basis for our work. Institut Montaigne is funded by corporations and individuals, none of whom contribute to more than 3% of its annual budget (€6.5M in 2019).
Media Relations Contacts:
Institut Montaigne: Lara Oliveau (Paris, [email protected])
Bertelsmann Foundation: Nathan Crist (Berlin, [email protected])
GMF: Sydney Simon (Washington, [email protected])
GMF: Sena Staufer (Berlin, [email protected])