Transatlantic Trends 2021
2021 opens a new chapter for the transatlantic relationship. The change of the U.S. administration as well as the political, economic, and societal implications of the coronavirus pandemic have redefined transatlantic policy dialogues. New priorities have emerged, as the calls for increased cooperation around climate change and common values signal an opportunity for an update of the transatlantic agenda.
Transatlantic Trends 2021 includes the results of surveys conducted in 11 countries representing all corners of the transatlantic community: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States. This research is not just transatlantic in focus—it is a true transatlantic collaboration between several U.S. and European organizations and institutions. The findings in the pages that follow benefit in intellectual richness from the diversity of perspectives that informed everything from framing the questions to interpreting the resulting data.
Divided into five chapters, Transatlantic Trends provides a detailed picture of transatlantic public opinion on core and contemporary issues: the transatlantic relationship; international security and defense; trade, economic, and technology policies; relations with China; and global challenges.
The first three months of the Biden administration have not affected French and German views of U.S. influence in the world, as these numbers are in line with the post-pandemic results of the 2020 survey (55% for France and 54% for Germany), which had fallen by about 10 points from the pre-pandemic numbers, to the advantage of China.
Despite France’s diplomatic and military engagement abroad, more than half of the respondents in France describe themselves as not informed about French foreign policy, without variation across age groups. Even among the respondents holding a master’s degree (or higher) and graduates from French elite universities, only half of the respondents (51%) describe themselves as informed, compared to 41% on average.
Especially since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, China has been receiving growing attention on both sides of the Atlantic. It seems that China’s management of the pandemic has not benefited its image among Western populations. Across all countries in the survey, a plurality have a negative perception of Beijing’s influence in global affairs.
During the coronavirus pandemic, economies have suffered from a myriad issues, including varying degrees of unemployment, increased government spending and support, and shuttered businesses. Consistent with the various issues impacting transatlantic economies, overall, not one specific economic priority towers over another. However, the majority of countries on both sides of the Atlantic would put reducing poverty at the top of the list.
Transatlantic partners have regularly reaffirmed their commitment to multilateralism, and the Biden administration has been outspoken about its intention to reinvest in multilateral organizations. At the same time, the UN has been increasingly affected by the growing tensions among great powers. These tensions, however, seem not to have turned transatlantic opinion against the UN.