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How Europe sees the US a decade after 9/11

More than half of European Union respondents want the US to continue playing a strong role in the international community, according to a survey of public opinion released today.

By Staff writer / September 14, 2011

People walk over a world map engraved in marble in Lisbon on Sept. 14. A survey of public opinion released today, highlighted American and Europeans takes on foreign policy, NATO, and rising economic powers, among other topics.

Jose Manuel Ribeiro/Reuters

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An annual survey of US and European public opinion on a variety of transatlantic issues was released today, highlighting American and Europeans takes on foreign policy, NATO, and rising economic powers, among other topics.

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The Transatlantic Trends survey "paints a picture of a complex relationship between the United States and Europe and how they respond to global challenges," particularly at the end of a chaotic decade of war, economic crisis, and a changing world order, according to the survey report. Contrary to popular belief, European support for the US is still strong.

Nothing has been more emblematic of the transatlantic relationship than how Europeans related to the two US presidents of this time. The low approval of George W. Bush’s management of foreign policy quickly turned into euphoric optimism when Barack Obama was elected in 2008. This almost overnight change of public opinion toward the US president demonstrated that the basics of transatlantic cooperation remained strong and had not eroded during Bush’s presidency, despite his unpopularity among the European public.

Polling was conducted between May 25 and June 17, 2011, in the US, Turkey, and 12 European Union member states.

Some key findings:

  • 54 percent of Europeans said they wanted the US to exert "strong leadership" in world affairs. Seventy-three percent said they supported President Obama's efforts to fight terrorism.
  • Fifty-one percent of Americans believe Asia influences their national interests more than members of the European Union, while 38 percent felt the EU mattered more. Fifty-two percent of EU respondents still consider the US more integral to their national interests than Asia.
  • Sixty-seven percent of EU respondents still felt that their countries benefited from EU membership, despite the economic crisis and the heavily-criticized bailouts of EU members, but 53 percent thought using the euro was harmful to their economy.
  • Although Americans are wary about the idea of "democracy promotion" in Libya (only 37 percent support it) European support is strong at 69 percent.
  • Americans supported putting more pressure on Palestinians in the Israeli-Palestinian peace processes, while Europeans supported putting more pressure on Israel.
  • Pakistan was the least popular country – only 26 percent of EU respondents said they had a favorable view of the country and only 18 percent of Americans did.
  • Sixty-two percent of EU and American respondents said they still considered NATO essential.
  • Sixty-six percent of both EU and American respondents supported a drawdown or total removal of foreign troops in Afghanistan. Fifty-six percent of Americans and 66 percent of Europeans were pessimistic about the possibility of stabilizing Afghanistan.

For the full report, visit Transatlantic Trends online.

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