Europeans prefer a partner other than the United States. That is the conclusion that can be drawn from the survey published by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) and carried out in November and December 2020 by Datapraxis and YouGov. A sample in which 15,000 people from 11 countries have been asked.
The work of Mark Leonard and Ivan Krastev entitled “The Crisis of American Power: How Europeans See Biden’s America” has been inspired by it. In it you can see how the confidence of Europeans in US power has decreased considerably. So much so that most Germans, for example, agree that after voting for Trump in 2016, Americans cannot be trusted, a statement that more countries in Europe agree with.
Half or more of the respondents from the 11 European countries believe that their government should be neutral in a conflict between the US and China. And, in no country surveyed, more than 40% would want to side with Washington against Russia.
The work argues that the presidency of Donald Trump has profoundly affected the transatlantic relationship. To the point that there is now deep skepticism within the bloc as to whether Biden can halt the decline of the US on the world stage. Europeans believe that the isolationism and unpredictability of the Trump administration, along with deep internal problems in the US, will affect Biden. and its ability to reshape the global image of the United States.
In a climate like this, Europe cannot sit idly by, according to Leonard and Krastev. Pointing out the four geopolitical “tribes” of Europe, emerging from the segmentation of the ECFR survey data, highlights the prevailing view of more than 6 in 10 Europeans surveyed that the United States is “broken”, while they evaluate much more positively the systems of the EU and / or their own countries. This represents an opportunity, they argue, to use the collective power of the European bloc for the benefit and protection of its citizens.
The main findings of the ECFR pan-European survey are as follows:
· Europeans are reassured by the result of the November elections. However, there is skepticism in Europe as to whether Biden can stop the decline of the United States on the world stage.. In the eleven countries surveyed, the majority (51%) do not subscribe to the view that, under Biden, the United States is likely to mend its internal divisions and invest in solving international problems such as climate change, peace in Middle East, relations with China and European security. There is also a strong feeling among Europeans that China will overtake the US as the world’s leading superpower in the next decade – a view that is widely held in all countries surveyed, including Spain (79%), Portugal (72%). ), Italy (72%) and France (63%).
· The legacy of the Trump administration has undermined confidence in the United States. Almost a third (32%) of all respondents in the ECFR poll agree that, after voting for Trump in 2016, Americans cannot be trusted. What is most surprising is that 53% of German respondents hold this view, which makes them clearly atypical on this point. Only in Hungary and Poland are more people who do not agree with the statement than those who agree.
· Very few Europeans believe that the United States would intervene on their behalf in the event of a military crisis. Only 10% of respondents regard the United States as a “trusted” security partner that will always protect Europe, while at least 60% of respondents from all surveyed countries – and 67% of all countries – consider that their country cannot depend on the support of the United States in the event of a major crisis.
· The divisions over the US in Europe have changed and have a lot to do with the fact that people feel that the EU, the US or China are going up or down. Four new geopolitical tribes have been identified (‘In Europe we trust’ (the largest with 35% of respondents); ‘In decline we trust’ (the second largest with 29%); ‘In the West we trust’ (20%) ; ‘In the US we trust’ (9%).
And this has geopolitical consequences:
· There is significant support for investing in Defense at the European level. Two-thirds of respondents in Europe indicate the importance of Europe looking after its own defense capabilities rather than relying primarily on the US – with this support most pronounced in Portugal (72%), Sweden (71%) , Spain (71%), France (70%) and Poland (69%). Interestingly, 74% of British respondents also share this opinion, despite the fact that the UK is no longer an EU Member State.
· There is deep ambivalence towards the United States in the event of conflict with China or Russia – with many Europeans eager to be neutral in such a scenario. At least half of the electorate of the surveyed countries would like their government to remain neutral in a conflict between the US and China, and in no country surveyed would a majority want to side with Washington against Russia. Surprisingly, only 36% of respondents in Poland and 40% in Denmark say that their country should side with the US in a conflict with Russia. Of the eleven countries surveyed, only 23% of those surveyed hold this view, while 59% want their country to remain neutral. In Denmark and Poland, neutrality is the preferred option for 47% and 45% of voters respectively.
· Europeans want the EU to be stricter, internationally, on economic issues such as trade, taxation and regulation. Among the eight countries in which the ECFR asked voters about this issue, the majority of participants in Germany (38%), France (48%), Great Britain (37%) and Italy (43%) they think there should be a tougher stance towards US economic abuses. Poland was an outlier on this point, with only one in ten voters holding this point of view.
· It is very likely that Europeans regard Germany as the most important country to “have a good relationship” with. Respondents from France, Spain, Denmark, the Netherlands, Portugal and Hungary favored Germany as the most important country to establish a good relationship with. While in Germany, 38% chose France as their most important ally. Only respondents in Great Britain (55%), Poland (45%), Italy (36%), and Sweden (36%) ranked the US first over Germany on this measure.
· Europeans have gotten more positive about the EU in the last two years, despite the crisis of COVID-19 and Brexit. In Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain and Sweden – countries where the ECFR conducted a survey in both 2019 and 2020 – the average percentage of people who say that the political system of the EU works very well or quite well has increased from 46% to 48% since January 2019. Meanwhile, those who say that the system is somewhat or completely broken have decreased from 45% to 43% during this period.
· Attitudes towards the EU often seem to correlate with the opinion of the national government. For example, in Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden, most people are convinced that their national political system works and also believe in the success of the EU. Instead, the majorities of Spain, Italy and France (together with Great Britain, which is no longer an EU member state) consider that their own political system is broken; And, in this second group of four countries, more respondents believe that the EU is broken than working. Poland, Hungary and Portugal are the exceptions to this rule: majorities in all of these countries think that their national political system is broken, but they seem to see Brussels as their salvation, with substantial majorities thinking that the EU works.