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9/8/06

Poll: Americans, Europeans Share Increased Fears of Terrorism, Islamic Fundamentalism

Source: Transatlantic Trends
 
Five years after 9/11, Americans and Europeans wary of Bush foreign policy; Nuclear Iran Viewed as More Threatening than Unstable Iraq
 
WASHINGTON, DC, & BRUSSELS (September 6, 2006) - With nations once again on high alert and multinational forces deployed to world hotspots, an annual survey of American and European public opinion released today shows both Americans and Europeans expressing shared concern over global threats. Feelings that international terrorism is an "extremely important" threat have intensified, with 66% of Europeans identifying it as an extremely important threat, up from 58% last year, and 79% of Americans, up from 72%. Both Americans (58%, up from 45%) and Europeans (52%, up from 41%) increasingly see Islamic fundamentalism as an extremely important threat.
 
And just days before the fifth anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attacks, Transatlantic Trends 2006 - for the first time in its five-year history - shows more Americans disapproving (58%) than approving (40%) of President Bush's handling of international affairs.  And over the past five years, European disapproval of President George W. Bush's handling of international affairs has risen dramatically (56% to 77% EU9) [1], and European desire for U.S. leadership in world affairs has dropped precipitously (from 64% to 37% EU9).
 
Americans and Europeans also view a nuclear Iran as a greater threat than continued violence and instability in Iraq, with 75% of Americans and 58% of Europeans agreeing that the threat in Iran is "extremely important," compared with 56% of Americans and 45% of Europeans on Iraq.
 
"A nuclear Iran, heightened terrorism fears, and the Israel-Lebanon clash show there is no shortage of issues on the transatlantic docket," said Craig Kennedy, President of the German Marshall Fund of the United States.  "It's clear from our survey that Americans and Europeans continue to feel strongly - and increasingly similarly - about those threats that most fundamentally affect our security. And with a majority of Americans for the first time joining Europeans in disapproving of President Bush's handling of international affairs, the U.S. can not afford to go it alone politically or diplomatically on global challenges."
 
Transatlantic Trends 2006 - a project of the German Marshall Fund of the United States and the Compagnia di San Paolo in Turin, Italy, with additional support from the Fundação Luso-Americana (Portugal), the Fundación BBVA (Spain), and the Tipping Point Foundation (Bulgaria) - measures broad public opinion in the United States and 12 European countries and gauges the pulse of transatlantic relations.  For the fifth consecutive year, participants were asked their views on each other, as well as on global threats, foreign policy objectives, world leadership, multilateral institutions, civil liberties, and the European Union.
 
TRANSATLANTIC PULSE: EUROPEANS COOL TO U.S.
Transatlantic Trends is designed to gauge the pulse of U.S.-European relations. For the first time since the survey began in 2002, Europeans' (EU9) warmth of feeling toward the U.S., on a 100-point "thermometer," is a lukewarm 51 degrees. Forty-six percent of Americans feel the transatlantic relationship has gotten worse in the last year, and the highest percentage of Europeans (41%) feel it has stayed the same.  A majority of Europeans (55%, EU9) support a more independent approach to security and diplomatic affairs between the U.S. and the European Union (compared to 50% in 2004). The largest percentage of Americans wants closer relations, but this has dropped from 60% in 2004 to 45%.
 
IRAN THREATENING, DIVERGENCE ON RESPONSE
Seventy-nine percent of Americans and 84% of Europeans (EU9) agree that efforts to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons should continue, with only 15% of Americans and 5% of Europeans who see military action as the best option.  If non-military options fail, 53% of Americans who support efforts to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons would support military action, compared with 45% of Europeans (EU9).  Fifty-four percent of French respondents, though, would support military action if non-military options fail.  Democrats and Republicans agree that efforts to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons should continue but disagree should non-military options fail - just 41% of Democrats but 70% of Republicans would support military action under these circumstances.
 
SUPPORT FOR EU ENLARGEMENT
Sixty-three percent of Europeans (EU9) agree that further enlargement of the European Union will help it play a more important role in world affairs, and 62% agree that further enlargement will promote peace and democracy along its borders.  Sixty-five percent of Europeans (EU9) support the creation of a European Union foreign minister, one of the key reforms put forth in the proposed constitutional treaty. 
 
"The overall picture of the European public opinion emerging from this year's survey seems to contradict the current view of a growing skepticism, among Europe's citizens, about further EU integration," said Piero Gastaldo, Secretary General of the Compagnia di San Paolo. "The fact that a large majority of the interviewed are in favor of creating an EU foreign minister position is particularly striking - it is both a reason for optimism and a serious challenge for the European and national institutions and for those independent subjects, like foundations, that are committed to promote the involvement of citizens in the integration process and the development of an actual European identity."
 
BROAD TRANSATLANTIC AGREEMENT ON CIVIL LIBERTIES COMPROMISES
Majorities of Americans and Europeans oppose greater governmental authority to monitor citizens' telephone calls (59% for both continents) but support greater authority to monitor communications on the Internet (54% for both) and install surveillance cameras in public places (78% Europe, 71% U.S.). The two sides disagree about greater authority to monitor banking transactions (50% of Europeans support, 58% of Americans oppose).  Majorities of Democrats oppose greater government authority to monitor telephone calls, communications on the Internet, and citizens' banking transactions, all of which are supported by a majority of Republicans.
 
 
Other Key Findings of Transatlantic Trends 2006:

Support for democracy promotion softening in U.S.: When asked whether they feel it should be the role of the European Union to help establish democracy in other countries, 71% of Europeans (EU9) agreed, a figure nearly unchanged from 2005.  Forty-five percent of Americans agreed when asked if it should be the role of the United States, a decline of seven percentage points from last year.  As in 2005, breakdown by U.S. party affiliation shows a strong partisan divide, with only 35% of Democrats agreeing compared to 64% of Republicans.  These percentages reflect declines in support in both parties, minus-eight percentage points among Democrats and minus-12 percentage points among Republicans.
 
Incompatibility between Islam and democracy due to particular Islamic groups: Fifty-six percent of Americans and Europeans do not feel that the values of Islam are compatible with the values of their democracy, but 60 % on both sides of the Atlantic agree that the problem is with particular Islamic groups, not Islam in general.  Sixty-six percent of Democrats and 59% of Republicans also agree that particular Islamic groups are the problem.
 
Turkey cooling, shifting: Since 2004, Turkey has cooled toward the United States and Europe but has warmed toward Iran.  Turkish "warmth" toward the United States declined from 28 in 2004 to 20 in 2006 on a 100-point "thermometer," and from 52 to 45 toward the European Union.  Over the same period, Turkish warmth toward Iran rose from 34 to 43.  Younger Turks, however, have warmer feelings toward both the United States and European Union, with a thermometer reading among 18- to 24-year-olds above the Turkish averages at 27 toward the United States and 48 toward the European Union.  While majorities of Turkish respondents continue to see EU membership as a good thing, the percentage of Turkish citizens who see Turkey's membership as a good thing has fallen each year from 73% in 2004 to 54% in 2006.  When asked whether Turkey's membership in the European Union would be a good thing, a bad thing, or neither good nor bad, the largest percentage of Europeans continue to feel it would be neither good nor bad (40%, unchanged since 2004).  Among those who have an opinion, however, those who see Turkey's membership as a good thing have fallen from 30% in 2004 to 21% in 2006, and those who see Turkey's membership as a bad thing have grown from 20% in 2004 to 32% in 2006.
 
NATO support declining, EU military role debated: European support for NATO remains positive overall but has declined from 69% in 2002 (EU9) to 55% in 2006, with large declines in countries traditionally perceived as strong supporters of NATO - Germany, Italy, Poland, and Turkey.  Forty-six percent of EU citizens (EU9) feel the EU should strengthen its military power to play a larger role in the world, and just 42% of EU citizens agree that the European Union should use military force if it goes against their own country's interests.
 
China threatening: When asked to rate their feelings of warmth toward China on a 100-point "thermometer" scale, Americans and Europeans rate China virtually identically (46 degrees to 45 degrees).  But 38% of Americans, compared with 27% of Europeans, feel that the rise of China is an "extremely important threat" in the next ten years.  In the United States, the largest percentage of respondents is more concerned by the threat posed by growing Chinese military power (35%), while in Europe, the largest percentage of respondents is more concerned by the threat posed by the growing Chinese economy (37%).  Among Europeans, the highest perception of the threat of the Chinese economy is in France (53%), Portugal (52%), and Italy (51%).  Within the United States, Democrats are more concerned about the economic (37%) than military threat (28%), and Republicans are more concerned about the military (42%) than economic threat (21%). 
 
For the full report and top-line data, see www.transatlantictrends.org

SUPPORTING ORGANIZATIONS
Transatlantic Trends is a project of the German Marshall Fund of the United States (www.gmfus.org) and the Compagnia di San Paolo (www.compagnia.torino.it) with additional support from Fundação Luso-Americana (www.flad.pt), Fundación BBVA (www.fbbva.es), and the Tipping Point Foundation.
 
METHODOLOGY
TNS Opinion conducted the survey and collected the data from the United States and twelve European countries: Germany, France, Great Britain, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Turkey, Romania, and Bulgaria.  Interviews were conducted by telephone using CATI (Computer Assisted Telephone Interviews) in all countries except Poland, Slovakia, Turkey, Bulgaria, and Romania (where lower telephone penetration necessitates face-to-face interviews), between June 6 and June 24, 2006. In each country, a random sample of approximately 1,000 men and women, 18 years of age and older were interviewed.  The margin of error is plus/minus 3 percentage points.
 


[1] All data refer to the 12 European countries surveyed (E12) - Germany, France, Great Britain, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Turkey, Romania, and Bulgaria - unless otherwise noted.  EU9 refers to current EU members.
 

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