Survey Finds Common Ground between Europe & the U.S.

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  1. Adam's Apple
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    Survey Discovers Common Ground between U.S., Europe
    Los Angeles Times
    September 8, 2005

    PARIS - Europeans and Americans have often starkly different views of each other and the world, but they agree on some major issues such as promoting democracy and avoiding war with Iran, according to a survey being released Wednesday.

    As Western leaders try to mend rifts exacerbated since 2003 by the Iraq war, the fourth annual study of European and U.S. public opinion by the German Marshall Fund depicts a complex, wary trans-Atlantic relationship. The report, an advanced copy of which was given to the Los Angeles Times, contradicts stereotypes and common wisdom.

    Although a majority of Europeans remain hostile to U.S. global dominance and President Bush in particular, they are enthusiastic about the centerpiece of Bush's foreign policy: promoting democracy around the world.

    Despite three major terrorist attacks in Europe during the past two years and increased debate about the difficulties of integrating a large Muslim population, Europeans fear terrorism, Islamic extremism and immigration less than Americans do, according to the survey.

    Americans agree with Europeans that the European Union, an economic giant but a military dwarf, should evolve into a global superpower even if that means Europe asserts increasing independence.

    The findings reflect the fact that the United States and Europe work well together in many places other than Iraq, said John K. Glenn of the German Marshall Fund, a U.S.-European think tank that studies and promotes trans-Atlantic relations.

    "The rift over Iraq has taken longer to heal than expected, but things haven't gotten worse," said Glenn, the fund's director of foreign policy, who is based in Washington. "There are very real differences in the way that Americans and Europeans view the world. ... You have to separate out the trauma of Iraq, which has been more enduring, more searing, if you will, for Europeans than Americans might have expected. The data shows enough common ground that I don't think we are at the beginning of a civilizational split."

    The report compiles polling data from the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain and Turkey, which straddles the Asian and European continents and aspires to join the EU. Pollsters questioned about 1,000 men and women in each country and identified a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

    The questions were designed to take the "temperature" of the trans-Atlantic relationship. Europeans have "moderately warm" feelings toward Americans overall, the survey found. Britons and Italians are the most positive, Spaniards and Turks the most anti-American.

    In contrast, the survey found, "Americans give their European allies more positive evaluations." The surge of anti-French sentiment that emerged at the time of the Iraq invasion has apparently abated. American warmth toward France increased for the second year in a row, going from 45 to 53 on a "thermometer" that measured responses on a scale of 1 to 100. Because European politics tend to be further to the left than in the United States, ideological antipathy toward the Bush administration shapes European attitudes.

    About 74 percent of European respondents, compared with 51 percent of Americans, want their governments to help establish democracy in other countries. The breakdown in responses among Americans was 76 percent among Republican voters and 43 percent of Democrats, probably because the latter associate the "democracy promotion" phrase with Bush, Glenn said. That means European views on the matter resemble those of the GOP, contradicting at least on this issue the image of Democrats being ideologically closer to Europe.

    On both continents, the public backs the diplomatic approach to the dispute with Iran over Tehran's nuclear ambitions. Only 5 percent of Europeans and 15 percent of Americans support a military solution. Slim majorities want human-rights reforms in China as a condition for increased trade with Beijing.

    The trans-Atlantic divide widens when it comes to global threats. Americans consistently see the world as a more dangerous place.

    "Americans feel significantly more likely to be personally affected by terrorism (71 percent versus 53 percent of Europeans), by the spread of nuclear weapons (67 percent versus 55 percent) and by Islamic fundamentalism (50 percent versus 40 percent)," the report says. At the same time, Europeans worry more than Americans (73 percent to 64 percent) about global warming, the survey found.

    A key factor for the divergence is the resounding effect on the American psyche of the Sept. 11 attacks, Glenn said. "9/11 was a psychological earthquake for Americans, because it happened in the United States," he said. "And it caused a fundamental shift in the thinking about safety, of the United States as a safe place with oceans on both sides. That helps explain why the threat perception is not so acute for Europeans."
     
  2. Annie
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