|A recent global survey carried out by Gallup with a consortium of other pollsters paints an interesting picture of the US, as seen by residents of ten European countries: Germany, France, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Turkey, the UK, and by Americans themselves. Some interesting findings:
- Two thirds of Americans think their expenditures on defense are too high, whereas only 60% of Europeans think their own defense expenditures are too high.
- Three fourths of those surveyed in almost every country believe that immigration constitutes a “serious threat” to national security
- Three fourths of those surveyed in almost every country have a “mostly favourable” opinion of the UN, and about two thirds in every country believe NATO is “still essential” to security
- 60% of Europeans and 70% of Americans believe that Europeans and Americans share similar values.
- “In light of Iraq”, two thirds of Americans believe the US and Europe should work in closer partnership, while two thirds of Europeans believe Europe should “take a more independent approach” to foreign and diplomatic affairs.
- Excluding Germany, about two thirds of Europeans support military intervention to stop a civil war, while a small majority of Germans and Americans would be opposed to such intervention. And while over 80% of Europeans (including Germans) support deploying peacekeeping troops after a civil war, only two thirds of Americans do. This suggests that a significant percentage of Americans who supported the Iraq invasion would oppose using those same troops to keep the peace in another country, which must take some mental gymnastics to reconcile.
- Excluding Germany, a small majority of Europeans and Americans would support military intervention to remove a government that abuses human rights.
- A majority of those in Poland, Portugal and Turkey are opposed to continued presence of their country’s troops in Afghanistan, while Slovakians would object to their country sending troops. A small majority of other Europeans, and nearly three fourths of Americans, support their country’s continued presence in Afghanistan.
- A majority of those in Italy, Poland, Portugal and Slovakia are opposed to continued presence of their country’s troops in Iraq, while the people of France, Germany, Spain and Turkey overwhelmingly support their leaders’ decision not to send troops or (in Spain’s case) to withdraw troops. Continued presence of troops in Iraq is supported only in the UK (52%), Netherlands (59%) and the US (59%).
- Participation in an international peacekeeping and reconstruction force in Iraq under UN command would be supported by those in every country except Turkey and Poland. However, if the force was under US control, only four European countries (UK, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal) would approve of their country’s participation.
- By an overwhelming majority in Europe, and by a 2:1 margin in the US, people agree that military action in Iraq has increased, rather than decreased, the threat of terrorism.
- About two thirds of the people of all countries surveyed except Germany, Poland, Slovakia and Turkey (which would be opposed) would support UN-approved intervention to establish peace in an African nation. Only a slim majority of Americans would support such intervention without UN approval, while all other countries would be opposed,
Except for their opinion of Israel and the US, Europeans and Americans have surprisingly similar opinions of the “institutions and people” of the rest of the world, and both Europeans’ and Americans’ opinions of each other rank second only to their opinion of themselves. Only the Spaniards (mean score 42%) and Turks (28%) had majority unfavourable opinions of Americans.
Contrast this largely favourable opinion of America’s institutions and people with their approval ratings for Bush:
The weighted overall European approval rating for Bush is 16%.
I thought this was interesting: Here’s the proportion of people in each country that believe military intervention would be warranted to ensure the supply of oil to their country. What are we to make of this?
On the pivotal question of the wisdom of invading Iraq, the consensus is overwhelmingly that it was unwise, with the difference between countries being one of degree only. The question was “Was the war in Iraq worth the loss in human life and other costs”. Percentage saying yes:
This next chart tells an interesting story about each country’s history and culture: Might versus right. Note the strong divergence between Spain and neighbouring Portugal.
Contrast the last chart with this one, which shows a roughly 50-50 split of opinion in each country, with little difference between countries. The question is “Do you agree that providing economic aid to raise living standards in countries where terrorists are recruited is the most appropriate way to fight terrorism?”:
I’m not sure what to make of this either. It suggests we have a lot of education to do, anyway.
Finally, here are the issues that voters in each area consider most important in deciding which party to support in their next election:
There is little difference among European nations in answers to this question, including those nations that have a much longer history dealing with terrorism than the US. To me this suggests that Europeans have moved on to issues that they can really control, while many Americans continue to be victimized by the fear-mongering of the politicians and mainstream media.
Make of it what you will, I thought it was an interesting exercise in gauging The Wisdom of Crowds.
Addendum 8pm: A final question in the survey asked people to place themselves on a political spectrum from extreme left to extreme right (in the US, the wording was “extremely liberal to extremely conservative”), using a seven point scale, with 4 being centrist/moderate. From left to right, here are the average country self-assessments, and the index of polarization (percentage rating themselves 1, 2, 6 or 7). Overall, and in almost every country, the curve was almost perfectly normally distributed (i.e. a bell curve), with most people calling themselves moderates, and about an equal number of left-of-centre and right-of-centre respondents: