Transatlantic Trends

The 2003 Transatlantic Trends survey , conducted for the German Marshall Fund, Compagnia di San Paolo and Fundacao Luso-Americana, has recently published and the results from it make for some interesting reading. Some of the findings confirm what you might expect, while others confound expectations somewhat.

There’s a key findings report available in English, French, German, Italian and Portuguese (English and Italian in pdf only, others also available in Word). There’s also coverage of the report from EUObserver, The Guardian, BBC News, Yahoo! News and The Hindu, for a perspective from somewhere non-Atlantic.

One of the problems with a report like this one is that it throws out enough different (and sometimes contradictory) results that almost anyone can find statistics in it to support their views. The schizophrenic nature of the results can be seen in the finding that a ‘large majority of Europeans want the EU to become a superpower like the US, but support drops dramatically if greater military spending is required.’

However, while the headlines focus on where the results show differences between Europe and the US, they do not seem to be showing an insurmountable gulf between the two sides. For instance, the figures showing what people regard as the top five international threats are almost identical for both Europe and the US – well over 80% on each side regard international terrorism, the potential of Weapons of Mass Destruction in North Korea and Iran, Islamic fundamentalism and the Arab-Israeli conflict as ‘important’ or ‘very important’ threats.

The main difference, it would seem, is not between any core values on either side, but how to go about protecting and defending those values, creating differences on issues like war and the UN, amongst others. However, one interesting result is that a surprisingly large number of US respondents would like to see the EU as a co-superpower (37%, against 42% who want to see the US as a sole superpower, compared to 32% and 52%, respectively, last year).

Of course, one thing that needs to be stated is that while the survey does show differences between European and US opinion, it was only a survey of those two areas. I suspect, though obviously can’t prove, that a survey asking similar questions of the whole world may find that Europe and the US are much closer than on many issues than we might expect.

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