Americans & Europeans Disapprove Of Intervention in Syrian Conflict, Favor Democracy over Stability in the Middle East and North Africa


Transatlantic Trends: Merkel favored over EU in handling of the economic crisis, Publics overestimate numbers of immigrants in their countries and are concerned about illegal immigration

Washington D.C., (Sept. 18, 2013) – Europeans and Americans are not in favor of military intervention in Syria, according to the 12th annual Transatlantic Trends survey out today. Seventy-two percent of Europeans and 62% of Americans polled as well as 72% of Turkish respondents do not want their governments to step into the conflict.

As countries in North Africa and the Middle East continue to struggle for democracy, 47% of U.S. respondents, 58% of Europeans, and 57% of Turks polled preferred democracy over stability in the Arab Spring countries.

Transatlantic Trends 2013 is an annual survey of U.S. and European public opinion conducted by the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) and the Compagnia di San Paolo, with additional support from the Barrow Cadbury Trust, Fundaão Luso-Americana, the BBVA Foundation, the Communitas Foundation, and the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs.. Eleven European Union member states were surveyed: France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom, as well as the United States and Turkey. Polling was conducted by TNS Opinion between June 3 and June 27, 2013. In Turkey, polling was suspended for a week and was completed by July 2, 2013.

Europeans felt that German Chancellor Angela Merkel (47% approval) did a better job of handling the economic crisis than the EU (43% approval, with a plurality of 49% disapproving). The EU countries most affected by the crisis tended to register the highest disapproval rates of the EU”s crisis management (Spain: 75%; France, Portugal, United Kingdom: 55%; Italy 49%). But Merkel’s disapproval ratings also rose sharply in the troubled economies – up to highs of 65% in Portugal and 82% in Spain.

The survey of European and U.S. public opinion also showed favorable views on trade. As negotiations over the TTIP (Tranatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) continue, 56% of Europeans and 49% of U.S. respondents say increased transatlantic trade would aid their economies. Turks however were more skeptical, with 43% saying this would make their economy more vulnerable.

When asked about immigration, majorities in the United States (73%, down from 82% in 2011), and Europe (69%) said that they were not worried about legal immigration. In contrast, 60% of Turks stated that they were worried about legal immigration. Sixty-one percent of Americans said they were worried about illegal immigration, joined by 71% of Europeans and 69% of Turks.
Almost all respondents overestimated the percentage share of immigrants in their countries.

“The 12 years reflected by Transatlantic Trends have been a complex time for both Europe and the United States, shaped by a marked divide about the U.S. intervention in Iraq, the alliance”s role in Afghanistan, and the global economic crisis,” said GMF President Craig Kennedy. “However the results this year show that we still agree on common principles.”


Transatlantic Relations and Global Views

A little more than half of EU respondents (55%) said it was desirable that the United States exert strong leadership in world affairs, almost unchanged from last year. Nearly three-in-four Europeans (70%) continued to hold favorable views of the United States, but views across Europe varied widely.

Fifty-seven percent of Americans (down six points from last year) said it was desirable for the European Union to exercise strong leadership as well. Within the EU, support for EU leadership went up in the U.K. (by five points to 60%), but down in France (by eight points to 68%) and Spain (by 11 points to 56%). Sixty-three percent of Turks felt EU leadership to be undesirable; 60% held an unfavorable view of the EU itself.

A plurality of Americans (46%) viewed Russian global leadership as undesirable, as did two-in-three Europeans (65%) and 67% of Turkish respondents. Negative views of Russia were held by 59% of Americans, 62% (up seven points from 2012) of Europeans, and 68% of Turks.

Asked for the first time about Chinese global leadership, a plurality of Americans (47%) said they found it undesirable, as did 65% of Europeans and 72% of Turks. Similarly, 58% of U.S. respondents reported an unfavorable view of China, with 60% of Europeans and 63% of Turks agreeing.

Economic Crisis, Europe, and Trade

People continue to feel hurt by the economy. Stable majorities of Europeans (65%) and Americans (75%) continued to report that they were personally affected by the crisis. Numbers rose most sharply in France (up 12 points to 65%), and in Poland (up seven points to 60%).

A majority of U.S. respondents (58%) supported government spending cuts to reduce debt; a plurality of Europeans (45%) agreed. However, faced with specific spending cut choices, respondents often preferred to maintain current spending or even increase it. Americans and Europeans were most open to defense cuts, with 46% on both sides of the Atlantic in support of maintaining current levels; 26% of Americans and 38% of Europeans were in favor of defense cuts. But majorities or pluralities wanted to increase spending on welfare, science, technology and education, and transportation and infrastructure. Turkish respondents were the most in favor of ambitious government spending; a majority (50%) supported increased defense spending.

Increasing majorities on both sides of the Atlantic (Americans: up 12 points since 2012 to 64%; Europeans: up five points since 2012 to 62%) disapproved of their governments” handling of economic policy. The increase in disapproval was sharpest in France (up 17 points to 74%). Even in the two countries where majorities approved, rates dropped sharply: in Sweden by 15 points to 74%, and in Germany by 12 points to 56%. In Turkey, 52% disapproved of their governments” economic policy, a reversal from 2012.

Increasing majorities in Europe (68%, up 11 points since last year) disapprove of EU control over national budgets; only 26% thought otherwise. In Germany, the only country where a majority wanted greater EU control over national budgets last year, the number dropped to 37% this year; 60% of Germans want member states to retain national control.

Transatlantic Security

Pluralities of Americans (33%), Europeans (42%), and Turks (40%) felt that their side of the transatlantic partnership in security and diplomatic affairs should take a more independent approach.

NATO was seen as “still essential” by 58% of EU respondents and 55% of Americans.

NATO will end its combat mission in Afghanistan in 2014, but some troops may remain to train Afghan national army and polices forces; when asked whether they approved of their own country contributing to such an effort, 54% of Americans said they did and 53% of Europeans agreed. A majority (51%) of Turks said they would disapprove of Turkey contributing troops.

Asked whether they approved of unmanned aircraft (drones) being used to find and kill suspected enemies in places like Afghanistan and Pakistan, 71% of U.S. respondents said they approved, while 53% of Europeans disagreed. In Turkey, 60% of respondents disapproved, while only 29% approved.

Transatlantic opinions about how best to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons have converged. A plurality of Americans (29%) preferred imposing economic sanctions. A plurality of Europeans (32%, up four points) and Turks (27%, up 11 points) agreed, a shift from previous years when Europeans had tended to prefer offering economic incentives.

Mobility, Migration, and Integration

A plurality of Americans (41%) of said that there were “too many” immigrants in their country; 33% of Europeans agreed. A plurality of Europeans (39%) said there were “a lot but not too many” immigrants in their country; 39% of Americans concurred. In Turkey, a plurality of respondents (35%) said there were “not many” immigrants in their country.

A majority of Americans (54%) and a plurality of Europeans and Turks (both 49%) agreed that “immigrants help create jobs as they set up new businesses.”

Majorities in the United States (57%) and Europe (50%) said that “immigrants are a burden on social services.” When asked whether “immigrants are a threat to our national culture,” however, two-thirds majorities in Europe (69%) and the United States (64%) disagreed.

Asked whether “immigrants enrich our culture,” two-thirds majorities in the United States (69%) and Europe (60%) said that they do. Sixty-one percent of Turkish respondents disagreed.


Forty-four percent (down from 73% in 2004) of Turkish respondents still favored joining the European Union; 34% (up from 9% in 2004), said that it would be bad.

Twenty percent of EU respondents said that Turkey”s accession to the EU would be a good thing; 33% said it would be bad; 37% said it would be neither good nor bad.

Contact and Interviews / Kontakt und Interviewanfragen
German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF)
1744 R Street NW
Washington, DC 20009
United States
Sarah Halls
E-Mail : shalls(at)
Tel.: +32 (0)4 484 491 078

Deutscher Pressekontakt
Andrea Ludwig,

The German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) strengthens transatlantic cooperation on regional, national, and global challenges and opportunities in the spirit of the Marshall Plan.

GMF does this by supporting individuals and institutions working in the transatlantic sphere, by convening leaders and members of the policy and business communities, by contributing research and analysis on transatlantic topics, and by providing exchange opportunities to foster renewed commitment to the transatlantic relationship.

In addition, GMF supports a number of initiatives to strengthen democracies. Founded in 1972 as a non-partisan, non-profit organization through a gift from Germany as a permanent memorial to Marshall Plan assistance, GMF maintains a strong presence on both sides of the Atlantic. In addition to its headquarters in Washington, DC, GMF has offices in Berlin, Paris, Brussels, Belgrade, Ankara, Bucharest, Warsaw, and Tunis. GMF also has smaller representations in Bratislava, Turin, and Stockholm.

German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF)
Sarah Halls (
1744 R Street NW
DC 20009 Washington
32 (0)4 484 491 078