Home Communication Public Opinion, Transatlantic Relations and the Use of Force
Friends and foes: anti-Americanism and the sense of Atlantic community
A second important source of Atlantic order, according to both Liberal and Constructivist perspectives, is constituted by the sense of community existing among democratic countries in the transatlantic area, which affects, in other words, the willingness to cooperate peacefully among the Atlantic partners. A second consequence of a sense of community is that it contributes to create borders, cultural and political, more than legal, which help to define who We are, the 'us', as compared to the Others, the 'them' outside the community. In this section, we explore the extent to which these two elements, one linked to the internal bonds of the community, and the other external, delimiting the frontier between us and them, are still valid in the Atlantic community or whether there are signs of a weakening of these internal bonds.
Our discussion will focus first on the internal dimension of the sense of community: the nature and strength of the bonds between the United States and the European countries. Usually, this discussion has taken place in the frame of debates about the sources, nature and consequences of anti-Americanism (Everts, 2006; Keohane and Katzenstein, 2009). Prestige in international relations, as Gilpin suggests (Gilpin,
1981: 30), is like authority in domestic order. Second, we will look at the external dimension, the We versus Others, as seen from both the European and US perspective. Do Europeans see Americans as part of the same in-group, or rather as a different actor, in a league with China, Russia and other non-European countries?
As far as the internal dimension of 'community 'is concerned, data availability suggests that we should focus on affective attitudes toward the United States on the part of Europeans. This not only because available data offer one of those rare opportunities to observe a phenomenon from a long-term perspective, tracing the historical ups and downs in the transatlantic relationship, but also because this is theoretically appropriate given the pre-eminent role that anti-Americanism has played in some explanations of the transatlantic rift (e.g., Sweig, 2006; and Zakaria, 2001). We employ a long time series of data that measures the 'favorability' of the United States among four European countries (France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom). This represents a proxy for the evolution of the sense of transatlantic community in Europe as a whole (Chiozza, 2009; Holsti, 2008; Isernia, 2007; Keohane and Katzenstein, 2007; see also Chamorel, 2004).
As shown in Figure 3.2, net favorability toward the US in Europe has fluctuated (sometimes strongly) over time in the four main Western European countries but on balance it has always tended to be positive. Periods of decline have always been followed by, sometimes equally rapid, recoveries. In that perspective, the sense of estrangement of recent years is not exceptional as such, although it is by far the highest of the entire series. The Bush era marked the deepest crisis in the Atlantic sense of community, but 'we have been here before' (Isernia, 2007). Americans and Europeans have always been able to overcome such crises in the past, and this happened this last time as well, as is shown by the rapid return of positive feelings toward the US after 2008 with the departure of George Bush and the arrival of Barack Obama. Moreover, the troughs in the American standing among the European public can easily be explained post hoc because they roughly coincide with periods of strong political controversy, such as the war in Vietnam in the early 1970s and the crisis over nuclear weapons in the early 1980s.
The graph not only shows periods of decline but also of, sometimes equally rapid, recoveries, which, however, are more difficult to explain. The graph shows how the most recent downward movement coincides with the administration of president George W. Bush, just as we see in a more moderate form below when we shall look at the 'feelings thermometer'. At the time of writing, the remarkable 'Obama bounce' that could be observed in 2009, and which brought the favorability of the United States right back to the historical average of the last fifty years, appears to be a lasting phenomenon. It is quite possible, however, that the damage done by the Bush administration and continuing transatlantic differences over specific policy issues will prevent a more permanent recovery or, alternatively, that feelings toward the United States as a country and sympathy for policy positions supported by the US government may not run in parallel. In that sense, the jury is still out on the question of whether we are dealing here with conjectural fluctuations or structural changes.
Looking now in another way at the general orientation toward the United States, we can observe that despite signs of increasing criticism of the US and American policies in Europe (and the other way around), Europeans appear to (continue to) like Americans about as much as, if not even more than, they like each other.
Table 3.3 reports feelings toward other countries in both US and Europe. Measured in this way, there is little evidence of (growing)
Figure 3.2 A long-term view of Transatlantic relations. Average net favorability ratings of US in four European countries (1952-2011)
Sources: USIA, Eurobarometer and PEW Global Attitude Survey, various years. France, Germany, Italy and UK.
Notes: Average Net scores ('favorable' minus 'unfavorable') are given for France, Germany, Italy and United Kingdom. Averages have been calculated for years for which more polls were available. Data for missing years have been interpolated. Polls were not always held in all countries and the average figure presented in the graph sometimes may hide important differences among the four countries. The horizontal line indicates the historical average level of favorability for the period 1952-2000.
Table 3.3 Feelings toward other countries (2002-2009)
Source: CCFR-GMFUS, Worldviews 2002, GMFUS, Transatlantic Trends, 2003-2009 (wAW.transatlantictrends.org). Scores are mean temperature for each country. Warm feelings = > 50°, Cool feelings = <50°
'Europe' means EU-7 = France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal and United Kingdom.
anti-Americanism. When asked to rate their feelings toward various countries on a 'thermometer' scale from 0 to 100 - with 100 meaning very warm, 50 neutral, and 0 very cold - public opinion in Europe as well as the United States over the years continued to show remarkable similarity in spite of strong criticism of the policies of the Bush administration.14 The patterns that we observe since 2002 are remarkably stable over time. In Europe, in June 2002, feelings toward the United States were warm and they were at the same rate as those for France, Germany and Great Britain. Americans, on their side, largely reciprocated these warm feelings for the European countries. Americans showed a more neutral feeling toward the EU as an institution, which they gave a 53 degree rating in 2002, than the Europeans, who gave the EU an average rating of 70 degrees.15
In 2002 there were no signs yet of any cooling trend on both sides. In most cases, American feelings were a bit warmer than they were in the CCFR survey of 1998 and in no case were they cooler. Of course, things did change somewhat immediately, as a consequence of the Iraq crisis and the dispute on the legitimacy and merit of the war. The most important of these was that the United States initially suffered considerably in terms of the warmth of feelings toward that country.16
In the United States, on the other hand, while feelings toward Great Britain remained warm, the criticisms of German and French leaders and the widespread opposition in those countries to the war in Iraq also clearly affected the warmth of American feelings. However, this effect did not seem to be a very lasting one as restoration to the former levels already began in 2004, and remained since then. The Europeans, on their part, remained cooler than before the war.
Whatever the case may be, the matter should be considered from the perspective provided by the fact that compared to how Europeans and Americans feel about other countries in the world, they remain close together and share much cooler feelings toward non-European countries, including definite antipathies toward countries like Syria and Iran.
Thus, in one other poll, Americans on average gave Europeans 58 degrees as compared to 42 for other countries in the survey combined (CCFR, 2004). Iraq got the coolest rating in 2002 in both Europe and the United States (respectively at 25 and 23 degrees), with the highest rating at 33 degrees in France and the lowest at 16 degrees in Germany, but it was not included in later surveys. Except for Russia, which is consistently judged more negatively in Europe than in the US, the big exception to this common transatlantic pattern of feelings is Israel. Americans consistently have warmer feelings about Israel than do
Europeans. The opposite is, to a lesser extent, true for the assessment of the Palestinians. This is, in all probability, linked to a harsher judgement on Israel's responsibility for the Arab-Israeli situation and to the greater sympathy for the Palestinian cause in Europe. This difference in warmth continued over the years and remained the one major distinction between Europeans and Americans and at the same time a clear exception to the general rule. It is tempting to conclude from these data that in spite of sometimes heated controversies and mutual recriminations Europeans and Americans consider each other to be members of one and the same family, and that the real gap lies elsewhere, between 'the West and the rest'.
To measure the external dimension of the sense of community, the way we define the 'We' as contrasted with the 'Others', we explore whether perceptions about other countries cluster in the same way in Europe and the United States. Several alternatives are possible. One could be a structure of feelings in which all countries are seen as the 'others' and the respondent's own country is seen as distinct from all others. This crucial national divide should produce a unidimensional factor along which all other countries lie. An alternative perspective, more in line with the Atlantic community thesis, would be to find that both Europeans and Americans see one another as belonging to the same group and the rest of the countries as ganging together in a different group. To explore which of these two alternatives is more appropriate, a set of principal component analyses was made on a feeling thermometer question for the US and EU respectively,1 7 asked by TTS repeatedly between 2002 and 2008, at which time the feeling thermometer question was discontinued.18 This thermometer asks respondents to assess whether they have warm, lukewarm or cold feelings toward other groups and nations. Tables 3.4A and B report the results.
Only factor loadings greater than .3 have been reported, unless all of them were below this threshold. The results are reassuring for the supporters of an Atlantic community, although they also show some of the consequences of the transatlantic crisis that occurred during the Bush administration.
Looking first at the way Europeans structure their geographical maps, two points stand out.
The first is that the European public sees the US and Europe as part of the same group as compared to other countries like Iraq, Iran, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. This is clearly the case in 2002 and (again) from 2006 on. The United States and the European countries all lie on the same factor, orthogonal with the second factor where all other
Table 3.4A Structure of feelings toward foreign countries (Europe)
Table ЗАВ Structure of feelings toward foreign countries (United States)
countries, some of which clearly perceived as a possible threat, cluster together. The second result is that the Bush period was characterized by a severe strain to this sense of we-feelings. Between 2003 and 2005, the main proponents of the Iraq war, the US and the UK, were perceived as sitting separately from both the other European countries and the 'other' countries, such as Russia, Iran, China and Turkey. This result seems to imply that, for most Europeans, the crisis did not automatically move the United States among the countries perceived as different or, possibly, as a threat, but rather it moved US (and UK) into the cold, into a third group, together with Israel. In this respect, the case of Israel is quite interesting, since for most Europeans it clearly lies outside the 'we-ring' and, both in 2002 and again from 2005 on, once the two-factor solution prevails again, Israel definitely lays with countries such as Turkey, Russia and China.
Moving now to the American image of the world, a different picture from the European one emerges. In the US, the prevalent image of world across the years is based on three groupings. In one lies Europe, with the exception of the United Kingdom in some years. In the outermost groups we find the countries seen as being very different from 'us', the United States, including countries like Iran, Saudi Arabia, China, Russia and Syria. Then, there is the second circle made of the countries of the Atlantic community. Finally, the core group is composed of the two closest allies, Israel and the UK. What the crisis of the period 20022007 did do, and only for Europe, was to open a wide gap between the European countries opposed to the war (and to the United States) and those in favor (namely the United Kingdom). Paradoxically, it was in the period of most intense conflict that the 'three layers' view of the world came to be shared by both the American and the European public.
It is also interesting to see how France loads on this structure for the American public in 2003, the crucial year of the war. Quite interestingly, France, the main opponent of the 'coalition of the willing' promoted by the Bush administration, weighed positively on both factors 1 and 2, characterizing respectively the Atlantic community allies and the others, pointing to the ambivalent position France had acquired during this contentious year for the American public.
In conclusion, we note that the public on both sides of the Atlantic see the other side as belonging to the same in-group and has a strong sense of attachment to the leading partner of this community, the United States. This sense of community is somewhat different, however, for Europeans and Americans.
|< Prev||CONTENTS||Next >|