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To assess the overall degree of Atlanticism, we built an index combining the three items discussed in this section above: whether it is desirable that the United States (in Europe) and the European Union (in the US) exert a strong leadership in world affairs; whether NATO is essential to our country's security and whether partnership between the US and Europe should be closer, remain the same or be more independent. Scores on each of these questions were dichotomized and then summated, with an index ranging from 0, measuring Low Atlanticism, to 3 indicating a High degree of Atlanticism.
Those coded as Low have answered in Europe that the US leadership is not desirable, that NATO is not essential and that partnership should be more independent. In US, they have answered that the EU leadership is not desirable, NATO is not essential and partnership with Europe should be more independent. On the contrary, those who have the highest score deem the US leadership (in Europe) and the EU leadership (in the US) as desirable, NATO as essential and ask for a closer partnership.24
As shown in Table 3.5, Atlanticism has been quite stable over the period covered by the available data and quite diverse in Europe and the United States. Americans are more definitely supportive of a close Atlantic relationship than are Europeans. On average, Americans are 15 percentage points higher on this index than Europeans. Support for a close Atlantic relationship has been around 40 percent for most of the period and with the end of the Bush administration it went up by 10 percentage points, from 39 to 49 percent.
Table 3.5 Index of Atlanticism: closeness to allies across the Atlantic or an independent role in the world (2004-2011) (% 'high' on index)
Source: GMFUS, Transatlantic Trends, 2004-2011.
However, this gap between the two sides of the Atlantic hides a deep variation across countries. Looking at the difference in the Atlanticism Index over time across the countries surveyed by Transatlantic Trends, apart from Romania, a new NATO member that apparently prides itself to be plus royaliste que le roi, the United States is the most Atlanticist country of all with 66 percent of the population falling into the category of high Atlanticism (average figure over the period 2004-2009).
As shown graphically by Figure 3.7, there is quite a different distribution for the original six countries in Transatlantic Trends since its inception in 2002 as well as the countries joining Transatlantic Trends later (Bulgaria, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain and Romania), and the US public. The mean Atlanticist score is 2.16 in US and 1.58 in Europe, a statistically significant difference. In the US, a majority on both Left and Right is pro-Atlanticist in orientation.
The degree of Atlanticism has not changed systematically in recent years. In Europe, on the other hand, the drop in confidence in US leadership since 2004 and the desire for a more independent approach produced much lower and declining scores across the board up to 2008. In 2009, Obama gave a boost to Atlanticism in Europe. However, here only a few countries continue to score above 50 percent on our index, like the Netherlands and
Figure 3.7 Atlanticism index by three groups of countries
the United Kingdom. A middle group is formed by Bulgaria, Germany, Poland and Portugal. A third group of countries clusters at the low end of the spectrum - around thirty or below - and this includes Spain, Slovakia and France. Clearly, negative attitudes toward US leadership and the war in Iraq were, and to an extent continue, to undercut the desire for close cooperation with Washington, despite the almost unanimous support for the new president: witness the decline in recent years also in traditionally staunch pro-American countries like the Netherlands and the UK.
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