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Left-Right and the sense of an Atlantic community

The patterns in Europe and the United States are also remarkably alike as far as sympathy toward US and the EU are concerned. When we look at how ideology, the Left-Right divide, is related to feelings toward the United States and the European Union in Europe and the US respectively, we find that ideology and the temperature ratings are clearly and significantly related, both in Europe and the US. The relationship between political ideology and feelings toward the United States is in the same direction and of the same strength both in Europe and the United States.3 The Left is slightly less pro-American than the Right, both in Europe and the United States.

Sure, Americans are much more emphatic about their own country than Europeans, not surprisingly so given the multi-level governance in which Europeans are enmeshed and the strong appeal national attachments exert on Americans. The reverse relationship holds when we look at feelings toward Europe, both in Europe and the US.4 This time the Left is more pro-European, both in Europe and the US, than the Right, and this relationship is stronger in the US than in Europe, a result of the cooler attitudes toward Europe among Conservatives in the US.

Consequently, a Left-wing government in Europe will have a harder time 'to sell' America to their own public in transatlantic affairs and a Right-wing government in US will have some problems in 'selling' Europe. Problems get compounded when we look at things on both sides, as we examine the possible dynamics between Europe and the United States.

Turning now to the Atlanticist orientation, the general preference for it in both the US and the EU in absolute terms (noted in Chapter 3) should not make us forget that there are also considerable differences among the various political persuasions. In 1989, to the question of who were the Atlanticists in Europe, Eichenberg resolutely answered 'those on the political Right' (Eichenberg, 1989: 149). More than 20 years later, our conclusions are not that different, although we record a much higher aggregate level of support for Atlanticism. Our comparative data, however, also suggest a potentially important difference between Europeans and Americans, so far neglected.

Once we factor political ideology into the picture, a distinctively different pattern emerges in Europe compared to the United States. First, as already noted, Americans are far more Atlanticists than Europeans in general, as shown in Figure 3.6 in the previous chapter. Unlike Europe, in the US, the majority on both Left and Right is pro-Atlanticist in orientation. Second, and in this context more importantly, the relationship runs in the opposite direction in Europe and the US. In the US the Left is much more pro-Atlanticist in the US than the Right. Eighty-eight percent of the Left have a high score on the Index of Atlanticism, while it is almost 20 percentage points lower (69 percent) among the Right-wing voters. In Europe it is the reverse: the Right is more Atlanticist than the Left. This makes the Left-Right divide running in opposite directions in Europe and the US and it further complicates the transatlantic relations. In fact, the taproots of the Atlantic community are ideologically different in Europe and the US.

In Europe, as expected from the nature of political discourse as it evolved since the end of World War II, those on the Left are less Atlanticist than those on the Right. Among Left-wing voters, 57 percent have a low score on the Index of Atlanticism, against 37 percent of those on the Right. Right-wing voters are more likely (63 percent) to be highly Atlanticists than Left-wing voters (42 percent). In the US, the ideological divide is less dramatic, but, even more remarkably, the relationship runs in exactly the opposite direction, although, comparatively speaking, the Right in the US is quite high on average on the Atlanticism Index (the pooled sample Pearson's r score is 0.215 in Europe and -0.217 in the US).

In fact, this makes for a strange coalition when it comes to Atlanticism. The Right in Europe is closer to the Left in US on Atlanticism than to their ideological affiliates. The Left in Europe and the Right in US turn out to be somewhat lukewarm on Atlanticism.

Pairing this piece of evidence with the earlier noted relatively cooler feelings toward the EU among the Right-wing respondents in US and toward the US among the Left-wing voters in the EU, we can see how quite constrained the different European governments and US administrations are, at least ideologically speaking, when it comes to coordinating common policies at the Transatlantic level. Figure 4.1 depicts the problem showing how Left and Right lie on the common Atlantics continuum in Europe and the United States. Although all scores are skewed toward a pro-Atlanticist orientation, what is interesting to observe is who overlaps with whom. At the two extremes there are respectively those on the Left, in Europe and those on the Right, in the US. The two groups of voters most closely together: the Right-wing leaning respondents in Europe and the Left-leaning respondents in the US, are an odd couple by political standards. These two groups make up the bulk of the mainstream Atlantics 'Beltway' so to say.

Ideological placement of Left and Right in Europe and the US on the Atlanticism continuum

Figure 4.1 Ideological placement of Left and Right in Europe and the US on the Atlanticism continuum

Note: Reported figures are the mean scores for the different groups.

 
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