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Friday | March 5 | 2021

In Europe we Trust. Europeans believe the US is in decline and can’t stage a comeback

While most Europeans rejoiced at Joe Biden’s victory in the November US presidential election, few are confident that the United States will stage a comeback as the pre-eminent global player under his leadership.

Even more, a majority of Germans today agree that after voting for Trump in 2016, Americans can’t be trusted, and across Europe, more respondents agree than disagree with this statement.  

This shift translates into a very limited willingness of Europeans to back the US in potential international disagreements.

For example, half or more of the public in all 11 European countries polled hold the view that their government should be neutral in a conflict between the US and China, and, in no surveyed country, would more than 40% want to take Washington’s side against Russia.

There is scepticism in Europe on whether Biden can arrest the decline of the United States on the global stage

Across the eleven surveyed countries, a majority (51%) does not subscribe to a view that, under Biden, the US is likely to repair its internal divisions and invest in solving international issues such as climate change, peace in the Middle East, relations with China, and European security.

There is also a strong sense among Europeans that China will overtake the US as the world’s leading superpower within the next decade – an opinion that is held widely across surveyed countries, including in Spain (79%), Portugal (72%), Italy (72%) and France (63%).

The legacy of the Trump administration has undermined trust in the United States 

Almost a third (32%) of all respondents to ECFR’s poll agree that, after voting for Trump in 2016, Americans cannot be trusted.

Most strikingly, 53% of German respondents hold this view – making them clear outliers on this point.

Only in Hungary and Poland do significantly more people disagree with the statement than agree. 

Very few Europeans believe the US would intervene on their behalf in the event of a military crisis

Just 10% of those polled view the US as a ”reliable” security partner who will always protect Europe, while at least 60% of respondents in every country polled – and 67% across all the countries – feel their country cannot depend on US support in the event of a major crisis.

Divisions over America in Europe have changed and have a lot to do with whether people feel the EU, USA or China are rising or declining.

In Europe we Trust

The study identified four new geopolitical tribes (”In Europe we Trust”, the biggest with 35% of respondents); ”In Decline We Trust”, second biggest with 29%; ”In the West We Trust” 20% and ”In America we Trust” with only 9%.

This are the key finding of a major pan-European survey of more than 15,000 people in eleven countries, published today by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR).

The survey was conducted in November and December 2020 by Datapraxis and YouGov.

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