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Poll: Trans-Atlantic ties still strained over Iraq

The trans-Atlantic divide that opened up over the Iraq war remains wide, but there is no wholesale erosion of the relationship between Europeans and Americans, according to a survey released Thursday.
/ Source: The Associated Press

The trans-Atlantic divide that opened up over the Iraq war remains wide, but there is no wholesale erosion of the relationship between Europeans and Americans, according to a survey released Thursday.

European public opposition to the foreign policy of President Bush is strong and has risen steadily, the third annual Trans-Atlantic Trends poll suggests.

Seventy-six percent of 10,000 Europeans polled in 10 countries disapprove of Bush foreign policies — up 12 points from 2003, and 20 points from 2002, the survey says.

Bush’s foreign policy polled a 51-percent approval rating at home, said the survey, commissioned by the Washington-based German Marshall Fund and the Compagnia di San Paolo, a nonprofit research center in Turin, Italy.

The survey revealed shifting perceptions driven by the Iraq war, yet found that overall, Europeans and Americans value their trans-Atlantic relationship.

“Despite controversy over American foreign policy, 65 percent of Europeans believe Europe and the United States have grown closer or remained about the same in recent years,” said the survey, which was carried out by EOS Gallup Europe in June.

Sixty percent of Americans believe the partnership should become closer and 79 percent want the EU to show more global leadership. Almost as many Europeans — 71 percent — want the EU to be a superpower like the United States, but half changed their minds when asked if they would agree to increasing European defense spending.

In Europe, 31 percent believe the trans-Atlantic relationship is fading, but that is down from 36 percent last year.

“Americans are more likely than Europeans to perceive a growing estrangement,” concluded the survey, which polled 1,000 people each in the United States and 10 European countries: France, Germany, Britain, Italy, Netherlands, Poland and Portugal as well as for the first time, Slovakia, Spain, and Turkey. It had a margin of error of 3 percentage points.

80 percent of Europeans say war was not worth it
Iraq remains a nasty blip on the screen.

Thirteen months after combat operations ended and Iraq became a daily tableau of terrorism, 80 percent of Europeans asked said the war was not worth the loss of life and other costs, the survey said, noting an increase of 10 points from 2003.

Seventy-three percent of the Europeans — and 49 percent of the Americans — believe the war increased the risk of terrorism.

Americans — who vote in presidential elections in November — are divided along ideological lines on whether the war in Iraq was worth it, the survey found.

Seventy-nine percent of Republicans -- Bush’s party -- polled thought the war was a good thing, 83 percent approved of U.S. troops there and almost 70 percent saw no need to get U.N. approval for future situations like that of Iraq, the survey found.

By contrast, 81 percent of the Democrats polled believed it is essential that the U.N. blessing be obtained in future crises like that in Iraq.

The war has led 58 percent of the Europeans to see strong U.S. global leadership as undesirable, up 9 points from 2003, the findings said.

Europeans more reluctant to declare war unilaterally
The survey said Europeans generally are more reluctant than Americans to declare war unilaterally.

“When asked if it is justified to bypass the United Nations when the vital interests of their country are involved, 59 percent of Americans agreed,” said the survey.

In Europe, 44 percent agreed, but the picture varied from one country to the next.

Majorities in Britain, the Netherlands, Slovakia, Poland and Portugal — which sided with Washington in the Iraq war — see reasons to go to war without the United Nations’ blessing.

Support for unilateral action has risen in France, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland and Portugal in the past year.

Today, Europeans question a strong U.S. leadership role in the world and 58 percent said they want to see a more independent Europe on the international stage.

“If this trend continues, we may be looking at a redefinition of the fundamentals of the trans-Atlantic relationship from a first choice partnership to an optional alliance when mutually convenient,” said Craig Kennedy, president of the German Marshall Fund, in a comment on the findings.

Despite the Iraq war, Europeans give Americans an overall approval “thermometer reading” of 55 degrees on a scale of 100, no major change over the last year, signifying Europeans have not developed less favorable feelings toward the United States,” said the survey.

France — a favorite target of Europe-bashers in America— registered 51 degrees in the United States — down 4 degrees from 2002, but up 6 degrees from 2003. By comparison, Americans registered a 61-degree rating for Germany, up 5 degrees from 2003.