If President Barack Obama was standing for re-election in Europe rather than the United States he would romp to an easy victory over his Republican rival Mitt Romney, according to the results of a poll published today.
The German Marshall Fund think-tank's annual Transatlantic Trends
survey found that 82 per cent of Europeans had a positive opinion of Obama, while less than a quarter had a favourable view of Romney. Asked directly who they would vote for if they could take part in the US elections, 75 per cent of European Union residents went for Obama and only 8 per cent for his opponent.
Romney's rating was hit by the fact that he is unknown to many Europeans. Asked about the Republican candidate, 38 per cent either said they did not know or refused to answer. The poll was carried out in June, before a trip to Europe during which he criticised London's preparations for the Olympic Games.
Meanwhile Obama's approval rating in Europe of 82 per cent was significantly higher than in the US, where 57 per cent had a favourable view. His rating soared as high as 93 per cent in France, 91 per cent in Germany and 90 per cent in Sweden. Nevertheless Obama's popularity has declined since his election four years ago. In 2009 some 83 per cent of Europeans backed his foreign policy, but that has now dropped to 71 per cent.
The transatlantic relationship in general remains strong, with two-thirds of EU respondents – as well as 63 per cent of Americans – saying their countries shared common values and could cooperate on international problems. Some 61 per cent of Europeans said the US was a more important for their countries' national interests than Asia and just over half said the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation was still essential for security.
The poll showed that transatlantic opinion was aligned on a number of foreign policy issues. Some 80 per cent of Europeans and 79 per cent of Americans said they were concerned about a nuclear Iran. On Libya, 48 per cent of Europeans and 49 per cent of US respondents said western intervention had been the right option. And on Syria, 59 per cent of Europeans and 55 per cent of Americans were against getting involved in the conflict.
Both Europeans and Americans have switched their view of Russia from 'favourable' to 'unfavourable' compared with last year. Only 37 per cent of Europeans and 42 per cent of Americans held a positive opinion on Russia. As many as 75 per cent of Europeans and 60 per cent of Americans doubted that the Russian elections, which returned Vladimir Putin to the presidency in March, reflected the will of voters.
On the economy, about two-thirds of Europeans said they had been personally affected by the crisis, compared with 79 per cent of Americans. In the EU, 56 per cent were critical of their government's response. Membership of the EU was supported by 61 per cent but 57 per cent said the euro currency had been bad for the economy, similar to last year
. About a quarter of Spaniards and Germans said their country should leave the eurozone.
German Chancellor Angela's Merkel's performance during the crisis was rated favourably by just over half of Europeans – though her popularity varied significantly in the north and south of the continent. French and German people put her approval rating at 64 per cent and 63 per cent respectively, while 63 per cent of Spaniards and Italians disapproved of how she had dealt with the crisis.
As many as half of Europeans said they would back further cuts to public spending. But a large majority, of 76 per cent, agreed that most of the benefits of the economic system went to a small wealthy section of society.
The survey, conducted in conjunction with the Italian foundation Compagnia di San Paolo, questioned 15,500 people in the US and 12 EU member states – Bulgaria, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom – as well as Turkey and Russia.