Most people in the United States and Europe believe America should invade Iraq only after winning the support of U.S. allies and the United Nations. A new poll suggests that despite differences between U.S. and many European leaders, public opinion on both sides of the Atlantic is surprisingly similar on security and foreign policy issues.
More than 6,000 Europeans and about 3,000 Americans were questioned in an extensive survey that shows significant agreement on Iraq, the war on terrorism and other international issues. The poll found that the way Americans view the world has undergone a major change since the September 11 attacks on the United States.
Ninety-one percent of the Americans surveyed called terrorism a critical threat and 61 percent agreed that Washington needs to work more closely with its allies to fight it.
Marshall Bouton is the president of the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations, the organization which co-sponsored the poll with the research group, the German Marshall Fund of the United States.
Mr. Bouton says the survey showed American respondents have a higher degree of interest in international news than at anytime during the past 30 years. "What is, if not surprising, more significant, is that Americans operating on that increased sense of vulnerability and threat have become more attentive to the world, more alert to the issues and the countries that are of greatest concern to them," says Mr. Bouton. "Of course particularly those parts of the world from which terrorism might emerge, Americans have become more supportive of an America engaged in the world, have become more supportive of the use of force, especially when directed against terrorism and when done multi-laterally."
Mr. Bouton says despite differences among European and American leaders on Iraq, a majority of citizens in both places feel the United States should act together with other nations and not take unilateral action. "The public clearly favors an approach to a variety of issues, and most particularly right now the question of Iraq, in which we work with our European allies and with the United Nations as we move forward to decide what to do about Iraq and whether the United States should attempt through the use of military force to overthrow the Saddam Hussein regime," he says.
Seventy-seven percent of Americans and 76 percent of the Europeans surveyed say the United Nations "needs to be strengthened." American and Europeans were generally close to agreement in ranking their concerns about such issues as international terrorism, global warming and economic competition.
Mr. Bouton of the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations says the poll shows how close Europeans and Americans are in their thinking in the year following the September 11 attacks. "The American and European publics are much closer together on a variety of fundamental perceptions and views of the world and even on some policy issues than many of the pundits and even our leaders have been suggesting," he says. "There has been much talk about a drift or rift between Europe and the United States, but certainly at the level of the two publics we don't find that."
Fifty-five percent of the Americans surveyed give the Bush administration positive ratings for its handling of international terrorism, while only one in three have a positive view of how the administration has dealt with the Israeli-Arab conflict.
Forty-seven percent of the Europeans ranked President Bush's efforts to fight terrorism "excellent" or "good." Only about 20 percent of the Europeans polled approve of the administration's policies toward the Middle East.