BERLIN, GERMANY - Almost three years into the U.S. presidency of Donald Trump, Germans and Americans continue to have notably different perspectives on the relationship between their two countries, with Americans much more optimistic than their European counterparts, a study said Tuesday.
The Pew Research Center and the Koerber-Stiftung foundation said in the joint report that three-quarters of Americans surveyed characterized the relationship with Germany as good, while nearly two-thirds of Germans polled saw relations as bad. Only 2% of Germans said the relationship with the U.S. is very good, compared with 13% of Americans.
Despite this disconnect, views have become more positive in Germany over the past year: The share of Germans who said the relationship between the United States and Germany is good rose from 24% in 2018 to 34% this year.
The United States had been the Germans’ most important trans-Atlantic partner from the end of World War II through the Cold War. But after the fall of the Berlin Wall three decades ago and German reunification in 1990, Germany began focusing more on its partners in the European Union.
The relationship between Germany and the U.S. also took a hit after Trump became president in 2017 and is mirrored in the strained relations of Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Tempers flared this week after Economy Minister Peter Altmaier on a talk show defended the government’s decision not to ban Huawei from competing for contracts to build the country’s 5G mobile networks, instead agreeing that companies must meet strict standards — which still could end up excluding the Chinese firm.
Altmaier noted Germany hadn’t boycotted the U.S. after it was revealed the National Security Agency had listened in on Merkel’s phone, and said that Washington also demands that American companies “pass on certain information needed to fight terrorism.”
U.S. Ambassador Richard Grenell, a Trump appointee, responded that “the recent claims by senior German officials that the United States is equivalent to the Chinese Communist Party are an insult to the thousands of American troops who help ensure Germany’s security.”
Despite the tensions under Trump, however, Americans’ view of the bilateral relationship is at its highest point in three years of surveys, rising from 68% in 2017 to 75% this year.
Germans were more likely to see the U.S. as an important partner than Americans were to consider Germany as one.
Among the Germans polled, 42% said the United States is the most important foreign partner, second only to France, which was deemed most important by 60%.
In comparison, only 13% of Americans said Germany is the United States’ most important partner abroad, ranking it fifth after the United Kingdom (36%), China (23%), Canada (20%) and Israel (15%).
Nonetheless, U.S. poll respondents ranked improving cooperation with Germany more highly than German respondents did, with about 69%, compared to half of Germans. German respondents placed more importance on greater cooperation with France and Japan: 77% and 69%, respectively.
An overwhelming percentage of Americans polled, 85%, said they viewed the U.S. military presence in Germany as very important to American national security, while only 52% of German respondents did. The U.S. currently operates several military bases in Germany, with approximately 35,000 active duty American troops, a legacy of World War II and the continued NATO presence in Europe.
The Pew Center interviewed 1,004 people in the U.S. from Sept. 17-22. The margin of error is plus or minus three percentage points.
In Germany, the survey of 1,000 people was conducted from Sept. 9-28 by the Kantar agency for Koerber-Stiftung. The margin of error is plus or minus three percentage points.