ANKARA – Hürriyet Daily News
Questioning how long the Obama honeymoon will last, a new survey reveals that a popular US president is clearly an asset in transatlantic relations. People in the EU and Turkey were considerably more likely to approve of Obama than were those in the United States, according to the study
In 2009, three-in-four people in the European Union and Turkey supported U.S. President Barack Obama’s handling of international affairs, according to the latest Transatlantic Trends study by the German Marshall Fund. This demonstrates a quadrupling of such approval compared with judgment of former President George W. Bush in 2008.
Only one-in-five (19 percent) approved of Bush’s foreign policy in 2008.
“This reversal in sentiment is unprecedented in the eight years of Transatlantic Trends,” the study said, adding however, that populations in Bulgaria, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Turkey were markedly less enthusiastic about Obama and the United States than were their Western European counterparts.
In 2009, only 22 percent of Turks had a favorable view of the United States, compared with support from 52 percent of the population in 1999/2000, according to polling by the U.S. State Department. On top of this, 42 percent of the Turkish public had a very unfavorable view of the United States, by far the most negative of all countries surveyed by Transatlantic Trends.
Questioning how long the Obama honeymoon would last, the survey revealed that a popular U.S. president is clearly an asset in transatlantic relations, but stressed that the future trajectory of U.S.-European ties will also depend on the successful management of divergent public views and ongoing policy differences.
People in the EU and Turkey (77 percent) were considerably more likely to approve of Obama than were those in the United States (57 percent), according to the study, which also disclosed that backing for Obama buoyed favorable opinion of the United States, which returned to levels last seen in the 1990s.
The majority of EU citizens and Turks had a favorable opinion of the United States, said the survey. Central and Eastern Europeans were significantly less enthusiastic about Obama’s handling of international affairs (60 percent) than were people in Western Europe (86 percent), and were less likely (53 percent) to see the United States in a positive light than were West Europeans (63 percent), it added.
Iran’s disputed nuclear program continued to be a potential headache. According to the survey, the majority of people in the EU (53 percent) ruled out the use of military force to halt Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. In the United States, 47 percent favored maintaining that military option.
Despite growing European and Turkish support for transatlantic security cooperation, the NATO allies disagreed about Afghanistan. Three-in-five (62 percent) respondents in the EU and Turkey were pessimistic about stabilizing the situation in Afghanistan. The most negative were the Germans (75 percent). The majority of those in the EU and Turkey wanted to see the number of their troops in Afghanistan either reduced or totally withdrawn, it said.
Other foreign policy findings of the study are as follows:
· Only one-in-five Turks (22 percent) had a favorable view of the United States, and 42 percent of the Turkish public had a very unfavorable view of the United States, by far the most negative of all countries in the survey.
· Half the Turkish population (48 percent) thought EU membership would be a good thing but in the past year opposition to Turkish membership went up in 9 of 11 EU countries surveyed.
· Only 32 percent of Turks held a favorable opinion of the EU. Just 26 percent thought it was desirable for Brussels to exert strong leadership in world affairs. And, by two-to-one (43 percent), Turks thought they should act alone rather than in concert with the EU.
· Despite a global resurgence in support for Obama, only half of the Turkish population approved of how he had handled international affairs, up from just 8 percent backing for President Bush in 2008.
· About half of Turks lacked confidence in Obama to fight terrorism. Only U.S. citizens themselves (53 percent) had less faith in their president on this issue. Of the Turkish people, 57 percent worried about Obama’s ability to manage international economic problems. With regard to these two priority issues, Turkish confidence in Obama was among the lowest of any country surveyed.
Transatlantic Trends is a comprehensive annual survey of U.S. and European public opinion. Polling was conducted between June 9 to July 1, 2009 in the United States and 12 European countries: Bulgaria, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Turkey, and the United Kingdom.