Americans and Germans sharply divided over their countries’ relations, new research shows

Posted at 3:07 PM, Nov 26, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-27 02:42:13-05

Americans and Germans are sharply divided over their countries’ decades-long relationship, according to a new Pew Research Center and Körber-Stiftung public opinion survey.

Some 70% of Americans described relations between the US and Germany as good, while 73% of Germans said the relationship is bad — which Pew says is a “sharp elevation in negative assessments since 2017.” Last year, it noted that 56% of Germans said their country’s relationship with the US was bad.

The survey, which was conducted by telephone in September among 1,006 adults in the US and 1,002 respondents in Germany, found that “Americans and Germans are worlds apart in views of their countries’ relationship.”

Those surveyed were not only divided on bilateral relations, but also the importance of how they ascribe to each others’ foreign policy and whether the two countries should cooperate with each other more, or less.

While 70% of Americans said the US should cooperate more with Germany, only 41% of Germans thought their country should cooperate more with the US.

When it comes to important foreign policy partners, Germans continued to identify France as the most or second-most important partner, Pew found, while 35% mentioned the US — down from 43% in 2017.

For Americans, the United Kingdom, China and Canada were the top three countries mentioned — with only 9% identifying Germany as an important partner.

A vast majority of Germans said they want to be more independent from the US on foreign policy, whereas most Americans want to remain close with Europe.

German views toward America have been shifting, particularly since Donald Trump became US president. In July, the President accused fellow NATO ally Germany of being a “captive of Russia,” due to its energy reliance. German Chancellor Angela Merkel appeared to hit back at Trump, drawing on her own upbringing in Soviet-controlled East Germany.

In 2017, the President bashed Merkel over what he called her “catastrophic” refugee policies and accused the EU of “being a vehicle for Germany.”

However, despite the stark differences in the survey, US and German citizens found “common ground” on the importance of NATO, the benefits of free trade and defense spending, Pew’s report said.

While American and German views were similar when it comes to defense spending, Pew noted there “have been notable shifts in opinion in both countries over the last year.”

Germans, it said, were more likely to say that they think their country should increase defense spending (43% — up from 32% last year), fewer Americans — 39% — see a need for European allies to increase spending, which was down from 45% in 2017.