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World

'US sees Germany as a beacon of light in the EU'

Modern, forward-looking and successful - the image that Americans have of Germany is better than ever, a new survey shows. The director of the study Andrew Hare tells DW why Germans are so popular in the US.

Andrew Hare is the director of the study "American Perceptions of Germany in a Changing World," which surveyed 1,517 Americans on their opinions of Germany. Overall, 59 percent of Americans have an excellent or good impression of Germany. Only six percent have a bad impression. Americans consider Germany to be the third most important international partner, following Britain and Canada. When it comes to Europe, Americans have the most confidence in Germany. Those surveyed said Germany was best equipped to lead Europe out of the euro crisis. The German Embassy in Washington commissioned the study, which was carried out by the consultancy Frank N. Magid Associates.

DW: Germany came off surprisingly well in your study. Our reputation is better than ever before among Americans. How do you explain these results?

Andrew Hare: So much of it is tied to the American perception of Germany after the eurozone crisis and the German leadership that has come out of that. Angela Merkel is extremely popular, not only in Europe but in the US as well. It also reflects a world view - that the US sees Germany as a beacon of light in the EU - and also a shared value system, with both being economic partners, our study shows. It has reached the highest level since the Berlin Wall fell, Americans really see Germany as the true leader in Europe right now.

You say Angela Merkel is very popular in the United States. How does this popularity manifest itself?

She is even parodied on [the US comedy show] Saturday Night Live and is really thought of as a huge figure on the international stage now - especially after the NSA leaks came out and with her meeting with President Obama later this year. There is a lot of admiration from the US side, both the hardcore left and the hardcore right actually both like Germany for different reasons, which is kind of funny. But it makes sense in a way.

Please explain that.

For instance, the more liberal-leaning in the US like a lot of the policies in Germany with regards to social welfare and environmentalism. Then the far right, maybe the Tea Party, like [Merkel's] fiscal austerity and the fact that the Germans have their financial system in check and that they are trying to keep the EU in check as well. But I am not necessarily surprised by that. I think the interesting thing is that the growth keeps happening in terms of Germany's perception - so people are more and more impressed year after year by Germany as a power. So an enormous opportunity really emerges.

Although Germany appears to be so popular, many Americans think that German-American relations have become worse than they were two years ago. What role do the leaks by Edward Snowden play in this?

It's hard to say because we did the survey shortly after the leaks about Merkel's phone being tapped happened. Clearly it is an issue. At this point I think it might be safe to say that it is maybe more political theater on the stage, so it will basically really just be about how much Germany makes it an issue. Americans are pretty outraged universally. Germans are obviously outraged, but can the governments get past this to get to the real issues and reach an agreement?

The study also showed that Americans would like to see more coverage on Germany in US media. What kind of media presence does Germany have to date?

I think we are in a state with a very domestic, inwards focus. The US are kind of guilty - over the last 50 years or more - of thinking of ourselves first in a lot of ways. What is really interesting to me, though, is that we live in a socially connected society now and it's technologically increasing by the day. People know the information is out there and suddenly they are seeing what's going on in Europe, and they are seeing what's going on around the world. There is this new generation that's really tapped into some of this stuff, saying "wait, why don't I hear more about that?" That's a huge opportunity on the US side for American journalists and the US media. And it is not about promoting Germany, it's simply about reporting on what Germany is doing.

What do these positive survey results mean for German companies in the United States?

The data says two things that are a bit contradictory. At one point it says that Germany is a great partner for businesses - essentially that the US and Germany can work together. The TTIP [Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, a free trade agreement - eds.] can be extremely important, even though most Americans don't really know quite what that is going to look like. There is a bit of a worry about the threat of competition, will the TTIP actually take away American jobs through basically import-export trade partnerships? But people love German engineering technology; they are seen as a leader. Americans certainly want more of it. If they are going to get it from somebody, they are going to get it from somebody who has shared values.

Do you think this positive trend for Germany will continue in the future?

Traditionally, German-American heritage is extremely strong in the US. We are now seeing new generations developing in a more multicultural society. A lot of younger people actually don't know Germany as well. The challenge is how will Germany be able to seize that opportunity in relations with the US as the US becomes more multicultural and younger, while Germany at the same time ages?

You tell us.

I think the data would suggest to keep doing what they are doing. It is pretty clear that politically speaking the US is domestically focused right now. So us trying to solve the euro crisis is not going to happen any time soon. But we would love the idea that Germany could really show some leadership there and then have a lot of shared values. I think one of the really interesting things about this data is again the shared values question. And this is something that might be fairly new: that Germany is number one out of non-English speaking countries in the world in having shared values with the US.

So I think the US sees a lot of communality on the economic front and certainly more and more so on the military front as well - and foreign policy. There is an enormous opportunity: how do you engage with the more multicultural audience that's developing in the US? I think it is through continued leadership and communication - by telling people Germany is a great place, and they need to visit.

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