Common threats unite Germans and Americans despite differences | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 04.03.2019
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Common threats unite Germans and Americans despite differences

Despite tense relations between Germany and the United States, a new study shows Germans and Americans worry about similar issues.

A joint study released by the PEW Research Center and Körber Stiftung on Monday shows that even though Germans and Americans have differing views concerning their relationship, they agree on multiple issues — especially on common threats. The study also sheds light on the popularity of US President Donald Trump among supporters of the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD).

According to the survey, carried out in 2018, only 24 percent of Germans believe they have a good relationship with the US. In 2017, the rate was nearly twice as high, at 42 percent. However, American respondents in 2018 saw the relationship more positively — seven in 10 said relations with Germany were good.

Similar concerns

The survey — conducted among 1,006 American adults by PEW Research Center, 1,002 German adults by Körber Stiftung and 2,501 German and American adults by Global Attitudes Survey — reveals that both residents of both countries hold similar perceptions when it comes to global threats. Cyberattacks, the militant group "Islamic State" and global climate change were the top three most mentioned threats for respondents in both countries. Germans, however, were more concerned about climate change than their counterparts in the US.

Infografik Similar concerns EN

The financial situation of ordinary people is also a common concern. Almost an equal number of Germans and Americans (46 and 45 percent, respectively) believe that the financial situation has gotten worse for ordinary people, while about a third of respondents in each country are convinced it has improved. Both Germans and Americans (52 and 57 percent, respectively) were worried that children in their countries will be financially worse off than their parents. Only about one-third in each country have a more optimistic view and say that children will be better off.

Immigration, however, is not an issue on which Germans and Americans see eye-to-eye. According to the survey, the majority of German participants — 58 percent — said they either wanted fewer or no immigrants in their country, while only 29 percent of US respondents shared that view, despite President Trump's harsh immigration rhetoric and policies of the last few years.

Trump popular among AfD faithful

The relationship between Germany and the US has been tense in the years since Trump took office, due to developments including increased tariffs on German goods, Trump’s insistence that Germany needs to contribute more to burden-sharing among NATO member countries, and criticism of German dependence on Russian energy.

For a majority of Germans, the positive climate of the Barack Obama years has crumbled to a more negative sentiment towards the US.

The recent study, however, shows that Trump is more popular among right-wing, anti-immigrant AfD supporters. Forty-three percent of these supporters hold a positive view of the US, while 25 percent of AfD supporters show confidence in Trump. Among adherents of other German political parties, this rate varies between a mere 6 and 8 percent.

Infografik Favorable view of US EN

Democrats vs. Republicans

It is not only Germans who have different views concerning their international partners. The biggest divide between Democrats and Republicans is seen on the US policy of tariffs on imported German and European goods. While 72 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents support US tariffs on Germany, only 26 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents support it.  Democrats also have more confidence in German Chancellor Angela Merkel to do the right thing regarding world affairs than do their Republican counterparts.

This divide is also seen when it comes to international allies. Democrats are keener on cooperating with other countries than are Republicans. However, this changes when it comes to relations with Russia: Thirteen percent more Republicans than Democrats are willing to cooperate with Russia. This does not come as a surprise considering the current investigations into Russian meddling in the US elections of 2016.

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