Survey: US sees Asia as more important than Europe

September 14, 2011 - 6:56 AM

WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans increasingly view Asia, not Europe, as the region where the most important U.S. national interests lie, a poll found.

But respondents in nine of 12 European Union countries surveyed were more likely to say that the United States remains more important than Asia. The exceptions were France, Spain and Sweden.

The annual survey released Wednesday was conducted by the German Marshall Fund of the United States, a nonpartisan policy institution that promotes trans-Atlantic cooperation, and the Compagnia di San Paolo, a research center in Turin, Italy. The Swedish Foreign Ministry was among its sponsors.

The findings on U.S. attitudes toward Asia and Europe mark a transformation from a similar poll conducted by the same groups in 2004. In this year's survey, just over half of Americans saw Asia as more important for American interests than Europe. In the earlier survey, a strong majority of U.S. respondents chose Europe.

The change may reflect a generational shift in the United States. More than 6 in 10 Americans under age 45 view Asia as more important than Europe, compared with fewer than half among those 45 and older.

Among the poll's other findings:

—As in past years, the survey found strong support for President Barack Obama in Europe. But the president's approval ticked down slightly, and the intensity of support fell significantly. Two years ago, 29 percent of respondents in European countries expressed strong approval. This year only 17 percent did.

—Europeans polled expressed more positive attitudes toward EU membership than toward the euro currency. More than two-thirds of EU country respondents considered EU membership a good thing for their national economies. But only 4 in 10 EU respondents said that the euro was good for their economies.

In all but two of the EU countries surveyed, a majority said it would be better if member states retained authority over spending and taxes rather than having power shifted to the EU. Of the 12 EU countries included in the poll, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Britain and Sweden are not in the eurozone.

Surprisingly, Germany, which has been grappling with its role in economic bailouts, was one of the two countries — Italy was the other — in which a majority said economic power should be shifted to the EU. Germans were almost evenly split on whether the euro was good for their economy, and three-quarters said EU membership was good.

—Almost half of Turkish respondents said membership in the European Union would be a good thing. The figure jumped 10 percentage points from last year but remained much lower than 2004, when nearly three-quarters of Turks reached that conclusion.

—Turkish anger toward the United States seems to be ebbing. The percentage of Turks expressing a very unfavorable view of the United States fell 11 percentage points since last year's survey to just under 4 in 10. But the percentage of Americans who view Turkey favorably fell 8 points since last year to 42 percent.

—For the first time, the survey found that a majority of Americans polled were pessimistic about the possibility of stabilizing Afghanistan.

The telephone survey conducted between May 25 and June 17 polled 1,000 people each in the United States, Turkey and 12 European Union countries. This year's survey, unlike those in the past, included Sweden. Each country's survey had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

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