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Europeans and Americans agree on Iran but not Russia

Latest update : 2008-03-28

Americans and Europeans agree that Iran poses a military threat but are divided on the US anti-missile plan for Eastern Europe, according to a F24/IHT/Harris poll published on the eve of the NATO summit in Bucharest.

In the run-up to the NATO summit in Bucharest next week, a poll conducted by Harris Interactive for FRANCE 24 and The International Herald Tribune surveyed Europeans and Americans on their views about the main threats to their security and on defence.


Views on NATO

Germans and Italians seem to have a better understanding of the role of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization than those surveyed in other countries in which a large majority of adults claim to have little knowledge at all of the organisation's role.

Despite this lack of knowledge, there is widespread agreement — particularly in Germany — that the NATO alliance should be preserved. It’s worth noting, however, that a significant number express no particular opinion on the question.

In Europe and in the United States, a return of France within the NATO military structure would be well received. In France, opinions are more divided on this point, with a third favourable, a third opposed and a third without any opinion on the matter.


Iran seen as most threatening

When respondents were asked about a potential military threat, they mentioned on average two countries where a threat could come from.

Iran is unanimously perceived as the most threatening country, especially for Americans and French. Amongst the other countries considered a military threat, Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan were also ranked highly.

Russia and China are also perceived as potential threats, but countries have different opinions on the extent of the threat. Spanish adults are less concerned about the military threat from these countries, whilst British (29%) and especially Americans show a strong fear of China (48%). Britons (31%) and Americans (32%) are concerned about Russia.

Indeed, America and Britain identify the highest average number of countries representing a threat. In addition, between 10% and 14% of Europeans consider the United States as a potential military threat for their country.


Different countries, different fears

Among different types of threats — terrorist, economic, ecological, health, military, etc — those which are seen as the gravest vary a lot from one country to another.

Spanish (73%), British (65%) and American adults (61%) are the most sensitive to terrorist threats, feelings certainly influenced by experiences of attacks in recent years.

The economic crisis is of particular concern to the French (46%), Spanish (42%), Americans (39%) and Germans (35%).

A large proportion of French adults are also concerned about ecological threats (42%), in stark contrast to Americans (13%).

Health threats also appear in the areas for concern, ranking particularly highly in Italy, but health is much less of a concern in Spain (14%).


Mostly yes to an EU military

Generally, European and Americans are favourable to the idea of a common military force for the European Union.

This is especially the case for French (73%) and Italians (61%), among whom one out of three "completely support" the project.

Germans and British are a little more divided on this subject (with respectively 44% and 41% being favourable).

Fewer Americans gave a definitive opinion to this question; indicating it a subject about which they are less concerned.


Europeans say no to a US anti-missile project in Eastern Europe

Europeans are clearly opposed to the plan of the United-States installing an anti-missile defence system in Eastern Europe. This trend is particularly marked amongst Germans (71%), Spanish (61%) and French adults (58%).

In contrast Americans demonstrate greater support for the project with 49% in complete support.

Globally, respondents are more favourable to a common anti-missile protection scheme between NATO and Russia, possibly influenced by concerns related to the Russian reaction to Europe if the American anti-missile plan in Eastern Europe went ahead.

Italians (59%), Britons (49%) and German (48%) particularly support a NATO-Russia anti-missile protection scheme.



Overall, the populations surveyed are favourable to a common military defence in Europe.

In spite of a common lack of knowledge on the role of NATO, the NATO alliance is not compromised. Indeed, the majority of respondents thinks that France should join the NATO military structure, except in France where opinion is more divided.

The presence of NATO does not allay all fears of military threats, which are perceived to come from Iran but also Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan and, for some, from Russia and China.

Europeans are clearly opposed to the US plan for installing an anti-missile defence system in Eastern Europe

The main worry among the various populations across all of the 6 countries is of a terrorist threat.

The populations seem to feel rather well protected against military threats, and expect more protection against economic, ecological or health threats.


This poll was conducted online by Harris Interactive in partnership with France 24 and The International Herald Tribune, among a total of 6,478 adults (aged 16-64) within France, Germany, Great Britain, Spain and the United States; and adults (aged 18-64) in Italy, from 27th February to 6th March 2008.

Date created : 2008-03-28