Many in EU doubt whether Biden can restore US’ global status, poll finds

While most Europeans welcomed the new US administration led by Joe Biden, their declining trust in the United States may be beyond repair, a recent poll showed.

The survey released by the European Council on Foreign Relations, or ECFR, on Tuesday shows 33 percent of Europeans think people in the United States cannot be trusted after they voted for Donald Trump as president in 2016. Some 27 percent disagree. The rest chose neither option or did not know.

Many Europeans are also worried the US electorate may vote for another Trump-like figure in four years, according to the poll. Trump, who lost the 2020 reelection, still won over 74 million votes, or nearly 47 percent of the total votes cast.

The survey report describes it as striking that 53 percent of German respondents say that after Trump, people in the US can no longer be trusted.

Ian Bond, director of foreign policy at the London-based Centre for European Reform, said in a tweet on Tuesday that “the biggest impact of Trump’s presidency for Europe was the loss of trust in America’s reliability as an ally”.

The pan-European survey was conducted among more than 15,000 people in 11 countries commissioned by ECFR and conducted by Datapraxis and YouGov in November and December.

It found that 61 percent of respondents say the US political system is broken. The rate was 81 percent among the UK public, 71 percent among Germans and 66 percent among French respondents.

About 54 percent think the world is in a worse place because of Trump’s presidency, while only 17 percent disagree.

Catharina Sorensen, deputy director of Copenhagen-based Think Tank EUROPA, which cooperated on the Denmark part of the survey, said in a Tuesday tweet that Danes are among the most critical of the 11 participating EU members.

Some 65 percent think the world is in a worse place because of Trump’s presidency and 71 percent said the US political system is broken.

Many Europeans now doubt whether the US will be able to return to global leadership in the manner that Biden promised when he said “America is back”, according to the survey.

Internal divisions

A total of 51 percent of respondents do not subscribe to the view that under Biden, the US is likely to repair its internal divisions and invest in solving global issues such as climate change, peace in the Middle East, relations with China, and European security.

Nearly six out of 10 respondents in the 11 countries surveyed think China will become more powerful than the US within the next decade.

The view was shared by 79 percent of the public in Spain, 72 percent in Italy and Portugal, 62 percent in France, 58 percent in the UK, and 56 percent in Germany.

A majority, or 60 percent, would want their country to stay neutral in a possible conflict between China and the US.

Many respondents say that Europe cannot just rely on the US to defend it. Instead, two-thirds of respondents say the EU should develop its defense capabilities.

Miguel Otero, a senior analyst of international political economy at the Madrid-based Elcano Royal Institute, said in a tweet on Tuesday the main finding is that “Europeans think they need to take their destiny in their own hands”.

Casper Klynge, Microsoft’s vice-president for European government affairs and a former Danish diplomat, said the report on Europe’s perception of the US is “not for the faint-hearted”.

“Leonard Cohen once sang ‘The mist leaves no scar/On the dark green hill’. But our poll shows that Trump was no fog; he has left scars.& Biden’s presidency will be marked by them. Time to rebuild EU and US relations,” he said in a tweet on Tuesday.

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