If you could sum up the initial impact of Donald Trump’s election on U.S.-European relations, it might come down to this: Europeans no longer want closer ties with their friends on the other side of the Atlantic.
That’s one of the key findings of a new quarterly survey by the online polling firm YouGov, on behalf of Handelsblatt Global, which asked top European countries and the United States for their views on a host of international issues.
It was a simple question that highlighted the trans-Atlantic divide more than most: Voters in seven European countries were asked whether they want a stronger or weaker relationship with the United States, and Americans were asked if they wanted closer ties with Europe.
The result may surprise you: Just 16 percent of Germans want stronger ties with the world’s largest economic power, while 28 percent favored a weaker relationship and 42 percent are fine with things just the way they are.
Compare that to the United States, where 41 percent said they want stronger ties with Europe. Just 9 percent said ties should weaken, and 25 percent want things to stay the same.
“That’s the Trump effect. Europeans who are nervous about Mr. Trump are probably being more negative now than they were before.”
In Europe, France’s enthusiasm was only a little higher, with 23 percent wanting stronger ties. Even in Britain, long considered America’s closest European ally, just 32 percent are hoping to deepen that relationship further.
“I think that’s the Trump effect,” Stephan Shakespeare, head of YouGov, told Handelsblatt Global. “Americans want closer ties with Europe as a counter balance, while Europeans who are nervous about Mr. Trump are probably being more negative now than they were before.”
Interestingly, Mr. Trump’s supporters are even more enthusiastic about their trans-Atlantic friends than Hillary Clinton’s backers: A full 55 percent of the Republican candidate’s backers want closer ties with Europe.
This could actually be the result of some of Mr. Trump’s campaign rhetoric. While he hasn’t spoken much about Europe during the campaign, he often seemed to marginalize the country’s relations with countries that didn’t share U.S. values, including a proposed ban on Muslims entering the United States and regular attacks on Chinese practices.
Europeans, by contrast, are clearly worried about Donald Trump: 60 percent of Germans said the president-elect will make the world a “more dangerous” place – 53 percent of French and 61 percent of the British agreed. Most people in all three countries also believe he will make a “poor” or “terrible” president.
Mr. Trump had alienated some Europeans during the campaign by questioning, for instance, the U.S. role in NATO’s military alliance and suggesting it might be contingent on European countries paying their dues. It was a line that especially worried Baltic nations that border Russia.
But it might not just be about Donald Trump. Issues like the U.S.-E.U. free-trade agreement, known as TTIP, which have gotten little coverage in the United States, have been loudly opposed by the German public, which fears a trade deal with the United States could undermine Europe’s higher standards on the environment and labor protections.
And yet most Europeans acknowledge that the United States still plays a critical role in global affairs. Even if they don’t want closer ties, most Germans – 44 percent – agreed that the United States is the country’s most important ally, while 42 percent agreed that Germany’s economic success depends on good relations with the world’s largest economy.
France and Britain are no different here either: 51 percent of Brits and 40 percent of the French said they consider the United States their most important ally. Americans also return the favor: 60 percent say Europe is the most important ally of the United States.
U.S. favorability ratings also remain high, though perhaps not as high as in past years: 48 percent of Germans said they had a “very” or “fairly” favorable view of the United States. Those numbers were also higher in France at 53 percent and Britain at 56 percent.
It’s all a little contradictory, said Mr. Shakespeare, but it probably comes down to a simple truth: Europeans may not like the direction the U.S. is taking, but they can’t really turn elsewhere, either.
Christopher Cermak is an editor with Handelsblatt Global in Berlin, covering politics and finance. To contact the author: firstname.lastname@example.org