Religion and Social Trends

Bye-Bye, Freedom Fries

Majority of Americans now have "favorable" view of France

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- In the wake of France's opposition to the U.S. invasion of Iraq two years ago, a wave of anti-French feelings washed over America. So upset were some Americans that not only did they suggest boycotting all French products, they suggested changing the name of french fries to "freedom fries."

But a lot has happened since then. American enthusiasm for the war in Iraq has abated since the heady days of apparent victory, and in the meantime the French have come to accept the war as a fait accompli. Severe tensions between France and the United States could not remain forever, given the countries' mutual interests on many issues. The recent visit to "old Europe" by the newly sworn-in Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice confirms that both countries are looking for closer relations.

A new Gallup survey suggests that American feelings for the French are decidedly more positive today than they were shortly before the Iraq war began, although not as positive as they were before that. Currently, a majority of Americans, 51%, say they have a favorable view of France, while 43% say their opinion is unfavorable.

That eight-point positive margin contrasts with the negative two-point margin last year, when slightly more Americans were unfavorable (49%) than favorable (47%). In 2003, shortly before the United States launched the Iraq war, with strong opposition from the French government, Americans were almost twice as likely to say their opinion of France was unfavorable (64%) rather than favorable (34%).

The recent change in sentiment is not completely unexpected. Most Americans did not view France's opposition to the Iraq war as that of an "enemy." A Gallup survey at the time found 56% of Americans saying France was either an ally or a country friendly to the United States, another 32% saying France was unfriendly, and just 8% characterizing that country as an enemy.

For each of the following countries, please say whether you consider it an ally of the United States, friendly, but not an ally, unfriendly, or an enemy of the United States. How about -- [RANDOM ORDER]?

 

France


Ally

Friendly,
not an ally


Unfriendly


Enemy

No
opinion

           

2003 Mar 14-15^

20%

36

32

8

4

           

2000 May 18-21

50%

40

4

1

5

^ Asked of a half sample

These views were clearly more negative than those expressed in 2000, when 90% of Americans saw France as an ally or friend, just 4% as unfriendly, and 1% as an enemy. But even at the nadir of inter-country relations, the American public remained mostly positive.

It's also true that relatively few Americans at the time took seriously the suggestion to change the name of one of America's most unhealthy foods from french fries to freedom fries. Two-thirds of Americans thought that was a "silly idea," while one-third granted that it was "a sincere expression of patriotism."

As you may know, because France has opposed the U.S. position on Iraq in the United Nations, some restaurants have changed their menus so that foods such as french fries and French toast are now called "freedom fries" or "freedom toast." Do you think this is -- [ROTATED: a silly idea (or) a sincere expression of patriotism]?          

BASED ON 488 NATIONAL ADULTS IN FORM A

 

Silly
idea

Sincere expression
of patriotism

No
opinion

2003 Mar 14-15

66%

33

1

However sincere that expression might have been, just 15% of Americans at the time actually contemplated using the new term, "freedom fries," while 80% said they would stick with the old term.

One possibly cautionary note in this rejuvenation of Franco-American relations is that the current poll shows that 2% of Americans identify France as the "one country anywhere in the world [they] consider to be America's greatest enemy today." No other Western European country is even mentioned. However, mitigating that blight on France's image is the fact that 2% of respondents also say the United States is its own worst enemy.

What one country anywhere in the world do you consider to be America's greatest enemy today? [Open-ended]       

 

2005 Feb 7-10

2001 Feb 1-4

%

%

Iraq

22

38

North Korea/Korea (non-specific)

22

2

Iran

14

8

China

10

14

Afghanistan

3

*

United States itself

2

1

France

2

--

Saudi Arabia

2

4

Syria

2

--

Russia

2

6

Middle East

1

2

Cuba

*

2

Libya

*

4

Japan

*

1

Palestine

*

1

Israel

*

*

 

 

None

2

2

Other

7

4

No opinion

9

11

* Less than 0.5%

Also, despite the increase in favorable ratings, Americans are less positive now than they were before the issue of the war became a point of contention between the United States and France.

The other major Western European country to oppose the United States in the Iraq war was Germany, but that country never took the hit in American public opinion that France did -- though positive views of Germany did decline somewhat. While opinion about France was 2-to-1 negative, a plurality of Americans still felt favorable about Germany (49% favorable to 44% unfavorable).

By 2004, Americans were favorably disposed toward Germany by more than a 2-to-1 margin, increasing to more than 3-to-1 in the current poll. The latter rating is comparable to the ratings Americans gave Germany before March 2003.

Despite Germany's agreement with France on the Iraq war issue, Americans never felt that Germany was as unfriendly to the United States as was France. In March 2003, 70% of Americans saw Germany as an ally or friend, compared with 56% who saw France that way.

For each of the following countries, please say whether you consider it an ally of the United States, friendly, but not an ally, unfriendly, or an enemy of the United States. How about -- [RANDOM ORDER]?

2003 Mar 14-15^

Ally

Friendly,
not an ally

Unfriendly

Enemy

No
opinion

France

20%

36

32

8

4

 

 

 

 

 

Germany

27%

43

23

3

4

^ Asked of a half sample

Survey Methods

Results in the current survey are based on telephone interviews with 1,008 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Feb. 7-10, 2005. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points.

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

Gallup http://www.gallup.com/poll/14962/ByeBye-Freedom-Fries.aspx Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A +1 202.715.3030