Great Britain: An Ally Apart From the Rest

by Lydia Saad

Saudi Arabia seen as more reliable than France on Iraq

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- According to a recent CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll, Americans make a sharp distinction between Great Britain and other would-be allies in the American-led effort to oust Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq. The American public is confident about the reliability of Great Britain in this context -- a sentiment likely to be reinforced by British Prime Minister Tony Blair's visit with President Bush today at Camp David. By contrast, the public is divided in its assessment of Turkey and widely skeptical of Germany and France, as well as Russia, China, and Saudi Arabia.

Public doubts about Germany and France as reliable allies in the Iraqi situation seem to rest on a perception that these countries have a legitimate policy disagreement with the United States rather than on a belief that they are summarily unwilling to help the United States. The Jan. 23-25 poll, conducted before yesterday's publication of a letter of support for U.S. policy on Iraq signed by leaders of eight European nations (including the U.K., Spain, and Italy, but not France and Germany), asked respondents to assess the approach to Iraq being taken by "European countries like France and Germany." The result was critical of the European countries, with 55% saying their approach is less reasonable than the United States' approach, and only 36% saying it is more reasonable. At the same time, by a slim margin -- 52% vs. 43% -- Americans believe that these European countries are willing to do their fair share in the war on terrorism.

How Americans will react if Germany or France presents serious obstacles to U.S. policy initiatives on Iraq at the United Nations over the coming weeks and months is another question. The recent Gallup survey shows that by a strong margin -- 68% to 29% -- Americans believe that "European countries like France and Germany" have an "obligation" to support the United States in its efforts to deal with Hussein and Iraq. But despite this sentiment, a majority of Americans also say the United States should wait until France, Germany, and other European countries support an invasion of Iraq before proceeding with military action.

Americans Banking on British Support

Nearly 9 in 10 Americans (87%) say Great Britain can be counted on to support the United States in planning a possible invasion of Iraq. Only 50% feel this way about the next-most positively rated country, which is Turkey. These are the only countries, out of seven rated in the poll, that a majority of Americans believe would support a U.S. effort to invade Iraq.

Americans tend to be skeptical in forecasting whether the United States can rely on Russia, Saudi Arabia, China, and even major Western allies Germany and France, in this context. In fact, with 55% of Americans saying the United States cannot count on France to support an invasion, compared with 51% who feel this way about Saudi Arabia, Americans are more skeptical about France than about Saudi Arabia. Germany's image on this issue is nearly identical to Saudi Arabia's. China is seen as least likely to support U.S. policy on Iraq, with only 22% saying China can be counted on and 67% saying it cannot be.

Support for a War With Iraq:
Which Countries Can the United States Count On?

Partisan and Generational Gaps in Country Assessments

Public attitudes about the reliability of the United States' potential allies in any possible war in Iraq are mildly related to two factors: partisan orientation and age. While Republicans and Democrats mostly share the same overall conclusions about each of the seven countries rated, Republicans express more confidence than Democrats about the likelihood that Great Britain, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey can be counted on for support. The views of the two partisan groups on France, Germany, and China are highly similar.

 

% Saying U.S. Can Count on Each Country
to Support U.S. Invasion of Iraq --
by Party ID

Republicans

Independents

Democrats

%

%

%

Republicans Have More Confidence in:

Turkey

59

48

43

Saudi Arabia

46

37

32

Great Britain

93

87

81

Russia

45

42

37

No Difference by Party:

France

37

36

37

China

21

24

21

Germany

39

39

42



Perhaps due to differences in memories and experiences, or perhaps due to different levels of attention to the news, older adults are less likely to believe that France, Germany, and Russia will support the United States than are younger adults. Conversely, older Americans have more confidence in Saudi Arabia and Turkey than do younger Americans. No significant differences are seen by age in the evaluation of Great Britain and China.

 

% Saying U.S. Can Count on Each Country
to Support U.S. Invasion of Iraq --
by Age

18-29

30-49

50+

Younger Adults Have More Confidence in:

%

%

%

France

50

36

32

Russia

51

40

37

Germany

48

39

37

No Difference in Confidence by Age:

Great Britain

86

85

91

China

26

20

21

Older Adults Have More Confidence in:

Turkey

46

47

55

Saudi Arabia

31

38

43



Even greater differences by age and partisanship are seen in respondents' answers to questions about the policies of European countries such as France and Germany toward Iraq. Younger adults are more likely than older Americans to believe that these European countries are taking a more reasonable position on Iraq than the United States is, and that they are willing to do their fair share against terrorism. Older Americans are more likely to express the view that the European countries have an obligation to support the United States on Iraq.

 

Generational Differences in Perceptions of Europe's Stance on Iraq

18-29

30-49

50+

%

%

%

Believe European countries willing to do their fair share against terrorism

60

54

44

Believe European countries owe the U.S. their support

59

68

72

Perception of European Approach to Iraq:

More reasonable than U.S. approach

42

36

33

Less reasonable than U.S. approach

50

56

56

NET European approach more reasonable than U.S. approach

-8

-20

-23



Democrats Generally Sympathetic to Europe's Position on Iraq

Republicans and Democrats have sharply different reactions to Gallup's questions about the position of European countries such as France and Germany on Iraq -- differences that reflect their underlying disagreement about going to war with Iraq. While a 52% majority of Americans, overall, tell Gallup that they would favor invading Iraq with U.S. ground troops in an attempt to unseat Hussein, only 34% of Democrats express this view, compared with 74% of Republicans.

Accordingly, Republicans are much more critical than Democrats of the European countries' current stance on dealing with Iraq, viewing their approach as less reasonable than the United States' approach, and seeing them as unwilling to do their fair share in the war on terrorism. By contrast, a majority of Democrats believe that countries like France and Germany are willing to do their fair share, and by a 49% to 40% margin, they consider the European approach to Iraq as more reasonable than the United States' approach.

Republicans are also far more likely than Democrats to say that countries like France and Germany owe the United States their support: 80% of Republicans feel this way, compared with 57% of Democrats.

 

Partisan Differences in Perceptions of Europe's Stance on Iraq

Republicans

Independents

Democrats

%

%

%

Believe European countries willing to do their fair share against terrorism

37

54

66

Believe European countries owe the U.S. their support

80

66

57

Perception of European Approach to Iraq:

More reasonable than U.S. approach

19

41

49

Less reasonable than U.S. approach

74

49

40

NET European approach more reasonable than U.S. approach

-55

-8

+9



Similarly, Republicans and Democrats disagree about the terms under which the United States should attack Iraq. Fifty-seven percent of Americans favor waiting until European allies like France and Germany have given their support before taking action against Iraq; just 39% think the United States should act unilaterally if that support is not in place when the Bush administration is ready. The preference for securing allied support is held by 61% of independents and 74% of Democrats. However, a majority of Republicans take the opposing view. Six in 10 Republicans (61%) say the United States should invade Iraq when Bush decides the time is right; just 37% think it should hold off until allies like France and Germany are on board.

Survey Methods

These results are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,000 adults, 18 years and older, conducted Jan. 23-25, 2003. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95 percent confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is plus or minus 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.

Which comes closer to your view -- [ROTATED: the United States should invade Iraq when the Bush administration decides that it is time to do so, (or) the United States should not invade Iraq unless European allies like France and Germany have given their support]?

 

Should invade when
Bush administration
decides

Should not invade unless European allies have given support


No
opinion

2003 Jan 23-25

39%

57

4



In planning for a possible invasion of Iraq, do you think the United States can -- or cannot -- count on the support of each of the following countries? How about -- [RANDOM ORDER]?

 

2003 Jan 23-25
(sorted by "yes, can")


Yes, can


No, cannot


No opinion

%

%

%

Great Britain

87

8

5

Turkey

50

37

13

Russia

41

49

10

Germany

40

51

9

Saudi Arabia

39

51

10

France

37

55

8

China

22

67

11



Do you think European countries like France and Germany are -- or are not -- willing to do their fair share in the war on terrorism?

 

Yes, are willing

No, are not

No opinion

2003 Jan 23-25

52%

43

5



Do you think European countries like France and Germany do -- or do not -- owe an obligation of support to the United States in its efforts to deal with Iraq and Saddam Hussein?

 

Yes, do

No, do not

No opinion

2003 Jan 23-25

68%

29

3



Do you think European countries like France and Germany are taking a more reasonable -- or a less reasonable -- approach toward Iraq and Saddam Hussein than the U.S. is taking?

 

More reasonable

Less reasonable

No opinion

2003 Jan 23-25

36%

55

9



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