Religion and Social Trends

Americans Still Reluctant to Call France an "Ally"

U.S. image of France continues to be tainted by Iraq war disagreement

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- The apparent damage done to Americans' perceptions of France, as a result of France's clash with the United States over Iraq policy, is a long way from being repaired. According to a new CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll, Americans have a generally positive view of U.S.-French relations, but France is not nearly as well regarded as it was three years ago. The poll finds a majority of Americans disagreeing with France's opposition to the recent war in Iraq. Americans are not highly critical of France's motives in this matter, although a sizeable minority is willing to say that France mainly opposed the war in order to reduce U.S. power and influence internationally, rather than on legitimate policy grounds.

The poll was conducted Sept. 19-21, prior to President George W. Bush's meetings this week with foreign leaders at the United Nations -- meetings in which he failed to obtain commitments from France and other countries to supply troops or funds for the postwar effort in Iraq. If anything, this development is likely to worsen Americans' perceptions of U.S.-French relations.

The unprecedented rift between the United States and France developed after the two countries found themselves at odds earlier this year over the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein from power. French President Jacques Chirac joined with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder at the United Nations in a bitterly contested, and ultimately successful effort to squelch a U.S.-sponsored resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq.

Lackluster Ratings of France

Only 24% of Americans consider France an ally today, up from 18% this spring, but this is still only half the number found in May 2000 -- the last reading on this measure before differences about the Iraq war chilled relations between the two countries.

While France has lost much ground among Americans over this period as a perceived "ally," most Americans continue to characterize France as at least "friendly" to the United States. Two-thirds (66%) now describe France in positive terms (as an ally or friendly), up from 58% in April, but down from 90% in May 2000. A substantial minority (31%) now perceives France negatively -- as either unfriendly or an enemy -- up from 5% in May 2000.

France's Relationship With the United States

The difference between Americans' ratings of Great Britain as an ally and their ratings of France as an ally illustrates the extent of the image problem France currently has in the United States. In May 2000 both countries were viewed positively (as an ally or friendly) by 90% or more of Americans, although even then Great Britain was more likely than France to be seen as an ally. Because of the different positions France and Great Britain took in the Iraq war, today there is a tremendous gap between Americans' positive ratings of Great Britain and their positive ratings of France as U.S. allies.

Is each of the following an ally of the United States, friendly, but not an ally, unfriendly, or an enemy of the United States?

 

May 2000

Apr 2003

Sep 2003

Change Since 2000

FRANCE

%

%

%

Ally

50

18

24

-26

Friendly

40

40

42

+2

Unfriendly

4

31

25

+21

Enemy

1

9

6

+5

Total Ally/Friendly

90

58

66

-24

Total Enemy/Unfriendly

5

40

31

+26

GREAT BRITAIN

Ally

65

79

68

+3

Friendly

27

17

26

-1

Unfriendly

2

1

2

0

Enemy

1

1

1

0

Total Ally/Friendly

92

96

94

+2

Total Enemy/Unfriendly

3

2

3

0

The good news for France is that it remains far better reviewed than other countries that have not had the same historical ties with the United States. These include China, Saudi Arabia, and North Korea.

2003 Apr 22-23
(sorted by "ally")


Ally

Friendly, not an ally


Unfriendly


Enemy

No
opinion

%

%

%

%

%

Great Britain

68

26

2

1

3

France

24

42

25

6

3

China

9

44

30

12

5

Saudi Arabia

9

32

35

19

5

North Korea

5

7

39

44

5

France Was Wrong on Iraq, but Not Necessarily Anti-United States

Asked whether France was right or wrong to have opposed the war with Iraq, a majority of Americans (56%) say it was wrong, but nearly 4 in 10 (39%) say it was right.

In your view, do you think France was right or wrong to have opposed the war with Iraq?
Sep 19-21, 2003

Naturally most Americans who agree with the United States' efforts in Iraq -- saying the situation there was worth going to war over -- are highly likely to say France was wrong in this matter. Four in five supporters of the war (82%) say France was wrong; only 14% say France was right. By a somewhat smaller margin (66% to 29%), those who disagree with the Iraq war -- saying it was not worth it -- tend to believe France was right.

Americans' current views about the Iraq war are highly related to party affiliation, with Republicans mostly supportive (78% are supportive) of the war and Democrats mostly opposed (78% are opposed). Thus, public reaction to France's opposition also tends to be highly partisan. By a 79% to 18% margin, Republicans say the French were wrong to have opposed the war with Iraq. By a 59% to 34% margin, Democrats say the French did the right thing in opposing it. Independents are similar to the sample average on this question, with 38% saying France was right and 58% saying it was wrong.

Despite Americans' general opposition to France's Iraq policy, by a slim margin, Americans are willing to give France the benefit of the doubt in terms of its motives. Half of Americans say the main reason France opposed the war with Iraq was because France believed it was the wrong approach to take. But a sizeable minority, 41%, is more skeptical, agreeing with the statement "France opposed the war in a deliberate attempt to reduce U.S. power and influence in the world."

Which of the following do you think is the main reason why France opposed the war with Iraq – France opposed the war because they believed going to war was the wrong approach to take with Iraq, or France opposed the war in a deliberate attempt to reduce U.S. power and influence in the world?
Sep 19-21, 2003

Perceptions of France's motives also tend to be partisan, although the difference between Republicans and Democrats on this question is somewhat less strong than on the more basic question of France's anti-war position. Half of Republicans think France had anti-U.S. motives in opposing the war while 40% believe France simply disagreed with the U.S. approach. Only 28% of Democrats believe France was purposely undercutting the United States while 63% say France was motivated by policy differences.

Survey Methods

These results are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,003 adults, aged 18 years and older, conducted Sept. 19-21, 2003. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects 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.

16. 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 Apr 22-23
(sorted by "ally")


Ally

Friendly, not an ally


Unfriendly


Enemy

No
opinion

%

%

%

%

%

Great Britain

68

26

2

1

3

France

24

42

25

6

3

China

9

44

30

12

5

Saudi Arabia

9

32

35

19

5

North Korea

5

7

39

44

5



View of Nations Trend

A. China

 


Ally

Friendly, not an ally


Unfriendly


Enemy

No
opinion

%

%

%

%

%

2003 Sep 19-21

9

44

30

12

5

2001 Apr 20-22

5

22

44

25

4

2000 May 18-21

10

41

30

13

6

2000 Mar 17-19

4

24

32

21

19

1999 Mar 12-14 ^

1

28

26

10

35

1998 Jun 22-23 ^

3

28

25

8

36

1997 Oct 27

4

21

27

9

39

1983 May 8-12 †

5

47

18

3

27

^ L.A. Times Poll

† Based on half-sample



B. France

 


Ally

Friendly, not an ally


Unfriendly


Enemy

No
opinion

%

%

%

%

%

2003 Sep 19-21

24

42

25

6

3

2003 Apr 22-23

18

40

31

9

2

2003 Mar 14-15 ^

20

36

32

8

4

2000 May 18-21

50

40

4

1

5



C. Great Britain

 


Ally

Friendly, not an ally


Unfriendly


Enemy

No
opinion

%

%

%

%

%

2003 Sep 19-21

68

26

2

1

3

2003 Apr 22-23

79

17

1

1

2

2003 Mar 14-15 ^

72

25

1

*

2

2000 May 18-21

65

27

2

1

5

* Less than 0.5%



D. North Korea

 


Ally

Friendly, not an ally


Unfriendly


Enemy

No
opinion

%

%

%

%

%

2003 Sep 19-21

5

7

39

44

5

2003 Apr 22-23

2

11

36

45

6

2003 Mar 14-15 ^

2

5

43

46

4

2000 May 18-21

6

26

35

24

9



E. Saudi Arabia

 


Ally

Friendly, not an ally


Unfriendly


Enemy

No
opinion

%

%

%

%

%

2003 Sep 19-21

9

32

35

19

5

2000 May 18-21

19

37

23

12

9

^

Asked of a half sample.



22. In your view, do you think France was right or wrong to have opposed the war with Iraq?

 

Right

Wrong

No opinion

%

%

%

2003 Sep 19-21

39

56

5



23. Which of the following do you think is the main reason why France opposed the war with Iraq -- [ROTATED: France opposed the war because they believed going to war was the wrong approach to take with Iraq, (or) France opposed the war in a deliberate attempt to reduce U.S. power and influence in the world]?

 


Wrong approach

To reduce U.S.
power and influence

No
opinion

%

%

%

2003 Sep 19-21

50

41

9



Gallup http://www.gallup.com/poll/9340/Americans-Still-Reluctant-Call-France-Ally.aspx Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A +1 202.715.3030