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Europeans Perceive Stake in U.S. Election

Europeans Perceive Stake in U.S. Election

Obama favored over McCain in many European countries

by Zsolt Nyiri and Cynthia English

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Gallup Polls conducted throughout Europe find citizens there saying the outcome of the U.S. presidential election is relevant to their country. A median of 65% in 14 European countries interviewed between March and July of this year say who wins November's presidential election in the United States makes a difference to their country.


A majority of respondents in 12 of 14 European countries surveyed say who is elected president of the United States affects their country. Four in five Britons (80%) say the new president will make a difference to their country and more than 70% of respondents in Ireland (77%), Norway (73%), and France (71%) agree. Austrians (40%) and Italians (41%) are the least likely among these countries to say who is elected U.S. president in November makes a difference to their country.


Most European countries are key military, diplomatic, and economic partners of the United States. Both U.S. presidential nominees have made trips to Europe in the last year to visit with leaders there and have stressed the importance of having strong relations with European allies, many of which express low approval of U.S. leadership.


Barack Obama took a well-publicized trip to the European region in July, which included a Berlin rally that drew about 200,000 people. His European trip also appeared to contribute to a boost in his support at home.

When Gallup asked respondents throughout Europe whom they would rather see elected president of the United States, Obama is the clear favorite in every European country polled. At the time these interviews were conducted, a median of 63% of respondents from 14 European countries said they would rather see Obama elected over John McCain (10%).


Respondents in the Netherlands and Norway are most likely to favor Obama, with 74% and 71%, respectively, choosing him over McCain. A majority of respondents in 12 of 14 European countries surveyed favor Obama over McCain for the next U.S. president. Spain and Poland are the exceptions, where Obama achieves a plurality of the vote. (Note the high percentage of respondents who had no opinion on who they would personally rather see elected president of the United States in these countries.)


During his campaign, Obama has made much of the fact that he opposed invading Iraq, while his opponent voted in favor of this military action. While approval of the war is now low in Europe, the governments of 6 of the 14 European countries polled joined the original coalition that supported U.S.-led military action in Iraq. However, only two of these countries had active troops in Iraq at the time Gallup conducted its polls -- Poland and the United Kingdom. Out of those who expressed an opinion, about one in four Poles (24%) say they would rather see McCain elected president of the United States than Obama, which is the highest percentage in the European countries polled.


Bottom Line

Obama and McCain have said strong relations between the United States and its European allies would be a high priority in their administration if elected president. In 12 of 14 European countries, a majority of residents interviewed by Gallup between March and July say who wins that election will make a difference in their country and, at the time Gallup conducted these interviews, most were favoring an Obama victory in November. While European preference will not likely affect U.S. voters grappling with domestic issues and concerns, their support for a new administration could go a long way toward restoring the approval of U.S. leadership globally.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with approximately 1,000 adults from March to July 2008, aged 15 and older, in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. Data for approval of U.S. leadership was conducted prior to 2008 in Germany (January 2007), Netherlands (May 2007), Norway (May 2006), and Poland (May 2007). 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.

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