Many German and British people think the U.S. has spied on them – but most still think Obama is good for America’s reputation abroad
U.S. President Obama’s Wednesday speech in Berlin received mixed reviews, but people in Britain and Germany continue to have faith in Obama’s ability to improve his country’s image internationally. There are doubts Obama will succeed in reducing American and Russian nuclear weapons stores, however, and many think they have personally been spied on by the NSA.
Much has been made of the smaller crowd and relatively lacklustre reception Obama received on his recent visit to Germany, with many comparing his speech to the 2008 Berlin speech which attracted a crowd of more than 200,000.
YouGov's latest research reveals that despite weeks of criticism over NSA surveillance programmmes, Obama remains popular in Europe: at least three quarters of the public in Germany and the UK think Obama gives the US a “good image” internationally, including 79% of Britons and 75% of Germans.
However Europeans have less confidence regarding the speech’s chief proposal: a cut of a third to American and Russian nuclear weapons stores from the levels decided in the 2010 New Start treaty. Indeed the outcome people in both countries – 42% of Britons and 38% of Germans – are most likely to expect is one where neither the US nor Russia will ultimately commit to that goal. Only a fifth (20%) of Britons and a quarter (25%) of Germans who think they both will commit.
Even the idea core to the symbolism of Obama's nuclear announcement – the idea of post-Cold War cooperation between the U.S. and Russia – itself seems in doubt for many Britons and Germans. Forty-four percent of Britons and 36% of Germans would say that Russia and the US are opponents on the international stage rather than allies.
In his speech Obama addressed the NSA surveillance scandal directly, and defended the intelligence-gathering programme, saying “This is not a situation in which we are rifling through ordinary emails of German citizens or American citizens or French citizens or anyone else”.
Still, many people in Germany and have their doubts. Around three quarters of the public in both countries – 72% in Britain and 77% in Germany – find it “likely” that the NSA has accessed phone call information in their countries.
More strikingly, three in ten Germans think it is likely the NSA has accessed information about phone calls made by them personally. In comparison, only 14% of Britons say the same.
Germans were perhaps especially disposed to be skeptical of the programmes, which sparked in Germany and elsewhere comparisons to the Stasi and the Gestapo. Germany is also a country with relatively strict privacy laws.
Indeed, a third (32%) of Germans think the NSA programme has likely had some impact on their own privacy; additionally 41% of Germans think the programme has had a negative impact on Germany as a whole, compared to only 9% who think it has had a positive impact.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel acknowledged the “concerns” people in Germany had about the programs, but did not deny claims made by Obama at a joint press conference the leaders held after his speech that “in some cases threats here in Germany” had been averted with the help of the NSA surveillance programmes.