After decades of partnership, the Germany-U.S. relationship seems more challenged than at any point since World War II. Yet new research shows this sense of tension is not shared by people in both countries, with Germans seeing a much worse relationship between the two nations than Americans do.
A new survey released on Monday by bipartisan think tank the Pew Research Center in Washington in partnership with the Körber Foundation in Germany shows most Germans think their country’s relationship with America is bad, that additional cooperation with Washington is not essential, and that they would benefit from more independence from the U.S. on foreign policy.
By contrast, Americans see their relationship with Germany as good and say the U.S. should cooperate more with both Germany and Europe.
More than 70 percent of Germans surveyed said the country’s relationship with the United States is bad, according to the study, which in Germany was conducted by the Körber Foundation from Sept. 13-26. A similar percentage of Americans view their relationship with Germany as positive, according to the survey, which was carried out in the U.S. by Pew from Sept. 11-16.
“Among Germans, this constitutes a sharp elevation in negative assessments since 2017, when 56 (percent) said the relationship was bad,” authors of the Pew report accompanying the survey results said.
Only a quarter of the surveyed Americans deemed the United States’ relationship with Germany bad, while only 24 percent of Germans in the survey considered the U.S.- Germany relationship as going well.
At the same time, 70 percent of the surveyed Americans said they want to cooperate more with their allies, including Germany, but only 41 percent of surveyed Germans said Germany should cooperate more with the United States. About half of those interviewed in Germany said their country should not engage in more cooperation with their American ally.
Opinions diverged also on cooperation with another historic superpower, Russia, which has stronger geographic ties with Germany.
“A majority of Americans (58 percent) want to cooperate less with their Cold War adversary, while nearly seven-in-10 Germans (69 percent) want to cooperate more with Russia, the source of about a third of Germany’s natural gas imports as of 2015,” the authors of the report said.
Earlier this year U.S. President Donald Trump rattled America’s European allies by criticizing NATO and Germany’s ties to Moscow.
Neither Americans nor Germans see each other as their country’s main foreign policy ally, with 35 percent of Germans saying America is their most or second-most important foreign policy partner and only 9 percent of Americans sharing the same view.
The difference in perception might be explained by the fact that the U.S. historically has been more consistent in its views about its allies, regardless of changes in opinion on an ally’s side, one of the authors of the report says.
“Historically, Americans have had pretty positive views of allies in Europe and North America, and so even though around the world many people have worse-off views of the U.S., this doesn’t seem to affect American public opinion,” says co-author Jacob Poushter.
Germans and Americans do agree that NATO is still beneficial to their interests and expressed positive views about the organization: 64 percent of surveyed Americans and 63 percent of surveyed Germans view NATO positively.
Yet when it comes to military investments, Germans overall believe they should be spending more on defense, even when their American counterparts don’t see a need for European allies to do so.