Germans, Americans both trust in alliance

A new study by the Pew Research Center shows that Germans and Americans both have a lot of faith in the strength of their countries' alliance. But the two countries have different ideas about the reasons for the friendship.

Germans, Americans both trust in alliance
The public in both cuntries still trust in the U.S.-German alliance. Photo:DPA

Despite the stormy waters that have been blown up by the NSA and BND affairs in recent years and months, the German-US relationship seems to have weathered the storm with surprising durability.

Americans have more faith in Germany as a reliable ally than Germans do in the US, though most Germans still had positive outlooks. The study showed that 72 percent of American respondents said Germany was a reliable partner, while 62 percent of Germans called the US reliable.

But views over the role of history in the German-US relationship vary widely across within the two countries. While 47 percent of Americans believed that the Second World War and the Holocaust were the defining moments in the relationship, only 20 percent of Germans agreed.

Germans are much more likely to see the fall the Berlin Wall as the epochal point that defined what the two countries meant to each other at 34 percent of German respondents compared to 28 percent in the US.

Twenty percent of Germans meanwhile also saw the Marshall Plan – the programme of American financial aid to Germany after the Second World War – as the key historical event. In comparison, only three percent of American respondents said the same of the plan.

Differences could also be detected between the sexes. Men from both Germany and the US were more likely to trust the other country than women. This was true of 75 percent of American men and 68 percent of German men. Sixty-nine percent of American women and 56 percent of German women said they saw the other country as reliable.

Meanwhile the older an American was, the more likely he was to trust Germany. Seventy-seven percent of over 65s said they trusted German, whereas 66 percent of those between 18 and 29 were prepared to agree to this statement.

In Germany the baby boomer generation were most likely to have a sympathetic view of their partners from over the pond with 66 percent seeing the USA as reliable.

But those who lived through the war and the younger generation were more suspicious. Fifty-eight percent of those under 29 and 59 percent of those over 65 said they trusted the Americans.

Left-wingers were also more likely to trust Americans than right-wingers. Seventy-four percent of Social Democratic Party (SPD) supporters trusted America compared with 66 percent of Christian Democrats (CDU).

In terms of views on Germany's role in the world, Americans are far more keen to see Germany take on increased military responsibility. Fifty-four percent of those asked said they would like to see the German army become more active in the world.

Germans still clearly bear the burden of their own history more heavily. Only 25 percent said they wanted to see their government do more militarily.

Americans were also sharply critical of German policy towards Russia. Fifty-nine percent of them said Germany and the EU isn't tough enough in how it has dealt with Russia during the Ukraine crisis, while 22 percent said Germany was getting its policy towards Moscow “about right”.

One the other hand more Germans (27 percent) thought the U.S.'s policy towards Russia was too tough, compared to those who said it was not tough enough (23 percent).

As for relations with other major Western powers – the UK and France – perceptions in the two countries were noticeably different on the reliability of the two.

While Germans strongly trusted France (78 percent saw them as somewhat or very reliable) they were much more lukewarm about the UK (only 55 percent saw them as somewhat or very reliable.)

Americans on the other hand felt totally comfortable with their “special relationship” with the UK – 85 percent said they saw Britain as reliable. – Americans were somewhat less trusting of the French, with 69 percent saying France was a reliable ally.

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