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Germans say US doesn't respect freedom: poll

Emma Anderson · 24 Jun 2015, 17:35

Published: 24 Jun 2015 17:35 GMT+02:00
Updated: 24 Jun 2015 17:35 GMT+02:00

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More than half of Germans (53 percent) said they did not believe the United States government respects the personal freedoms of its people, according to a Pew Research Center report published on Tuesday.

Forty-three percent of Germans said they thought the US government did respect citizens' freedoms, while Americans themselves seemed on the fence.

Though in the US most (51 percent) said their government respected personal freedoms, 47 percent disagreed.

The poll also showed that 45 percent of Germans polled had negative views of the US, compared to 50 percent who had positive views.

This was the most pessimistic outlook expressed by any of the western European countries surveyed.

"The U.S. receives largely positive reviews among many of its key NATO allies. About two-in-three Canadians have a favorable opinion, as do large majorities in Italy, Poland, France, the UK and Spain. The outlier is Germany," the report stated.

"America’s image has become more negative in Germany over the last few years."

German support for the United States has plummeted over the 15 years since 2000, when nearly 80 percent of respondents in Germany said they felt favourable towards the US.

In the years after President George W. Bush was first elected and later moved troops into Afghanistan and Iraq, support started to wane for the US among Germans, hitting a low of 30 percent positivity in 2007. 

Support started to rise again when Barack Obama first took power, up to 64 percent in 2009, but then dropped down in 2012.

Revelations over the past two years about mass surveillance by the US National Security Agency (NSA) on the country's allies, including on Chancellor Angela Merkel's phone, certainly hasn't helped the American government's image either.

Pew Research Center

Unlike Germany, attitudes towards the US in countries like France and Spain have improved since 2000, with 73 percent of French people and 65 percent of Spaniards saying they had positive views of America in the most recent survey.

Despite increasing overall negativity towards the US, Obama still somehow pulled 73 percent support from Germans in regard to his capacity to "do the right thing" in world affairs.

Germans were also largely positive about the United States' military actions to fight Isis in the most recent poll with 62 percent supporting such actions and 30 percent in opposition.
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But widely condemned "enhanced interrogation" methods - which many consider to be torture - used by the US on terror suspects following the September 11th 2001 terrorist attacks did not sit well with most Germans. About 70 percent in Germany said these methods were not justified while 21 percent said they were.

Americans, on the other hand, mostly supported such methods with nearly 60 percent agreeing that the interrogation techniques were justified and 37 percent opposing them.

Most Germans also said that they believed China will - or has already - become a bigger superpower than the United states, with 37 percent saying China could never replace the US.

"When asked about the future, people around the world are generally convinced that China either will eventually replace or already has replaced the U.S. as the world’s leading superpower," the report states. "Overall, majorities or pluralities in 27 of 40 countries surveyed say this."

For more news from Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Emma Anderson (emma.anderson@thelocal.com)

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