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Elites and public opinion

Transatlantic elites and public opinion
Through the analysis of an elites survey in select EU member states, EU institutions, and the US, this group first ascertains the current adjustment policies that both US and the EU are pursuing in the context of identified global challenges in the economic, security, environment and human rights/democracy domain, and then identify the main cleavages both within the EU and between the US and the EU preferred responses to meet global challenges. It feeds into the work of the other thematic groups.

Aug 292014

Transworld Op-Ed

by Linda Basile and Pierangelo Isernia
CIRCaP, University of Siena
August 28, 2014

A solid transatlantic partnership endures against a turbulent international environment, as revealed in the Transatlantic elite survey (TES), carried out between November 2013 and January 2014 by the EU-funded TRANWORLD project[1]. Data shows that large majorities in both the EU and US support further economic integration between both sides of the Atlantic, a strong commitment to protecting the global environment, and an active role for the EU and US in helping establish democracy abroad. Likewise, majorities on both sides of the Atlantic desire a strong common leadership in world affairs. On the whole, it seems that the transatlantic partnership is in good shape, and rests on a solid transatlantic bridge that joins the EU and US in a common effort to address regional and global challenges.

That said, how solid are the tectonic plates on which this bridge is built? Are there rifts that might jeopardize patterns of transatlantic cooperation? What kind of crises could loom in the future? The TES survey detected three main fault lines that might undermine the otherwise sturdy Transatlantic cooperative environment. Two cleavages, independent from one another, run across the US and Europe and both will potentially impact the Transatlantic relationship: the Left-Right divide in the US on issues such as the environment, and the split between the Eurozone and non-Euro members over the scope and pace of further economic and political integration. In addition, TES detected another source of tension, a division between the views of political and opinion leaders on the one hand and business elites on the other.

The following sections will discuss these three potential sources of Transatlantic friction.


I. Transatlantic cooperation on environmental issues: common values and political divisions

TES data show that, on average, transatlantic elites share a common commitment to environment protection. Two third majorities on both sides of the Atlantic think that the EU and the US should do as much as they can to protect the environment. Similarly, 85% of EU and 72% of US leaders [2] think that existing treaties are not effectively enforced. Transatlantic leaders also share a common view about the trade-off between environmental protection and economic growth: 77% of European and 67% of American elites believe that the environment should be protected even if it causes slower economic growth.

This general consensus, however, hides a troublesome division among US leaders on environmental issues. In general, those on the Left and leaning toward the Democratic Party are significantly closer to the Europeans with regard to environmental issues than those on the Right and associated with the Republican Party. An overwhelming majority of those with Democratic sympathies (91%) favor an enhanced US effort toward the environment, while this percentage falls to 51% among Republicans. Similarly, the enforcement of treaties on environmental issues is supported by 80% of Democrats and 61% of Republicans. A large majority of Democrats (84%) think that the environment is more important than economic growth, compared to 40% of those with Republican sympathies. No similar left-right divide was detected in any of the EU countries surveyed by TRANSWORLD.


II. The rift on economic integration within the EU and its likely impact on the transatlantic relationship

Despite the outstanding achievements of European economic integration so far, the goal of a complete political and economic union is still some way off. TES highlights a potentially disruptive source of conflict here between the Eurozone countries and the rest of the EU members. Notably, the single currency is generally perceived as “a good thing” by large majorities within the Eurozone, ranging from 86% in Germany to 64% in Italy, with the exception of the lukewarm support of Greek elites (50%). On the contrary, outside the Eurozone, only 27% of British leaders and 51% of Polish leaders perceive the potential advantages of adopting the Euro.

With the exception of Greece, leaders of the Eurozone are likewise more inclined than those outside to strengthen European integration further. In fact, 61% of leaders in Germany and 54% in France think that the EU should have more authority over member states’ economic and budgetary policies; on the contrary, only 21% in the UK and 32% in Poland share the same sentiment. This cleavage about the future of European integration can have implications for the future of the transatlantic partnership. For instance, large majorities in the UK (75%) and Poland (72%) think the TTIP will help transatlantic economies to grow, while French (53%) and, to a lesser extent, German elites (56%) show less enthusiasm toward it. Furthermore, 19% in France and 15% in Germany say that the TTIP will have negative economic consequences, while only 6% of British leaders and 8% of Polish ones share this outlook.


III. The Transatlantic rift between businesses and politicians: no thrust without business trust

On average, majorities of both EU (51%) and US (55%) elites think that the economics of Europe and America should be more integrated. Disaggregating this percentage among the various elite groups, a rift can be seen to emerge between business elites across the Atlantic and the rest of the leaders surveyed by TES [3] . Nearly 44% of business leaders in Europe and 39% in the US believe in the advantages of such a partnership, compared to 53% and 63% of the opinion and political leaders surveyed. Similarly, 71% of the whole sample in both the EU and the US think that the TTIP will be helpful for transatlantic economies, but only 49% of US business elites and 54% of their European counterparts agree with this statement, compared to 71% of political and opinion leaders.

[1] The TRANSWORLD elite survey interviewed more than 2,000 European and American members of elite sectors of society, politics and the media, on issues related to the transatlantic community. The sample was asked about the prospects of transatlantic cooperation across four main issue areas: international security, global economy, global environment and the promotion of human rights and democracy around the world.

[2] Aggregate percentages consider weighted data for the three elite groups of business, opinion and political leaders.

[3] Business elites from medium and small-size enterprises.

 Posted by on August 29, 2014
Jun 302014

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