Spying Survey Trust in US at Lowest Level Since Bush
Ongoing revelations about the NSA spying scandal have pushed German trust in the US to its lowest level since the presidency of George W. Bush. A new survey also finds that Germans want Chancellor Merkel to stand up to Washington.
It wasn't all that long ago that US President Barack Obama could take credit for having repaired a trans-Atlantic relationship that had taken a hit under his predecessor, George W. Bush. Early in his first term, some 78 percent of Germans saw the US as "a country that could be trusted."
This week, though, following revelations of large-scale US spying in Europe and vast Internet surveillance, that trust has taken a hit. A survey released late on Thursday found that only 49 percent of Germans now view the United States as trustworthy, the lowest level since Bush was in the White House. It also marks a plunge of 16 points relative to a survey taken in December 2011.
The survey is based on interviews with 1,500 people conducted from Monday to Wednesday of this week, just as news was breaking that the US had bugged European Union diplomatic representations in Washington and New York and spent years closely watching digital communications to, from and within Germany. SPIEGEL broke the story in this week's issue, published on Monday.
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Trust in UK Falls
Still, the survey also showed that respondents don't believe that Germany can do much about US snooping. Sixty-seven percent believe that the German state doesn't have the power to protect the country from spying.
The reputation of the United Kingdom -- which was also revealed to have been engaged in tight Internet surveillance -- has also suffered according to the survey. Only 63 percent of Germans now see the country as a trustworthy partner, down 17 points. The date of comparison for Britain, however, is late 2009. The survey does not make it clear whether the drop in standing is a result of the surveillance revelations or stems from other causes, such as what is widely perceived to be London's anti-EU attitudes.
For all of the angst the spying scandal has triggered in the top echelons of Germany's government, it seems not yet to have translated to Germans' voting preferences. The survey found that, while satisfaction with Merkel has dropped by 3 percent relative to a survey taken last month, the gap in support between her conservatives and the center-left Social Democrats is greater than it has been since 2005. Some 42 percent of respondents said they would vote for Merkel's Christian Democrats (or its Bavarian sister party Christian Social Union) were the election this Sunday against just 25 percent for the SPD.
Still, when it comes to likely coalition partners, the SPD has the better cards. The Green Party continues to have strong support, with the ARD survey finding that 14 percent of Germans are planning to vote for the party. By contrast, support for Merkel's junior coalition partner the Free Democrats (FDP) continues to be weak, with 4 percent support. Parties must receive at least 5 percent support for representation in German parliament, the Bundestag.
cgh -- with wire reports