On March 22 the Newseum played host to a report launch by Handelsblatt, the leading German financial and business daily. Handelsblatt commissioned YouGov to undertake a poll in each G-20 country to ask voters a series of questions about their political outlook and attitudes so as to make educated comparisons between the twenty nations. After the report was presented a lively question and answer session ensued on the study’s methodology and some of the more surprising, at least for a US audience, survey responses.
The questions ranged from who is the most trustworthy world leader-- Pope Francis received the greatest percentage of the vote with 28 percent-- to who people would like to see as the next president of the United States. While Secretary Clinton was the most popular candidate in eighteen out of twenty countries a few bucked the trend-- 31 percent of Russians would prefer Trump.
In addition to these lighter questions the poll also delved into geopolitical issues. For example, YouGov asked which country is perceived as the most aggressive world power. Russia’s rank as the most aggressive power (49 percent of respondents) is unsurprising considering its recent actions in Syria, Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova, but it may surprise Americans to learn that Russia was closely followed by the United States with 44 percent of respondents. Though the study does not delve into the specific reasons behind the voters’ choices one can think that perceptions of US aggression could be leftovers from the US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Americans in general though do not think that a “clash of civilizations is inevitable” and a far smaller percentage of US respondents said that they believed this than in Italy or France, both countries where a far larger proportion (+59 and +47 respectively) of respondents answered positively. Americans did fall in line with most other countries, with the exclusion of China, in saying that “war and terrorism” is the world’s biggest problem. Chinese respondents said that “climate change and environmental pollution” are the biggest problem- perhaps because people’s daily lives have already been impacted deeply by pollution in major cities.
The poll also explored the refugee crisis in Europe and a number of interesting details emerged. For example, most respondents (35 percent) wanted to see Angela Merkel take a greater role leading the European Union; however, only 19 percent of German respondents said that they want to see her expand her role. Germany recorded the lowest amount of votes for its Chancellor. This, combined with the poll where Germans responded that the refugee crisis is one of the world’s biggest problems and another one where a mere 13 percent of Germans said that Merkel “took the right decision” on refugees, provide evidence that the average German is deeply perturbed by the crisis. This aligns with Chancellor Merkel’s sliding domestic popularity and the electoral gains made by the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany Party in the March regional elections.
For more information on the study’s results or Handelsblatt’s US road show please check out the Handelsblatt report here and thank you to everyone in DC who attended the report launch in person.