Despite Joe Biden Win, Europeans Don't Want to Take U.S.' Side Versus China, Russia: Poll

Europeans celebrated President-Elect Joe Biden's victory but still do not want their countries to take America's side in a future confrontation with Russia or China, according to new poll results published Tuesday.

The European Council on Foreign Relations found that Europeans are mostly happy about Biden's election and believe he will try to revitalize multilateral cooperation with America's allies, but fewer expect him to succeed while leading a polarized nation increasingly unsure of its place in the world.

The poll surveyed 15,000 Europeans in Great Britain, Sweden, Portugal, Poland, the Netherlands, Italy, Hungary, France, Spain, Denmark and Germany. It was commissioned by the ECFR and conducted in November and December by Datapraxis and YouGov.

The majority of Europeans polled in the run up to the election hoped Biden would win. Fifty-four percent of the ECFR respondents believe the world is a worse place because of President Donald Trump's time in office.

But many of the respondents in the ECFR poll do not believe Biden can arrest America's slide from its dominant role in world affairs. A slim majority—51 percent—did not agree that Biden can heal America's internal divisions and invest sufficient energy and resources in addressing pressing international issues.

ECFR's poll results paint a picture of skeptical Europeans wary of the U.S. after four tumultuous years of Trump. The results show that Europeans are in favor of more self-reliance, breaking away from the American orbit and military protection.

Sixty-seven percent of respondents—and a majority in all 11 nations—believe Europe cannot always rely on the U.S. and must ensure its own defense is sound. Only 10 percent thought the U.S. would always protect Europe. However, 57 percent do believe that Europe still requires American help to be safe from invasion.

Respondents were also more likely to choose Germany rather than the U.S. as their nation's most important ally. In France, Spain, Denmark, the Netherlands, Portugal, and Hungary, respondents believed Germany should be their foreign relations priority. Germans primarily chose France, while only those in Great Britain (55 percent), Poland (45 percent), Italy (36 percent), and Sweden (36 percent) chose the U.S. first.

Europeans overwhelmingly do not wish to take America's side in hypothetical future disagreements with China or Russia, the two nations American politicians and military planners cite as the country's most significant strategic challenges.

Sixty percent of respondents would want their nation to remain neutral in a disagreement with China, with 22 percent preferring to side with the U.S. Six percent of respondents would want to side with China.

A majority in nine of the 11 nations favored neutrality, with Danish—35 percent—and Polish—30 percent—most in favor of aligning with the U.S. The most U.S.-skeptic nations were Hungary, where only 13 percent wanted to side with America, and Germany where 16 percent wanted to do the same.

Some of this hesitance to confront China could be driven by economic and strategic concerns. The poll found that around 60 percent of respondents think China will overtake the U.S. as the world's leading superpower within the coming decade. Respondents in Spain (79 percent), Portugal (72 percent), Italy (72 percent), and France (63 percent) are the most confident of this.

Europeans were similarly opposed to taking America's side in a dispute with Russia. A majority in nine of the 11 nations and 59 percent overall favored neutrality versus 23 percent favoring transatlantic alignment. Denmark (40 percent) and Poland (36 percent) were again the most pro-American.

Trump horrified Atlantacists and foreign policy elites by openly declaring the European Union a rival during his presidency, and threatening a major trade war with a bloc he described as "worse than China, only smaller." Respondents to the ECFR poll see more conflict on the horizon, even with Trump out of office.

Pluralities in eight of the 11 surveyed nations—including 48 percent in France, 43 percent in Italy, 38 percent in Germany, and 27 percent in Great Britain—want a tougher stance towards the U.S. on economic issues. Poland was an outlier, with only 10 percent wanting a tougher stance and 44 percent believing the current situation is about right.

The Europeans surveyed gave a bleak evaluation of America's domestic situation, with most predicting more unrest, polarization and crises.

Forty-two percent of respondents now trust Americans to make the right choices in their elections, while 32 percent believe Americans cannot be trusted after voting for Trump. Twenty-seven percent still trust Americans after Trump, with 34 percent undecided.

German respondents were the most skeptical, with 53 percent of respondents saying Americans now cannot be trusted. Thirty-six percent of Swedes thought the same, along with 35 percent of Britons.

The most forgiving were in Hungary, where 56 percent of respondents still thought American voters can be trusted after electing Trump, and in Poland where 36 percent of respondents felt the same.

Just 15 percent believe Americans made a mistake by electing Biden, and 68 percent believe the choice of president is important in the relations between Washington, D.C. and their own countries. Still, only 67 percent believe the election results will have any impact on their lives or their family's lives.

Even with Trump defeated, polarization, conspiracy theories and political violence are rife in America. Five people died when a far-right pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol on January 6. Washington, D.C. is on lockdown this week for Biden's inauguration, with more American troops guarding the capital than are deployed to Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria combined.

Sixty-one percent of respondents said the entire American democratic system is broken, with only 27 percent contending that the system still works well.

"Americans have a new president but not a new country," ECFR wrote in its analysis of the survey responses. "Although Europeans will not mourn Trump's electoral defeat, his legacy will persist long after he has left the White House."

"Even as Biden seeks to overturn the isolationism and unpredictability of the Trump administration, he will be hampered by policies that made America seem volatile, selfish, and weak," the think tank added. "Trump was no fog; he has left scars. And Biden's presidency will be marked by them."

Joe Biden speaks at EU HQ Brussels
Joe Biden speaks during a meeting with European Union President Donald Tusk on February 6, 2015 at the EU headquarters in Brussels. EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP via Getty Images/Getty