Europeans Perceive Stake In U.S. Election

Obama favored over McCain in most European countries

News | Will Savage, Zsolt Nyiri, Cynthia English | November 2008

While most Europeans believe the upcoming US presidential election will have an important impact on their countries and their own lives, Austrians, in spite of their enthusiasm for Barack Obama, appear to be largely indifferent.

In a recent Gallup Poll conducted across Europe, Austria came in with the lowest percentage of those surveyed believing that the election is relevant not only to them, but to their country as a whole, at 40 percent.  Counting the 10 percent who declined to respond, nearly one in three Austrians believes that the outcome of the US election will have no affect on their government or way of life. Though information saying that Austrians support Obama over McCain is nothing new, the results indicating that Austrians think the outcome will have no relevance to them came as surprise to many.

"From what I have seen, Austrians are very involved with what is happening in the election," said Dr. Johannes Pollak, professor of International Relations at Webster University.  "Perhaps we are preoccupied by the current Austrian election and other internal affairs."

Professor Fritz Breuss, a researcher for the Austrian Institute for Economic Research (WIFO), believes that the respondents to the poll may be correct.

"Considering that Austria is a smaller country with no direct economic ties to the US, Austrians are more concerned with what is going on in the European Union," he said.  "The economic effects of a country so far away will be minor."

Across the 14 European countries surveyed, 65 percent of the people questioned believed that the upcoming election would affect their countries.  Britons topped the chart with 80 percent, followed closely by Ireland and Norway at 77 and 73 percent respectively.

Austrians did agree with 11 of the other 13 countries surveyed over whom they would rather see in office, with Obama coming out on top at 58 percent.  Even in Poland and Spain, the two countries in which Obama did not receive the majority, he won a plurality.  This is due to the fact that such large percentages in both countries declined to respond.

Most European countries are key military, diplomatic, and economic partners of the United States. Both U.S. presidential nominees have made trips to Europe last year to visit with leaders there and have stressed the importance of having strong relations with European allies, many of which express low approval of U.S. leadership.

However, while Austrians do not seem to see the upcoming election as immediately relevant to them, they are clear in their disapproval of the current administration, with the percentage coming in a close second behind Germany, at 73 percent. Only 8 percent of the Austrians polled actually approved of the current administration in Washington, with 19 percent declining to answer.

Thus compared to the rest of Europe, Austrians seem indifferent about the election. And while they agree as to who should be elected, they do not believe it will have any direct effect on their lives.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with approximately 1,000 adults from March to July 2008, aged 15 and older, in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. Data for approval of U.S. leadership was conducted prior to 2008 in Germany (January 2007), Netherlands (May 2007), Norway (May 2006), and Poland (May 2007). For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.


Copyright ©2008 Gallup, Inc.  All rights reserved.  Reprinted with permission from

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