The state of the U.S.-EU relationship is not on the list of topics considered in the recent National Opinion Ballot Report, but the responses in it still matter to Europe analysts. Poll answers on the issues of energy politics and the promotion and defense of democracy abroad may contain some insights into the immediate future of bilateral efforts in these areas.
For all the criticism President George W. Bush received from the left for refusing to pursue ratification of the Kyoto Protocol, even after the EU ratified it in 2002, the Obama Administration has not changed U.S. policy towards the treaty (see the article on the bipartisan silence on global change throughout the campaign in the Oct. 25 NY Times.) Financial crisis and subsequent recession in both the U.S. and EU nations has refocused national strategies on clean energy development and conservation efforts, and broad multilateral emissions reduction commitments still seem to carry concerns, among U.S. policymakers at least, that they would hinder a nascent recovery. Three-quarters of Report respondents support U.S. ratification of Kyoto (agree or strongly agree); this may signal similar popular support for U.S. participation in a new multi-lateral climate agreement when Kyoto expires at the end of this year.
Mitt Romney raised some eyebrows during the final presidential debate for speaking favorably of the International Criminal Court and implying potential U.S. support for its actions. After over a decade of hostility from conservative policymakers toward U.S. participation in multi-lateral organizations of any kind, even a partial thaw among conservatives regarding multi-lateral institutions might make U.S. accession to the Law of the Sea Treaty (which garners 79% support among Report participants) more likely regardless of which party holds the White House (and Senate) after November 6.
Finally, the Report’s first two questions regarding democracy promotion cast light on the popular U.S. vision of how we should divide responsibility for international security issues with the EU and other nations. Nearly three-fourths of respondents supported (agree or strongly agree) “active” U.S. promotion of democracy. However, a slightly higher number insisted that the U.S. should make such efforts through the U.N., NATO, and other multilateral organizations rather than unilaterally. Although U.S. participation – both financially and militarily – remains central to any action by these multilateral organizations, the Report responses seem to convey a lingering fear of the U.S. “going it alone” in future security crises.