President Obama's re-orientation of US foreign policy towards multilateralism has not strengthened ties between Britain and the United States, according to a new YouGov public opinion survey commissioned by the Legatum Institute and Royal United Services Institute (RUSI).
The survey, 'Special Relationship at a Crossroads: Where Next for Britain?', polled 2,360 British adults and found 74% of the respondents believe Britain's relationship with the US has stayed the same or become worse since President Obama took office - indicating the 'Obama Bounce' has not translated into a stronger or closer alliance.
Released ahead of a joint Legatum Institute-RUSI conference assessing the US-UK Alliance, the YouGov poll nevertheless suggests that the Special Relationship still exists. For example, a majority of British respondents (66%) hold a favourable view of the United States, and 62% believe the US is Britain's most important ally in the world.
A close personal friendship between the US President and British Prime Minister - a cornerstone of the special relationship over the decades - is still seen to be important by 54% of respondents.
However, an overwhelming majority of Britons surveyed (85%) believe that the nation has little or no influence over their key ally - indicating the British public is not overly optimistic about their influence in Washington as was suggested by the the Foreign Affairs Committee report in March 2010.
When asked about current operations in Afghanistan, a majority of respondents (56%) felt the mission served both British national interests, and joint British and American interests - suggesting that the British public does not believe it is merely fighting America's war. Yet, when asked if the United States were attacked and required military assistance in the future, only 28% of Britons agreed to send troops regardless of the consequences, and a further 46% committing military assistance only if British interests were at risk.
Analysing the Legatum Institute-RUSI survey, Dr Lisa Aronsson, Head of Transatlantic Security Programme at RUSI said:
'With a new government in Downing Street, the UK faces a difficult choice about its identity, its role in the world, and in particular its relationship with the United States. The Legatum Institute-RUSI opinion poll demonstrates two contrasting and in some ways conflicting themes. On one hand, the US is still Britain's most important ally. Close personal friendship between the leaders still matters and Britain's interests and values still overlap considerably with those of their special ally.
'Nevertheless, the British public is also pessimistic about the state of the alliance and its future. They believe that the alliance has not improved since the Bush era at all, that they have little to offer the Americans and hold very little influence over American policy. When asked whether the US or the EU would come to Britain's aid first in the case of an attack, they were undecided. Some 32% of respondents thought America would respond first but 24% thought Europe would help Britain first and 19% said both would help at the same time. These figures on Europe alone reinforce the poll's findings.
'Britain is at a crossroads in the history of its Special Relationship with the United States. The new British Government will demonstrate - through policy and experience - whether it still considers its relationship with the US as special or whether it sees it as just one partnership among many.'
Dr William Inboden, Senior Vice President of the Legatum Institute, commented:
'This survey of the British public reinforces what many observers have already noted: the Special Relationship is in trouble but it is not dead. While it still holds much traction in the minds of the American and British people, it needs sustained attention from the new Cameron Government and the Obama Administration to return to its former strength. The future of transatlantic relations, and the security and liberty of the global commons, depend on a vibrant alliance between the United States and the United Kingdom.'
The Legatum Institute-RUSI Special Relationship survey addresses the key pillars of the relations between Great Britain and the US. Respondents were asked whether the two countries shared similar values, whether values matter, whether they felt favourable towards the United States, and how things had changed since Barack Obama became President of the United States. The survey also explores other aspects of the relationship such as the perceived extent of Britain's influence on the US, perceptions of the mission in Afghanistan and appetite to fight alongside America, economic interdependence, the importance of personal friendship between the American President and the British Prime Minister, and a sense of trust that the US would come to Britain's aid first if Britain were attacked.
To view the survey results in full and read further analysis, please visit www.rusi.org/downloads/assets/legatum_RUSI_poll_FINAL.pdf
NOTES FOR EDITORS
1. The survey 'Special Relationship at a Crossroads: Where Next for Britain?' All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2369 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 10 and 12 May 2010. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).
2. The survey has been released ahead of the joint Legatum Institute-RUSI conference 'The UK-US Alliance: Still Special or just another Partnership?' on Tuesday 18 May 2010. For more on the conference, please visit www.rusi.org/go.php?structureID=S4332E5804C30C&ref=E4BB3117C81C7D
3. RUSI is an independent think-tank for defence and security. RUSI is a unique institution; founded in 1831 by the Duke of Wellington, it embodies nearly two centuries of forward thinking, free discussion and careful reflection on defence and security matters. For more see www.rusi.org
4. The Legatum Institute is an independent, non-partisan organisation that researches and advocates an expansive understanding of global prosperity. Prosperity comprises both material wealth and well-being and includes factors such as liberty, opportunity, security and overall human flourishing. For more see www.li.com
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