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Europeans' approval of Obama jumps significantly from Bush

The Transatlantic Trends survey shows Western Europeans more likely than Eastern Europeans to see improved relationship with the US.

U.S. President Barack Obama greets supporters after speaking in Hradcany Square in Prague, April 5, 2009. A recent survey shows that three out of four people in the EU favor Obama's foreign policy, which is a huge increase from last year, when only one in five EU denizens supported then-President George W. Bush. (Jim Young/Reuters)

NEW YORK — With regard to Europe, at least, everything old may be new again.

Donald Rumsfeld stirred a hornet’s nest ahead of the Iraq War in 2003 when he dismissed “Old Europe” as irrelevant, referring to American allies like France and Germany who warned us not to invade. The insult hit home, and Europeans never forgave him or the administration he rode in on.

European opinion about the U.S. plumetted as a result. Yet only one year later, President Barack Obama appears to have reversed that negative opinion and restored European faith in American foreign policy, according to the latest annual survey of European attitudes by the German Marshall Fund known as “Transatlantic Trends.”

Craig Kennedy, president of the German Marshall Fund, which released the survey Wednesday, called the results “a remarkable shift in transatlantic opinion from the previous administration.” The latest edition of the survey showed that three out of four people (77 percent) asked in European Union nations plus Turkey expressed a favorable view of Obama’s handling of foreign affairs. A year earlier, Europe’s opinion of American leadership had deteriorated to the point where only one out of five (19 percent) surveyed expressed approval for American foreign policy.

Too often, they said, the Yanks are arrogant, bullying — and in some cases — reckless. As many have pointed out, this was a very long fall from the days just following the 9/11 attacks, when the French daily Le Monde ran a Sept. 12, 2001, headline declaring: “We Are All Americans!”

The Transatlantic Trends survey questioned more than 13,000 people across the continent from June to late July this year.

Generally speaking, Western Europe — the old NATO countries of the U.K., France, Germany and Italy — were more favorable to U.S. leadership, while Eastern Europe and Turkey were slightly more skeptical.