Yin and yank? Public opinion in Europe toward the U.S. and China

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Perceptions of the United States in European public opinion greatly improved around 2008, while perceptions of China simultaneously deteriorated. The Transatlantic and Sino-European relationships stem from radically different historical contexts. Yet could the image of China and the image of the U.S. be related in the eyes of Europeans? This paper examines whether attitudes toward China have contributed to determining attitudes toward the U.S. in Europe by analyzing data from the Transatlantic Trends survey taken in 2010, a critical juncture in Europe’s relations with both the U.S. and China. We investigate three hypotheses about this relation: the “yin and yank” or negative correlation (the more Europeans fear China, the more positive they become about the U.S.; the more favorably Europeans view China, the more negatively they see the U.S.); the “open vs. closed” or positive correlation (the more favorably Europeans see China, the more favorably they see the U.S.; the more negatively they see China, the more negatively they see the U.S.); and no relation (European attitudes toward China and the U.S. are independent). To the question of whether anti-Chinese sentiment has the potential for replacing anti-Americanism in Europe, our main conclusion is that positively correlated attitudes toward the U.S. and China reveal a deep cleavage in Europe between those who are “in” and those who are “out” of globalization.

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Correspondence to Sophie Meunier.




Computer-Assisted Telephone Interviews (except in Poland, Slovakia, Turkey, Bulgaria, and Romania where face-to-face interviews were conducted due to the low telephone penetration rate in these five countries). The basic sample design applied in all countries was multistage random (probability). In each household, the respondent was drawn at random (following the “closest birthday rule” or Kish grid). Up to five call-backs for telephone interviews and four visits in total for face-to-face interviews were attempted before dropping a potential respondent.

The U.S. survey fieldwork was carried out by a new survey organization in 2010. This resulted in some changes in trend data due to different interviewing protocols used by the new survey organization, a phenomenon called “house effect.” Specifically, the results showed a drop in the number of “don’t know” responses. For this reason, some of the questions were asked again from a representative sample of 456 Americans between July 29, 2010 and August 4, 2010. This time, interviewers were retrained to be more in line with previous year’s protocols. For questions Q1b_1, Q11, Q25b, and Q26, the results of the new survey were reported after a careful comparison of the data from the two surveys.

For results based on the national samples in each of the 13 countries surveyed, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of error attributable to sampling and other random effects is plus or minus three percentage points. For results based on the total European sample, the margin of error is plus or minus one percentage point. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can also introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

For all questions, European averages were weighted on the basis of the size of the adult population in each country to maintain consistency with previous years’ reports. For new questions, the results were also weighted so that the sample matches certain population characteristics, including age, gender, and education.

Trend Questions: 1_1, 1_2, 1b_1, 1b_2, 4, 6_1, 6_2, 7, 8a, 8b, 9, 10, 11, 13.1, 13.2, 14, 18, 22, 23, 25a, 25b, 26, 27, 32, 33.1, 33.2, 33.3, 33.4, 33.5, 36a, 38, 39

New Questions: 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, 2.4, 2.5, 3.1, 3.2, 3.3, 3.4, 3.5, 5.1, 5.2, 5.3, 5.4, 5.5, 5.6, 5.7, 8c.1, 8c.2, 8c.3, 8c.4, 12, 15, 16, 17, 19, 20, 21.1, 21.2, 21.3, 21.4, 24_1, 24_2, 28, 29, 30, 31, 34, 35, 36b

When processing is complete, data from the survey are deposited with the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research at the University of Michigan (ICPSR), the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research at the University of Connecticut, and the GESIS-Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences and are available to scholars and other interested parties (See Table A1).

Table A1 Detailed methodology

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Kim, S.Y., Meunier, S. & Nyiri, Z. Yin and yank? Public opinion in Europe toward the U.S. and China. Comp Eur Polit 15, 577–603 (2017) doi:10.1057/s41295-016-0005-6

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  • anti-Americanism
  • China
  • Europe
  • globalization
  • public opinion
  • United States