eupinions echo 3 Nov, 2020

Europeans Have a Clear Favourite in the US Election but are Sceptical of its Fairness

Just 5% of Europeans believe in a completely free and fair US election

eupinions echo Europeans Have a Clear Favourite in the US Election but are Sceptical of its Fairness

Every week, surveys from all across the EU tell us what Europeans are thinking, feeling and talking about. In our segment, eupinions echo, we collect these voices and play them back to you. Each week, we highlight one survey of particular interest in a short blogpost and share daily new survey results via our website and our twitter channel.


Last week we published our latest eupinions brief "Together Apart", in which we presented our own polling on European attitudes towards the US presidential election 2020. The results were telling. If Europeans had a say on the matter, President Trump wouldn’t stand a chance against his challenger, former US Vice President Joe Biden. Across the EU-27 only 17% of Europeans would vote for Trump, while 45% would vote for Biden and 38% would vote for neither of the two candidates (see fig. 1). This trend was observed most clearly in Germany where just 10% would consider voting for Trump and an absolute majority of 56% would cast their vote for Joe Biden.

Alas, the vote on the next president of the United States is not up to us Europeans. Instead, today on November 3rd, millions of Americans will make their way to the ballots and cast their own votes in this crucial election and while current polling is showing a comfortable lead for Biden nationally as well as in most swing states, this election could still very well go either way.

How do our own pre-election survey results compare to others that have recently been published? Let’s have a look at this recent YouGov analysis which questioned respondents in the UK, Germany, France, Denmark, Sweden, Spain and Italy between the 15th of September and 4th of October.

Similar to our own survey, YouGov also asked Europeans which candidate they would prefer as the next US President. The results are just as clear. Across the 7 European countries surveyed by YouGov an average of 65% of respondents want to see Joe Biden beat Donald Trump, while only 14% of Europeans would rather see Trump emerge victorious from the election. This gap was most striking in Denmark, where 80% of the population is in support of Joe Biden and only 6% of in favour of Trump. Note that the even higher support numbers for Biden in the YouGov data, compared to our own eupinions data, can be explained through a slightly different wording. While we have asked Europeans who they would vote for themselves, YouGov asked respondents to state which candidate they wished Americans chose. As a result, our sample has a rather large group of respondents stating they’d vote for neither candidate, even though they might still have a preference as to who of the two candidates should rather win the election. YouGov has also asked a number of additional questions that we’d like to report on as well.

Firstly, their analysis shows that while Europeans do have a clear favourite in former US Vice President Joe Biden, they are far less certain about the actual outcome of today's election. Even though respondents in all countries surveyed thought it was more likely than not that Biden will win over Trump, Denmark was the only country where an absolute majority actually held that believe.

Secondly, Europeans also voiced serious doubts about the US presidential election process and the fairness of the upcoming election. Across the seven European countries in the YouGov sample, an average of 44% of respondents thought that that the upcoming election would be either "mostly not free and fair" or "not free or fair at all", while just 5% of European respondents believed that the election would be completely free and fair. Europeans appear to have lost trust in a well-functioning US democracy, a sentiment that also came through in our own analysis when we asked Europeans to what extend they believed democracy in the US to be effective or ineffective (see figure 2). On average, 52% of EU citizens in our survey answered that they saw the US as an ineffective democracy, with the exception of Poland where 77% continue to believe the US democracy is effective.

Finally, YouGov asked its respondents about their feelings towards Donald Trump's performance as US President over the last four years and about their feelings towards a possible Joe Biden presidency. Unsurprisingly, a majority of Europeans think that Donald Trump has been a bad president. An average of 70% of Europeans rates his performance as "poor/terrible", while just 10% rated it as "great/good". 13% of Europeans believed it to be "average". Having said that, Europeans aren’t exactly overly excited about the prospect of a Joe Biden presidency either. An average of 36% of Europeans would expect his presidency to be merely “average”, while 31% of respondents did not have any clear opinion on the matter. And still, just 9% of Europeans believed a Biden presidency to be “poor/terrible”.

Today's US election marks the most important choice in the country's younger history. In our studies and blogposts we have repeatedly written about the importance of international cooperation and integration in Europe and the world, about the significance of democratic values and norms, and about the very real threat that populism poses to our democratic system. Over the past four years, Donald Trump has shown an utter lack of interest in, and even disregard for, that very system. This hasn’t gone without consequences, as evidenced by the shockingly large number of Europeans who do not believe the US presidential elections to be free and fair. Donald Trump continues to undermine the legitimacy of this election by declaring that he’d only accept as rightful an outcome in his favour. Should he be granted another four years in office, it is probably fair to assume that he will continue his efforts to undermine democratic values and institutions in the US. This would be bad not just for the US, but also for its European partners which is why they have already made up their mind.



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About the surveys: YouGov interviewed a total of 9136 adults from the UK, Germany, France, Denmark, Sweden, Spain and Italy between the 15th of September and 4th of October.