Which countries do Brits think are enemies and allies?

Honour guard of Russian soldiers. CC0 Public Domain

Interesting polling results from Redfield & Wilton, showing how wary the British public is of the US compared to other countries:

Thinking about the following countries, please select whether you would consider them more of an ally or more of a threat to the United Kingdom and its interests

Those figures show a slump in the USA’s standing in the eyes of Britons compared with YouGov polling in 2016. The questions were not the same, and so are not directly comparable, but notice how the relative position of the US compared with France and Germany has changed:

Enemy or ally - YouGov polling of British views

That slippage under President Donald Trump is also reflected in Opinium polling from 2018 on a different but related question:

Favourable and unfavourable country ratings - Polling Matters podcast

The 2016 YouGov results broken down by voting intention added in the twist that, even allowing for the margins of error on sub-breaks, the overall pattern is that Ukip supporters were less likely to say that a country is an ally than the rest of the population, with the exceptions of Israel, Russia and China.

Earlier polling from 2015, also by YouGov, found a similar picture and one very different from the current one:

YouGov polling on important allies for Britain

To learn more about how opinion polls work, when to trust them and when to doubt them, see my book, Polling UnPacked: the history, uses and abuses of polling.

One response to “Which countries do Brits think are enemies and allies?”

  1. Most of the questions use the word “ally”. This immediately raises military connotations, and inevitably invites respondents to consider who they’d rather have on their side in a military conflict. Given the choices on offer the USA is bound to rank at or very near the top of any list, whether they approve of its other aspects or not. A question that asked “Which of the following countries do you most approve of? Please rank them in order” would get a very different result – as the 2018 Opinium pool indicates. As would a question along the lines of “Which of the following countries or economic groupings should the UK be closely associated with?”. I’d be prepared to bet that the EU would come out on top, well ahead of the USA, at least among those who had a good understanding of the implications.

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