Twice as many Americans now regard France as an ally than they did in 2010
After last weekend’s terror attacks in Paris, sympathy and admiration for the French appears to have turned around American opinion on France. Just a few years ago, only 28% of Americans viewed France as an ally of the United States. But in the latest Economist/YouGov Poll, the prevailing assessment is positive, with a majority now seeing France as an ally.
Opinion of France was hurt by the French lack of support for the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. In March 2003, France took the position that United Nations weapons inspectors needed more time, and that an invasion of Iraq would be premature. In apparent retaliation for the lack of French support for the invasion of Iraq, the U.S. Congressional cafeteria – following the example of a North Carolina restauranteur, changed the name of French fries to “freedom fries,” and French toast to “freedom toast.” Travel, trade shows, and purchases were affected. There was a boycott of French wines, and one analysis suggests that French wine sales dropped by 13% over a six-month period. However, during that uncomfortable period, CBS News and Gallup Polls found that Americans – although they held generally unfavorable views of France – still regarded it as at least a friendly nation.
The next year opinion about the French became politicized. During his 2004 campaign for president, current Secretary of State John Kerry was accused of being French (his grandparents had an estate in Brittany), looking French, and even attacked for speaking French. Clearly, a “French connection” was seen as a political negative. During the 2012 Republican primary campaign, Mitt Romney was criticized for the same skill.
That is no longer the case. Majorities of Republicans, Democrats and independents all see France as AN ally of the U.S., and more than eight in ten think of France today as at least friendly towards the United States.