Americans think Europe should assist Greece

March 01, 2015, 3:18 PM GMT+0

Americans tend to say that Greek creditors should modify the terms of the bailout to ease conditions on the troubled country

Americans like Greece – more than two in three regard it as a friendly country. And in the latest Economist/YouGov Poll they would like Europe to continue to bail Greece out of its financial difficulties. That’s true even though Americans generally are fans of austerity measures in hard times.

The American public tends to think of the government’s finances as they think of their own. If they personally run into debt, cutting spending is the way to get back on track. Even Democrats are divided on this: just about the same percentage would cut spending in difficult times as would choose policies similar to those practiced by Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal during the Great Depression: increase government spending to put more money in people’s pockets to help the economy recover.

Republicans have an overwhelming preference for reducing – not increasing -- spending. They are typically more likely than Democrats to describe the U.S. budget deficit as the country’s most important issue, although in this week’s poll only 6% of Republicans describe it that way.

Greece spent far more money than it had, and in 2010 the European Central Bank, the international Monetary Fund and several European countries provided financing to Greece, but required that it cut spending. The agreement was modified in 2012, and the newly-elected Greek government now would like another modification: the austerity measures hurt many individual Greeks.

That newly-elected government campaigned on an anti-austerity platform. Europe has agreed to modify the terms of the bailout – but that arrangement will end in June, perhaps leaving Greece in limbo. The American public isn’t paying close attention to this (only 6% are following the story very closely), but it’s clear that American sympathies are with Greece. By two to one, they favor modifications of the terms.

There is bipartisan support. Republicans and Democrats differ only in the margin of support to modify the arrangement. But those with family incomes of $100,000 or more a year (the group most likely to be paying attention to the story) feel somewhat differently. As many oppose another modification, even if it means Greece must declare bankruptcy as support it.

See the full poll results

Economist/YouGov poll archives can be found here.