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American Perceptions of Germany

While most Americans view Germany in a positive light, the recent study funded by the German Information Center pinpoints areas that concern Americans.

On Saturday May 7, 2o16  Dr. Stefan Buchwald, Minister Counselor at the German Embassy in Washington, D.C. and Director of the German Information Center USA, presented the findings of the study at the German-American Heritage Foundation of the USA®. The presentation generated a lively discussion.

During the presentation Dr. Buchwald emphasized the fact that Americans view Germany in a positive light. Some of the highlights of this study include not only the general perception of the country, but also specific topics of interest like the refugee crisis, terrorism and the incident with car manufacturer Volkswagen.   On the positive side, Germany is perceived as the top non-English speaking partner for the U.S., with 62% of Americans indicating that the U.S. and Germany have a close bond.   Germany is not only seen as a leader in Europe but also within the United Nations. Furthermore,  Americans expect them to have that leadership role.    Germany is perceived as a modern and forward thinking society by 65% of Americans, and ,not surprisingly, continues to be viewed as a leader in research and technology.

On specific issues that affect our world today Americans had the perception that while Germany is an important ally in the fight against Tterrorism,  62% perceived it should be more active. On the common issue of immigration,  the general perception is that Germany handled the crisis of immigrants better than the U.S. has, however they view immigration as a risk for Germany in the future. Main concerns include security threats,  hostility towards foreigners, threat to Germany’s prosperity and to a lesser extend but still with 40% growth of the right-wing movement.

In the economic arena, as mentioned, Germany is seen as an economic global power and a strong economic partner to the U.S., however the percentages do not reflect the real trade figures by which Germany surpasses other countries perceived by the general public as larger trade partners. Not surprisingly the issue of Volkswagen is a concern for the American public.  While most considered it to be an isolated case, 42% believed that it will harm the German economy and a considerable number of people (28%) felt it would harm the brand “Made in Germany.”  On the transatlantic trade and investment partnership (TTIP) over 50% agreed it was in the best interest of the US, this is a 9% improvement over the prior study.

The final topic addressed by the study was the European Union,  a new series of questions introduced in the latest study.  The main outcomes were that Americans do not feel informed about the EU, however they view the EU as a key partner and want it to remain strong.  Americans see Germany having a strong role and they also expect them to continue to have that role.

About the study:   This project has the objective to understand the American population’s general knowledge about Germany,  its people and the relationship of the U.S. with Germany.  The study  conducted by N. Magid Associates from February 17-22, 2016. The German Information Center conducts these studies periodically to understand the shifts in perception.  To read more about the study go to

About the speaker: Dr. Stefan Buchwald is the Director of the German Information Center and Minister Counselor for Political Affairs of the German Embassy in Washington, DC. During his last tenure in Germany heading the Division 609- Dialogue with the Islamic World, he coordinated projects in the fields of education, culture and media with the Arab World and the dialogue with the Islamic World. Dr Buchwald has been stationed in Egypt, Yemen, Syria, Portugal and Romania. He also has served on the Crisis Task Force on Iraq and the Task Force for International Environment and Biopolitical Affairs.