BERLIN — Sheesh, spy on a few dozen million Germans and they really get angry.
A new poll by German public television (ARD) indicates that only 35 percent of Germans still see the United States as a good partner. That figure has fallen 14 points since just this past July when about half of all Germans saw America as a partner they could trust.
The new poll, done Thursday, also indicates that 61 percent of Germans now see the United States as an untrustworthy partner.
The poll reflects the deep unhappiness in Germany over the spy scandal, which has seen outrage consistently build from the summer. The first reports were that a U.S. spy program was collecting phone calls and emails and social media communications of Germans. Last month it was alleged that they‘ve been tapping the personal cell phone of Chancellor Angela Merkel and that the top of the U.S. embassy in Berlin houses a big spy nest.
And it’s a steep decline in popularity here for a nation which since the end of World War II has seen the United States as a close friend, an essential ally, a protector and often a provider. To Germans, for decades, the United States was not just the ideal partner but an ideal.
The National Security Agency spy scandal appears to have torched that reputation, at a level beyond even that of the Iraq invasion split.
How steep is the slide in German feelings towards the United States?
Sixty percent of Germans consider Edward Snowden – former NSA employee and the man who exposed the extent of the American spy program in Germany and elsewhere and now a fugitive in Russia – to be a hero. That's right, the man American politicians call a traitor and officials say has done enormous damage to the United States is considered a hero here. A paltry 14 percent of Germans consider him to be a criminal.
As there is a move among several political parties to grant Snowden asylum, or even witness protection status, in Germany, these numbers could provide strong political cover.
And, meanwhile, President Barack Obama’s star appears to have morphed into a red dwarf here. In April 2010, a whooping 88 percent said they liked his politics. This week, that number had been cut in half, down to 43 percent.
The upside of the poll might be that the United States is still seen as more trustworthy a partner than Russia, but only just. Russia, which, remember, did impose communism on half this nation in the wake of World War II, was seen in the poll as an untrustworthy partner by 74 percent of Germans.