BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Americans are turning away from Europe toward Asia, according to a survey released on Wednesday showing, for the first time, most U.S. citizens thought China and Japan were more important to their national interest.
The Transatlantic Trends survey found 51 percent of Americans felt Asian countries were more important to them than European Union nations, while only 38 percent thought the opposite.
The new American focus was prompted by both interest in new business opportunities from Asia's booming economies and fear of growing competition from the Far East, said analysts.
"What do people see on TV? ... Booming China, booming India, imploding Europe. It's natural to ask: Who do we want to align ourselves with?," said Bruce Stokes, a senior fellow from think tank the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GM) that published the survey.
The findings were reversed the last time the survey asked a similar question.
In 2004, 54 percent of Americans said Europe was more important to their country's "vital" interests, while only 29 percent said Asia was.
"We may have arrived at a watershed moment when the United States looks ... to the Far East as its first instinct," said GM president Craig Kennedy in a statement.
The survey, carried out in May and June, U.S. and European citizens their opinions on international affairs, the economy and other issues.
While 63 percent of Americans saw China as a threat and just 31 percent as an opportunity, majorities in several European countries, including Germany and Britain, said China was an opportunity.
Obama's foreign policies proved more popular in Europe, where he scored a 75 percent approval rating, than in the United States, where he scored 54 percent.
For the first time in the survey, a majority of Americans, or 56 percent, were pessimistic about the prospects of stabilizing the situation in Afghanistan, while European pessimism remained high at 66 percent.
Reporting by Sebastian Moffat; Editing by David Brainstorm and Andrew Heavens