Optimism and Obstacles for Obama in Europe

  • March 25, 2009
  • By Erin Carrier-Kretschmer

On his first trip overseas, U.S. President Barack Obama intends to tackle the current global economic downturn and NATO commitments in Afghanistan, with stops in Britain, France, Germany, Czech Republic and Turkey. Public opinion polls suggest Obama may have reason to expect a mostly warm reception. In the spring 2008 Pew Global Attitudes survey, Western Europeans overwhelmingly expressed optimism about a post-Bush American foreign policy, and they voiced a great deal of confidence in Obama, who was in a battle for the Democratic presidential nomination at the time.

The 2008 survey found considerably more skepticism, however, in Turkey, where anti-American sentiments have become increasingly common in recent years. Relatively few Turks believed American foreign policy would improve with a new administration and fewer still expressed confidence in Obama.

However, even in the European nations where he has enjoyed sky-high ratings, the new president may face opposition to his calls for more NATO troops for Afghanistan and efforts to address the economic crisis. For instance, Europeans and Turks have generally expressed an interest in removing rather than keeping NATO troops in Afghanistan. In addition, when dealing with the economic crisis, Obama will confront the reality that even before the U.S. economic crisis metamorphosed into a global one, many Europeans blamed the U.S. for much of their own economic woes.

Read the full report Optimism and Obstacles for Obama in Europe on the Pew Research Center's Web site.