03/31/2009 - As Barack Obama travels through Europe on his first overseas trip as president, keep your expectations modest that this is the beginning of a major revival of America's global image. No question that Barack Obama has a great personal following around the world, especially in comparison with President Bush. But to restore the global image of the nation he now leads, the new president must overcome a number of fundamental criticisms. And issues arising from the global economic crisis and other world problems on Obama's agenda seem likely to resonate with key criticisms about America's leadership in the Bush years.
Judging from Pew Research's interviews with 177,000 people in 55 nations between 2002 and 2008, topping the list of carryover complaints is the charge that America too often acts unilaterally: that it doesn't take into account the interests of other nations in formulating policy. Closely linked to this critique is the view that the United States relies too much on military force to deal with international conflicts.
Another consistent and prevalent criticism has been that the U.S. does too little to address world problems, and what it does do has widened the global gulf between rich and poor. On matters ranging from promotion of democracy to globalization to international security, the rest of the world became openly skeptical of America's word and intentions over most of this decade.
Read Andrew Kohut's complete commentary Obama Unlikely to Find a Quick Fix for U.S. Global Image on the Pew Research Center's Web site.