When Barack Obama is sworn in as America's new president in January, he will inherit two wars in distant lands, one highly unpopular and the other going badly, along with a worldwide financial crisis that is being measured against the Great Depression. He will confront the prospect of destructive global climate change and the spread of nuclear weapons to rogue states.
The president-elect has indicated that he will focus on international cooperation in addressing global problems, but he will have to navigate a world that has grown highly critical of the United States.
The U.S. image abroad is suffering almost everywhere, according to the Pew Research Center's Pew Global Attitudes Project. Particularly in the most economically developed countries, people blame America for the financial crisis. Opposition to key elements of American foreign policy is widespread in Western Europe, and positive views of the U.S. have declined steeply among many of America's longtime European allies. In Muslim nations, the wars in Afghanistan and particularly Iraq have driven negative ratings nearly off the charts. The United States earns positive ratings in several Asian and Latin American nations, but usually by declining margins. And while the most recent Pew Global Attitudes survey finds that favorable views of America edged up in 2008, only in sub-Saharan Africa does America score uniformly favorable marks.
America's image gap is the central, unmistakable finding from surveys conducted over the course of this decade by the Pew Research Center's Pew Global Attitudes Project. Since 2002, interviewers have polled over 175,000 people in 54 nations and the Palestinian territories to compare and contrast public opinion around the world on a large variety of subjects. These years coincide almost exactly with the presidency of George W. Bush, thus making it possible to assess his impact on matters of concern not just to the United States but to the world.
Read the full report Global Public Opinion in the Bush Years (2001-2008) on the Pew Global Attitudes Project Web site.