Indonesia: The Obama Effect

Mar 17, 2010

When President Barack Obama travels to Indonesia, where he lived for several years as a child, he will visit a country where his personal popularity has dramatically transformed America's image. Of course, Indonesia is not alone in this pattern – Obama's election led to better ratings for the United States in many nations around the globe. However, Indonesia – the world's largest predominantly Muslim country – is an outlier in the Muslim world, where opinions of the U.S. remain mostly negative.

Over the last decade, Indonesian opinions about the U.S. have fluctuated considerably. A 2002 poll by the Pew Research Center's Global Attitudes Project found that roughly six-in-ten Indonesians (61%) had a favorable view of the U.S., while only 36% expressed an unfavorable view.

With the onset of the Iraq war, however, ratings for the U.S. turned sharply negative. In a 2003 Pew Global Attitudes survey taken shortly after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, only 15% of Indonesians had a positive view, while 83% voiced a negative opinion. America's image rebounded somewhat in response to U.S. relief efforts following the December 2004 tsunami. A Pew Research survey in April-May 2005 found the percentage of Indonesians with a favorable opinion of the U.S. had risen to 38%.

It was not until the election of Barack Obama, however, that positive ratings for the U.S. returned to their pre-Iraq war level. A Pew Research survey conducted in May-June of 2009 found a dramatic improvement in America's overall image – the percentage of Indonesians with a favorable opinion jumped from 37% in 2008 to 63% in 2009, while the percentage with an unfavorable view dropped from 53% to 30%.

Read the full commentary Indonesia: The Obama Effect on the Pew Research Center's Web site.

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