Obama More Popular Abroad Than at Home, Global Image of U.S. Continues to Benefit

Jun 17, 2010

As the global economy begins to rebound from the great recession, people around the world remain deeply concerned with the way things are going in their countries. Less than a third of the publics in most nations say they are satisfied with national conditions, as overwhelming numbers say their economies are in bad shape. And just about everywhere, governments are faulted for the way they are dealing with the economy.

Yet in most countries, especially in wealthier nations, President Barack Obama gets an enthusiastic thumbs up for the way he has handled the world economic crisis. The notable exception is the United States itself, where as many disapprove of their president’s approach to the global recession as approve.

This pattern is indicative of the broader picture of global opinion in 2010. President Barack Obama remains popular in most parts of the world, although his job approval rating in the U.S. has declined sharply since he first took office. In turn, opinions of the U.S., which improved markedly in 2009 in response to Obama’s new presidency, also have remained far more positive than they were for much of George W. Bush’s tenure.

Ratings of America are overwhelmingly favorable in Western Europe. For example, 73% in France and 63% in Germany say they have a favorable view of the U.S. Moreover, ratings of America have improved sharply in Russia (57%), up 13 percentage points since 2009, in China (58%), up 11 points, and in Japan (66%), up 7 points. Opinions are also highly positive in other nations around the world including South Korea (79%), Poland (74%), and Brazil (62%).

The U.S. continues to receive positive marks in India, where 66% express a favorable opinion, although this is down from last year when 76% held this view. America’s overall image has also slipped slightly in Indonesia, although 59% still give the U.S. a positive rating in the world’s largest predominantly Muslim nation.

Publics of other largely Muslim countries continue to hold overwhelmingly negative views of the U.S. In both Turkey and Pakistan – where ratings for the U.S. have been consistently low in recent years – only 17% hold a positive opinion. Indeed, the new poll finds opinion of the U.S. slipping in some Muslim countries where opinion had edged up in 2009. In Egypt, America’s favorability rating dropped from 27% to 17% – the lowest percentage observed in any of the Pew Global Attitudes surveys conducted in that country since 2006.

Closer to home, a special follow-up poll found America’s favorable rating tumbling in Mexico in response to Arizona’s enactment of a law aimed at dealing with illegal immigration by giving police increased powers to stop and detain people who are suspected of being in the country illegally. Only 44% of Mexicans gave the U.S. a favorable rating following the signing of the bill, compared with 62% who did so before the bill passed.

The new survey by the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project, conducted April 7 to May 8, also finds that overall opinion of Barack Obama remains broadly positive in most non-Muslim nations. In these countries, the national median confidence in Obama to do the right thing in world affairs is 71%, and overall approval of his policies is 64%. In particular, huge percentages in Germany (88%), France (84%), Spain (76%) and Britain (64%) say they back the president’s policies. Similarly in the two African nations polled Obama gets high marks – 89% of Kenyans and 74% of Nigerians approve of his international policies.

Read the full report, Obama More Popular Abroad Than At Home, Global Image of U.S. Continues to Benefit, on the Pew Research Center's Global Attitudes Project Web site.

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