Thursday, July 23, 2009

Obama's New International Poll Numbers

. Thursday, July 23, 2009

During the presidential campaign last fall, many observers as well as candidate Obama himself, predicted that his election would go a long way in repairing America's relations with its major allies in Western Europe, as well as elevate the position of the United States in the minds of people throughout the developing world. The Pew Global Attitudes Project just released its findings on this issue.

Mr. Obama, according to the survey by the Pew Global Attitudes Project, enjoys greater confidence among Germans than does Chancellor Angela Merkel, and among the French than President Nicolas Sarkozy. His election in itself, pollsters found, helped restore the United States’ image abroad to levels unseen since the Clinton years.

Improved attitudes toward the United States were most marked in Western Europe, but also evident in Asia, Africa and Latin America, as well as some predominantly Muslim countries.

In Indonesia, where Mr. Obama spent part of his youth, no fewer than 73 percent of those polled said that his election had directly improved their opinion of the United States.
Europeans, in particular, seemed to be responding positively to Mr. Obama. The number of Britons saying that they trusted the American president to do the “right thing” in world affairs soared to 86 percent this year, under Mr. Obama, compared with just 16 percent last year, under President George W. Bush. The increase was slightly larger in both Germany and France.

For the first time since Pew began making the comparison, people in Turkey, Egypt, Nigeria and Indonesia — all predominantly Muslim nations — expressed greater confidence in the American president than in Osama bin Laden.
This finding is without a doubt a good thing for the United States. I expect these numbers to decrease with time, much like we have seen Obama's poll numbers dip in the United States as the honeymoon has worn off and the battles over health care and the economy continue. But, even if the global numbers do fall off from the current highs, it's clear that the United States has regained a lot of its ethical legitimacy in the eyes of its allies and people in the developing world. This change alone, increases the probability of American success in issue areas pretty dramatically.

I don't know how far back the Pew project data on global presidential approval goes, but if the data is available, it would be interesting to see if higher poll levels abroad correlate with greater success in American diplomatic efforts. Intuition tells me that this should hold, but I've noticed lately that intuition can be pretty damn wrong quite often. It'd be great to see some hard data on this topic.

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Obama's New International Poll Numbers
 
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