|Obama improves US image abroad: Poll |
Barbara Ferguson | Arab News
WASHINGTON: A new Pew Poll released this week concluded that if the world’s citizens were allowed to vote in US elections, President Barack Obama’s reelection in 2012 would be a foregone conclusion and there would be no need to worry about Republicans Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney or anybody else.
The report even found that in France and Germany, confidence in Obama exceeds that for French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Whatever the impact on policy, there has been a transformation in views of the American president abroad.
In 21 of the countries surveyed, an average of 71 percent of respondents had some confidence in the US president’s handling of world affairs, compared with 17 percent when Bush was in the White House last year. In many countries, opinions of the United States are now about as positive as they were at the beginning of the decade before Bush took office.
His popularity was double that of Bush in China, triple in Japan and Mexico, quadruple in Jordan and Egypt.
The contrast was even wider across Western Europe and in Turkey and Argentina.
In France, 13% viewed Bush positively last year; now 91% express confidence in Obama.
World opinion is that that Obama will “do the right thing in world affairs” — everywhere in the world, except in Muslim countries, where animosity toward the US persists in some predominantly Muslim nations, the poll said, particularly in Turkey, Pakistan and the Palestinian territories.
Obama’s speech in Cairo last month to the Muslim world increased the percentage of those in the Palestinian territories who said Obama “will consider our interests,” but it eroded the number of Israelis who felt that way.
Bush fared better than Obama in just one country surveyed. In Israel, 57% expressed confidence in Bush in 2007; 56% express confidence in Obama now.
Attitudes in the Middle East are not likely to improve significantly until progress is made in resolving the conflict between Israel and Palestinians, the poll noted.
Attitudes toward America rose slightly in US allies Egypt and Jordan and registered some improvement after Obama’s speech to the Muslim world in Cairo last month.
But Palestinians appeared unmoved and Israelis were unimpressed, the report said.
Attitudes toward the United States continued to be dismal in some predominantly Muslim countries. Just 14% of those surveyed in Turkey and 16% in Pakistan had a favorable opinion of the US.
For the first time in the Pew study, there was more confidence in the American president than in Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden in such predominantly Muslim countries as Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, Nigeria and Indonesia. Last year, most Muslim countries rated Bin Laden as high or higher than Bush.
Andrew Kohut, who headed the poll, said views of the president’s promise to close the prison for terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba — opposed by most Americans — and the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq had drawn broad international support.