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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2857

Resurgence of U.S. image worldwide seen due to Obama foreign policy

Daya Gamage – US National Correspondent Asian Tribune

Washington, D.C. 24 July ( The image of the United States has improved markedly in most parts of the world, reflecting global confidence in Barack Obama. In many countries opinions of the U.S. are now about as positive as they were at the beginning of the decade before George W. Bush took office.

Improvements in the U.S. image have been most pronounced in Western Europe, where favorable ratings for both the nation and the American people have soared.

However for the most part, opinions of the U.S. among Muslims in the Middle East remain largely unfavorable, despite some positive movement in the numbers in Jordan and Egypt. Animosity toward the U.S., however, continues to run deep and unabated in Turkey, the Palestinian territories and Pakistan.

Those were disclosed by America’s most prominent and foremost opinion survey organization PEW Research Center. The worldwide survey was released in July.

The PEW worldwide survey found while the image of the U.S. is much improved and expectations about Obama are high, there has been only modest change in opinion of the U.S. on two key issues: multilateralism and the impact of the American global footprint. Expectations about Obama's multilateralism notwithstanding, most still say the U.S. is not considering their country when making foreign policy. Only in Germany, India, Israel, Kenya, Nigeria, China and Brazil do majorities think the U.S. is taking their country's interest into account when making foreign policy. And overwhelming numbers of people around the world continue to see the U.S. as having a big influence on their country, with the publics of most nations surveyed describing that influence as bad, rather than good. Exceptions are India and Kenya, where majorities say that the U.S. impact is positive.

The PEW says that signs of improvement in views of America are seen even in some predominantly Muslim countries that held overwhelmingly negative views of the United States in the Bush years. The most notable increase occurred in Indonesia, where people are well aware of Obama's family ties to the country and where favorable ratings of the U.S. nearly doubled this year.

Israel stands out in the poll as the only public among the 25 surveyed where the current U.S. rating is lower than in past surveys.

In contrast, in Germany favorable opinion of the U.S. jumped from 31% in 2008 to 64% in the current survey.

Large boosts in U.S. favorability ratings since last year are also recorded in Britain, Spain and France. In its own hemisphere, America's image rose markedly in Canada, Mexico, Argentina and Brazil. Improvements in U.S. ratings are less evident in countries where the country's image had not declined consistently during the Bush years, including Poland, Japan and South Korea. Opinions of the U.S. remain very positive in the African nations of Kenya and Nigeria, while increasing significantly in India and China.

The new survey by the Pew Research Center's Global Attitudes Project, conducted May 18 to June 16, finds that confidence in Barack Obama's foreign policy judgments stands behind a resurgent U.S. image in many countries. Belief that Obama will "do the right thing in world affairs" is now nearly universal in Western countries, where lack of confidence in President Bush had been almost as prevalent for much of his time in office.

In France and Germany, no fewer than nine-in-ten express confidence in the new American president, exceeding the ratings achieved by Nicolas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel in their own countries.

In Asia, optimism about Obama is almost as extensive with 85% of Japanese and 81% of South Koreans expressing confidence in the American president, and only somewhat lower percentages expressing that view in India (77%) and China (64%).

In Brazil, 76% have confidence in Obama, as do most Argentines (61%), despite their generally skeptical view of the U.S. as expressed in this and earlier surveys.

Even in some countries where the U.S. remains unpopular, significant percentages nonetheless say that they think Obama will do the right thing in international affairs. In Egypt and Jordan, sizable numbers have confidence in him -- 42% and 31% respectively. This represents a three-fold increase compared with opinions about President Bush in 2008. But in Pakistan and the Palestinian territories, ratings of Obama are only marginally better than the abysmal ratings accorded Bush. Again, Israel stands alone as the only country where Obama does not engender more confidence than did President Bush.

And only about one-in-three Russians (37%) voice confidence in the new president, although this is still a considerably better rating than Bush received in 2008 (22%).

In most countries where opinions of the U.S. have improved, many say that Obama's election led them to have a more favorable view of the U.S. This admission is most apparent in Western Europe, Canada and Japan. In Indonesia, where opinion of America improved dramatically, no fewer than 73% say that his election bettered their opinion of the U.S. However even in countries where there was little or no upswing in the U.S.'s ratings, many people say that Obama's election has led them to think more favorably of the U.S. For example in Egypt and Turkey, where America's favorable ratings remain very low, as many as 38% in both countries say they have better opinions of the U.S. because of Obama. However, fewer than one-in-ten (9%) in Pakistan express that view.

More generally, analysis of the survey finds that views of the U.S. are being driven much more by personal confidence in Obama than by opinions about his specific policies. That is, opinions about Obama personally are more associated with views of the U.S. than are judgments of his policies that were tested in the poll.

Obama Runs the Table on Guantanamo and Iraq

Obama's overall approval rating for some of his current international policies is high in most countries. This is especially so in Western Europe, where markedly more people than in the U.S. itself give a thumbs up to the new president's foreign policy.

Closing the military prison at Guantanamo and withdrawing troops from Iraq are the specific policies that engender the most public international support. Supra majorities in almost all countries favor both measures - including nearly all of the publics of predominantly Muslim countries surveyed. The one notable exception is the U.S., where the public is now divided about closing the military prison at Guantanamo.

Sending more troops to Afghanistan is the only Obama policy tested that does not engender broad global support. In fact, majorities in most countries oppose the added deployments. This includes the publics of several NATO countries --such as Britain, Germany, Spain and Canada --most of which in recent years have called for removing troops from Afghanistan.

A majority of Pakistanis also oppose the call for more troops in Afghanistan, reflecting longstanding opposition to NATO operations in that country. Opinions in the U.S. and Israel are exceptional -- majorities in both countries favor Obama's request for more troops.

Afghanistan not withstanding, people around the world for the most part have high expectations for Barack Obama.

Majorities of the publics of America's traditional allies, who have thought the U.S. favors Israel too much, think that Obama will be fair in his dealing with the Palestinians and Israelis.

In the Mideast, however, large majorities are dubious. More than six-in-ten Jordanians (69%), Egyptians (66%) and Lebanese (63%) do not expect Obama to be even handed.

In Israel, the number thinking Obama will be fair was 57% prior to the Cairo speech, but just 47% after Obama's address. Among Palestinians, the view that the new American president will be fair rose marginally after the speech (25% to 31%).


One concrete, positive sign for the new U.S. administration in the survey is a surge in support for U.S.-led efforts to combat terrorism. The percentage favoring the U.S. effort among the nation's allies had steadily declined from 2002 to 2007. The new survey once again finds majorities of Western Europeans and Canadians approving of the U.S. anti-terrorism effort. But increased support for U.S. anti-terrorism efforts is also apparent in Poland, Russia, Brazil and Mexico. Among majority-Muslim publics, Indonesians are alone in supporting American anti-terrorism efforts. In that regard, while the image of the U.S. has improved somewhat in many predominantly Muslim countries, majorities in most continue to fear that the U.S. could pose a military threat to their country someday.

The PEW Noted:

Lebanese Sunnis are more confident in Obama than are either Christians or Shia. Nearly two-thirds (65%) of Sunni Muslims in Lebanon say they have at least some confidence in Obama, compared with 46% of Christians and just 26% of Shia Muslims.

Brazilians increasingly view China, a fellow member of the BRIC group (Brazil, Russia, India and China), as a partner. Nearly half of Brazilians (49%) now see China as a partner, up from 34% in 2008.

Opinions of the European Union remain fairly tepid in Britain. In fact, more Canadians (71%) and Americans (56%) than the British (50%) express favorable opinions of the EU.

Views of the United Nations have improved in the United States, as well as in Britain and France. Currently, 61% of Americans say they have a favorable view of the U.N., compared with 48% in 2007

There is as much support for the free market in the Middle East as there is in Western Europe. And a higher percentage of Palestinians (82%) than any Western European public agrees that people are better off in a free market economy, even though some are rich and some are poor.

- Asian Tribune -

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