Global Views of U.S. Helped by Obama, Survey Says

Posted in Other | 25-Jul-09 | Author: Brian Knowlton| Source: New York Times

People in Jakarta, Indonesia, passed a banner expressing support for Barack Obama the day after his election last November.

WASHINGTON - A new global survey has found a vast improvement in views of the United States since the election of President Obama. But it also finds broad opposition to one of his crucial policies - sending more troops to Afghanistan - and confirms a drop in confidence in the United States among Israelis.

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 and included some predominantly Muslim countries.

In Indonesia, where Mr. Obama spent part of his youth, 73 percent of those polled said his election had directly improved their opinion of the United States.

But the survey, involving more than 26,000 people in 24 countries, and the Palestinian territories, found that anti-American animosity remained high in places like Pakistan and Turkey and among Palestinians.

Europeans, in particular, seemed to be responding positively to Mr. Obama. The proportion 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 even larger in Germany and France.

The "right thing" numbers also jumped in all Middle Eastern countries surveyed except Israel, which saw no statistical change.

Mr. Obama's June 4 speech in Cairo gave his standing a statistically insignificant boost among Palestinians. But Israeli confidence in Mr. Obama to do the right thing slipped from 60 percent before the speech to 49 percent afterward. Israelis were the only people polled who gave the United States lower ratings than in past surveys.

"I think that his high ratings overseas are in spite of the economy," said Andrew Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center, based in Washington. "His high ratings reflect personal confidence in him, and a sense that he will be much different than Bush - more multilateral, will seek international approval before using force, ending Guantánamo, getting out of Iraq."

Announcing the closing of the Guantánamo Bay prison and setting a troop-withdrawal deadline in Iraq were the policies that engendered the greatest support, the poll found. Sending more troops to Afghanistan was the only policy tested that majorities in most countries opposed.

The survey, taken from late May to mid-June, had national margins of sampling error of two to four percentage points.