Obama's popularity: Mixed marks a year after Cairo

Related Stories

Some of the international enthusiasm that greeted Barack Obama's arrival in the White House may have waned but he remains broadly popular across much of the world.

Cairo street scene Majorities in six Muslim nations fear the US may pose a military threat one day

Barack Obama's election revived America's global image, and many Europeans, Latin Americans, Asians and others who strongly opposed his predecessor continue to embrace him and to express support for his handling of global problems such as climate change and the economic crisis.

However, a year after his Cairo speech, Mr Obama receives poor reviews in many largely Muslim nations.

And even in countries where he is popular, many disapprove of how the US president is handling world trouble-spots, such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

A new survey by the Pew Research Center's Global Attitudes Project finds that majorities or pluralities in 16 of the 22 nations surveyed express at least some confidence in Mr Obama's leadership in international affairs.

Defying gravity

This view is especially common in Western Europe, where "Obamamania" took hold even before he became president.

In Germany, for instance, the president's ratings seem to defy political gravity.

Barack Obama addresses crowds in Berlin, July 2008 Mr Obama addressed huge crowds in Germany in 2008 before his election

In a spring 2009 poll, a few months after he took office, 93% of Germans expressed confidence in Mr Obama; a year later, 90% still feel this way.

Big majorities agree in Britain, France, and Spain.

And Mr Obama's popularity is not limited to Europe, with more than seven in 10 giving him positive ratings in Japan, South Korea, India and Nigeria. And a stunning 95% hold this view in Kenya, home to Mr Obama's late father.

Mr Obama is also well-regarded in another country with which he has a personal connection: Indonesia, where he lived for several years as a child.

Two-thirds of Indonesians express confidence in his international leadership.

Muslim concerns

Outside Indonesia, however, he receives far less enthusiastic reviews in the Muslim world.

In Turkey, Egypt and Jordan, a third or fewer have a positive opinion of his leadership.

In Pakistan, a country that is crucial to US security interests, only 8% feel this way, about the same level of support former President George W Bush received from Pakistanis during his last year in office.

Indeed, many of the concerns about American policies and power that were common in Muslim nations during the Bush years are still widespread today.

MUSLIM VIEWS OF THE US

Percentage favourable
2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010

Muslim respondents only Source: Pew Research Center

Indonesia

61

13

-

36

26

27

34

62

58

Nigeria

72

38

-

-

32

49

39

61

70

Lebanon

30

15

-

22

-

33

34

47

39

Egypt

-

-

-

-

29

22

20

25

16

Jordan

25

1

5

20

14

20

19

25

20

Pakistan

10

13

20

22

27

15

17

15

16

Turkey

30

15

29

23

12

9

13

14

17

In most of these countries, majorities believe the US acts unilaterally in world affairs, few support American anti-terrorism efforts and, perhaps most tellingly, majorities in all six predominantly Muslim nations surveyed think the US could pose a military threat to their country some day.

There are lingering concerns about America's role in the world elsewhere as well.

Even in generally pro-Obama Western Europe, most say the US does not take their interests into account when making foreign policy.

America's wars

Still, in general terms, Mr Obama's policies are well-received: majorities or pluralities in 16 of 22 nations say they approve of his overall international policies.

A US soldier in Kandahar, Afghanistan, 14 June Majorities in most countries polled want the US and Nato to leave Afghanistan

He also tends to get high marks for his handling of two major global issues: climate change and the economic crisis.

Mr Obama gets mixed reviews for the way he has dealt with Iran, and on balance populations around the world disapprove of the way he has managed America's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Last year's Pew Global Attitudes Survey already showed considerable scepticism about Mr Obama's plans to send more troops to Afghanistan and, in the current poll, majorities in most countries want the US and Nato to withdraw their forces.

But Mr Obama gets his worst ratings for his handling of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which bedevilled many of his predecessors.

The Arizona effect

In all three Arab nations surveyed - Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon - more than 80% disapprove of the way Mr Obama has handled the conflict.

He also gets poor marks for his response to an issue not of his own making: the new Arizona immigration law.

The new measure, which gives police increased powers to question people who are suspected of being in the US illegally if they have been stopped on other grounds, has damaged America's overall image in Mexico, and even though Mr Obama has criticised the law, it has hurt his ratings.

Mexicans who have heard about the law tend to disapprove of how Mr Obama is dealing with the issue (the question was asked only in Mexico).

And as the survey reveals, overall assessments of the American president plummeted after the measure was signed into law by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer.

Among Mexicans surveyed before the law's enactment, 47% had confidence in the president; afterwards, just 36% held this view.

Chart showing Obama's popularity

More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

More US & Canada stories

RSS

Features

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.