POLITICS: Obama Still Buoyed by Extraordinary Global Popularity

  • by Marina Litvinsky (washington)
  • Monday, June 29, 2009
  • Inter Press Service

An average of 61 percent of people from across the 19 nations polled (excluding the U.S.) express a lot or some confidence in Obama to do the right thing in world affairs. In 13 nations, a majority has confidence in Obama. Seventy percent of the U.S. public also expresses confidence in Obama.

'At this moment Obama occupies a unique position in the eyes of the world,' said Stephen J. Weber of WorldPublicOpinion.org. 'His communication skills and the change he represents create an open door for him to engage people around the world.'

Thirty-one percent of those polled say they have not too much or no confidence at all in Obama.

The poll of 19,224 respondents was conducted between Apr. 4 and Jun. 12, 2009. Those surveyed come from 20 nations that comprise 62 percent of the world's population. They include China, India, the U.S., Indonesia, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Russia - as well as Mexico, Germany, Great Britain, France, Poland, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Kenya, Egypt, Turkey, Iraq, the Palestinian territories, and South Korea. Publics were also polled in Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has the most negative confidence rating, 28 percent across 20 nations, and 49 percent do not have confidence in him. Fourteen nations, led by the U.S. (84 percent) and Germany (91 percent) do not have confidence.

The public in six nations express confidence in Ahmadinejad led by two majority-Muslim nations; Pakistan (75 percent) and the Palestinian territories (57 percent). However, other majority-Muslim nations, like Iraq (56 percent), Azerbaijan (59 percent), and Egypt (57 percent), express a lack of confidence.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has the second lowest confidence rating. On average across 19 nations other than Russia, 34 percent of the public express confidence and 50 percent do not. Critics of Putin include France (78 percent little confidence), Poland (76 percent), Germany (72 percent), and the U.S. (69 percent), as well as all of the nations of the Middle East that were polled.

However, Putin does elicit confidence in the world’s two largest nations, China (64 percent) and India (65 percent). The public in Ukraine, where the current West-leaning President Viktor Yushchenko has had tense relations with the Kremlin, also has confidence in Putin (57 percent). In fact, more Ukrainians express confidence in Putin than in President Obama (35 percent). Russians themselves have confidence in their prime minister by a very large majority (82 percent).

President Nicolas Sarkozy of France has somewhat lower confidence ratings than his European compatriots, but has shown the most improvement - from 30 percent confidence in 2008 to 34 percent in 2009 across 14 trended nations.

Public confidence in President Hu Jintao of China was mixed around the globe. In most nations in the West, including Europe, the U.S. and Mexico, and the Middle East, including Turkey, the Palestinian territories, and Iraq Hu receives low confidence scores.

However, in Asia, the publics in most nations express more confidence in the Chinese leader. Pakistan has 80 percent confidence, while India has 50 percent. Overall, seven nations express confidence in Hu, 10 lack confidence, and two are divided. On average across the nations polled, excluding China, 32 percent have confidence in him and 44 percent do not.

There are also large majorities reporting confidence in President Hu in separate surveys that were conducted in Taiwan (60 percent), Hong Kong (94 percent), and Macau (92 percent).

'In his own backyard, President Hu seems to be using soft power very effectively,' noted Stephen Weber.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon receives the second-highest rating behind Obama. On average his ratings lean positive (between 35 and 40 percent) and 11 nations express confidence, seven do not, and two are divided. Views are especially positive in Asia and Africa. Only in the U.S. and in some nations in the Middle East (Egypt, the Palestinian territories, and Turkey) does a majority express low confidence.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has the second-highest confidence rating. On average, 40 percent express confidence in her. Nine nations have positive views, but eight show little confidence, and two are divided. Most nations in Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, and Europe report confidence in Merkel, but most majority-Muslim nations do not.

President Sarkozy of France has somewhat lower confidence ratings than his European compatriots, but has shown the most improvement, from 30 percent confidence in 2008 to 34 percent in 2009 across 14 trended nations. During the second half of 2008, France occupied the presidency of the EU. This platform may have helped his confidence ratings increase in the U.S., Britain, Ukraine, Nigeria, and India.

The Chinese public expresses sharply lower confidence in Sarkozy in 2009 (23 percent) than in 2008 (42 percent). Such a fall in confidence was not evident for other Western leaders. The protests in France in April 2008 related to the Olympic torch and Tibet policy, and Sarkozy’s threat to boycott the Beijing Olympics may have soured the Chinese public.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s confidence is similar to Merkel’s, though with slightly lower scores overall. His global confidence average is 36 percent positive and 45 percent negative, and eight nations express confidence in him. Ten nations do not express confidence, notably all majority-Muslim nations polled except Azerbaijan, as well as France, Poland, Russia and Mexico.

The report points out that, when compared to 2008 results, most leaders changed very little in their global average scores. In fact, except for the U.S. and France, no other leader changed more than one point in their global average.

© Inter Press Service (2009) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

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