August 27th, 2012
09:39 AM ET

Does world want Romney or Obama?

By Bruce Stokes, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Bruce Stokes is the director of Global Economic Attitudes at the Pew Research Center. Full survey results are available here. The views expressed are his own.

At the Republican National Convention scheduled to take place this week and the Democratic National Convention beginning September 3, Americans will notionally be choosing their candidates for president of the United States. Effectively they will be deciding who will be the leader of the world for the next four years.

The world’s citizens get no say in this choice. Nevertheless, people outside the United States have definite opinions about Obama and some of the key issues in the campaign: about the state of the economy and what to do about it, climate change and how they think Washington should treat them.

Neither the GOP nor the Democratic nominee is likely to shape his electoral message to the American people to please foreigners. In fact, if he did, it would probably hurt his chances of winning.

But either challenger Mitt Romney or incumbent President Barack Obama is going to be the next U.S. president. And experience shows that the success or failure of his foreign policy may depend, in part, on how it is perceived abroad. So what people around the world think going into the final two months of the U.S. presidential campaign does matter, if not on November 6, then for the next four years.

Europeans have had a four-year love affair with Barack Obama: 87 percent of Germans, 86 percent of French and 80 percent of the British have confidence in Obama, according to a 2012 poll by the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes project. In each case this is higher than public confidence in their own national leader. And 92 percent of the French, 89 percent of the Germans and 73 percent of the British want Obama reelected.

In the long run, if Romney wins, none of this may matter, as Europeans get to know him. But, in the short run, it could matter. A 2005 Pew Research Center survey found that in Britain, France, Germany, Spain and the Netherlands, strong majorities said the 2004 re-election of George W. Bush led them to have a less favorable opinion of the United States. A newly-elected Romney administration may have to contend with a similar European reaction if the popular Obama is defeated in what will come to a surprise to many of them.

But an Obama defeat may not play as poorly in the Middle East – in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Tunisia – where a median of only 29 percent approve of Obama and a median of just 25 percent want him reelected.

Elsewhere, foreign reaction to an Obama defeat could be mixed. In Asia, 74 percent of Japanese have a favorable view of the current U.S. president and 66 percent want him reelected. But Obama’s popularity is only 38 percent in China and only 31 percent there want him to get another term.

Similarly, in Latin America, while 68 percent of Brazilians like Obama and 72 percent want him reelected, only 42 percent of Mexicans are well disposed toward the current U.S. president and just 35 percent hope he has a second term.

Foreign expectations of the next American leader can, in part, be discerned from their current policy preferences and their judgment of the Obama foreign policy.

At a time of global economic turmoil, people outside the United States look to the U.S. president for strong economic leadership. Those who like Obama and want him reelected tend to approve of his handling of global economic problems. Those who dislike him disapprove. How they would feel about Romney’s custodianship of the U.S. economy, and by extension that of the global economy, is unknown.

Romney has charged that America has lost stature abroad during Obama’s presidency. And some foreign perceptions tend to bear out that observation. In 2008, across 14 countries surveyed by the Pew Center, a median of 44 percent named the United States as the world’s leading economic power, while just 22 percent chose China. Today, only 36 percent cite America, while 41 percent believe China is in the top position.

But the GOP candidate has also espoused fiscal austerity at home, while criticizing fiscal profligacy abroad. This runs counter to majorities in seven of the eight European nations the Pew Research Center surveyed this spring who oppose further belt tightening in their home countries. Notably, only in Poland did people support more austerity. Interestingly enough, it was Poland that Romney chose to visit in late July.

On foreign policy issues, foreigners have long complained about American unilateralism. They think Obama has acted unilaterally, much as they criticized his predecessor George W. Bush for such actions. That criticism has softened a bit in Europe and China during the Obama tenure, but it has worsened in parts of the Middle East. And it is largely unchanged in Japan.

It remains to be seen how foreigners will react to Romney’s promise of even stronger U.S. leadership abroad, in which Washington will no longer “lead from behind.”

On specific international issues, a median of 56 percent in 20 countries surveyed outside the United States in spring 2012 think Obama has not been fair in dealing with the Israelis and Palestinians. During the campaign, Romney has openly sided with the Israelis, a policy stance that is not likely to be perceived any better than Obama’s actions.

On climate change a median plurality of 48 percent believe Obama has not taken significant steps to deal with global warming. Romney says he doesn’t know the extent to which climate change is even occurring or whether it is caused by human activity, a view that is not likely to lead to the additional “significant measures” seemingly desired by global publics.

Over the next two weeks at their national political conventions Republicans and Democrats will hone their electoral messages aimed at domestic voters in the November presidential election. That is to be expected. But they need to keep in mind that the policy positions they stake out in the heat of an election campaign resonate abroad. And, whoever is the next U.S. president, the success or failure of his foreign policy will, in part, depend on what foreigners think.

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Topics: Barack Obama • China • Elections • France • Japan • Mitt Romney • United States

soundoff (448 Responses)
  1. Justin

    I was always told that success breeds contempt. Now while the world is struggling including the US, the world has to live with that in just 236 years the US become the economic and military world power. No matter how bad it may seem (even 4 years ago at the beginning of the recession), we still were better off than most of the world. Americans are not grateful for anything. The poorest of the poor are doing well compared to many countries, yet the poor still envy the rich. If everyone in America earned a 6 figure income, we would still have people complaining that they were not millionaires. It is all about envy and jealousy which is perpetuated by this liberal myth that everyone gets a fair shot. Who said when we were born that life is fair? Some are lucky, some are blessed with talent, some are born into money, and some have no clue how to manage their finances. Bottom line is that American exceptionalism comes from within. IT IS NOT CREATED BY THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT REDISTRIBUTION OF WEALTH.

    August 28, 2012 at 12:32 pm | Reply
  2. Mr Vertido

    Come on, get with the program. This is CNN. The world wants Obama, of course.

    August 28, 2012 at 12:49 pm | Reply
  3. Really?

    The world wants peace!

    August 28, 2012 at 12:53 pm | Reply
    • CJ

      Peace? Have you ever taken a history class? There has never been nor never will be "peace". Wake up from your fairytale.

      August 29, 2012 at 11:04 am | Reply
  4. joe anon 1

    the world wants america to go the way of the dodo.

    August 28, 2012 at 12:54 pm | Reply
  5. Ed Teller

    Wonder where Mr. Faartweed plagiarized this article from?

    August 28, 2012 at 12:56 pm | Reply
    • taskmaster

      Reply to Mr.Ed Teller. Thank You so much. I hpoe you wont mind if I use the name Faartweed in the future when talking about that miserable anti-American sub-human slug.

      August 28, 2012 at 1:39 pm | Reply
  6. Mandor

    If "the world" wants a say in who the US president is, then the world can get in line immigrate legally to the US, follow the process for becoming a naturalized citizen which includes forswearing any prior oaths of loyalty to any other nation.

    Otherwise, it is quite frankly not the business of the world who we elect president or not.

    August 28, 2012 at 12:57 pm | Reply
  7. candyapple

    This only applies if you are black and you are voting for a black president.

    August 28, 2012 at 12:58 pm | Reply
  8. Yakobi

    Democrats hate it when the U.S. interferes in elections in other countries. Yet they want the opinion of other countries to influence OUR election.
    Complete hypocrites!

    August 28, 2012 at 1:00 pm | Reply
    • agincourt98

      What are you babbling about? The article references the interest the rest of the world has in your election. Nobody wants a say in it. The Democrats have nothing to to with this. Pay attention.

      August 29, 2012 at 5:25 pm | Reply
  9. johnquepublique

    The world wants the OBAMINATION. Will make his plan to turn the US over to UN Forces much easier after his re-erection.

    August 28, 2012 at 1:15 pm | Reply
    • Vanasiski

      I really want to just put in big red letter R U OUT OF YOUR MIND when ever I read a comment like "President Obama and the Democrats, just want everyone on Government assistance"! What????? So UNTRUE. This administration is pushing for ECONOMIC SELF SUFFICIENCY! HAVE YOU MISINFORMED EVER HEARD OF WOTC? GO TO

      At the very least know what you are talking about. Businesses get a tax credit for hiring anyone on public assistance. The purpose is to help the businesses and help those on government aid get off and take care of themselves.

      I really want to just put in big red letter R U OUT OF YOUR MIND when ever I read a comment like "President Obama and the Democrats, just want everyone on Government assistance"! What????? So UNTRUE. This administration is pushing for ECONOMIC SELF SUFFICIENCY! HAVE YOU MISINFORMED EVER HEARD OF WOTC? GO TO

      At the very least know what you are talking about. Businesses get a tax credit for hiring anyone on public assistance. The purpose is to help the businesses and help those on government aid get off and take care of themselves.

      October 23, 2012 at 12:45 am | Reply
  10. taskmaster

    Bruce Stokes is a pea brain idiot to even ask such a question. It doesn't matter .0000001% what the WORLD wants. In this it only matters what the legal citizens of the U.S.A. want. I coluld care less about who the rest of the world wants to be president here .

    August 28, 2012 at 1:32 pm | Reply
  11. uncle joe

    Who cares what people in other countries think about who should be the next President of the United States? Do we Americans get to choose what dictator runs China or some Latin American country?

    August 28, 2012 at 1:36 pm | Reply
  12. freelance

    It depends on which country of the world you are asking. If you ask any of us in India, we would love for Romney to become president as Obama has been reining in on the off-shoring effort.

    August 28, 2012 at 1:51 pm | Reply
  13. gordyb

    The Chinese must be dumber than the Obama haters. Romney slams them for months but according to this article they prefer him over the President. They must love money more than sanity.

    August 28, 2012 at 2:16 pm | Reply
  14. c s

    Who cares what anyone outside of the US wants for our President?

    August 28, 2012 at 2:20 pm | Reply
  15. dd

    Actually, it is pretty clear. If the world wants the US to be the world cop and try to stop mass killings and nuclear war, Romney is the answer. If the world wants the US to let terrorist states torture and kill their people and get control of WMDs, they will support Obama. It is quite simple. The Peace Prize winner in the White House has allowed more senseless murder than any US leader in history. The US President is also an assassin, killing an American citizen without trial to make political headlines. So Obama assassinates a couple people and brags while watching tens of thousands be tortured and murdered. That is the Obama Way. It is clear. Obama is different from Romney. Obama would kill your baby as it came out of your womb, if you asked him to. Romney would not. So if you want a killer of innocent people, you vote Obama. If you respect human life and want a leader to protect human life you vote Romney. The decision is really based on uncivilized behavior versus civilized behavior. In the past, the respect for life was nil. Torture and killing for no legitimate reason was the norm. As civilization progressed, torture and killing was considered inhuman. Obama supports the killing of innocents. Romney does not. Heck, Obama could call for your assassination without judicial involvement (a trial). He has done so. That should bother most civilized human beings. It won't matter to people who have no respect for human life – Islamic terrorists, Liberal abortionists, and Communist followers. The difference is quite clear. Romney respects human life; Obama has no respect for human life. Romney is civilized; Obama is a barbarian, maybe inhuman!

    August 28, 2012 at 2:32 pm | Reply
    • jeru0455

      There is nothing that you wrote that is even in the ballpark of the truth.

      August 28, 2012 at 3:28 pm | Reply
      • CJ

        Yes, there is.

        August 29, 2012 at 11:06 am |
  16. karek40

    What does the world want, for over 20 years we have had a globalist president, Bush, Clinton, Bush, Obama and they have led this country to financial ruin. We need a president who puts the USA first. Neither candidate running does.

    August 28, 2012 at 2:45 pm | Reply
    • Canada

      Clinton didn't leave America in Financial ruin, quite the opposite.

      August 28, 2012 at 3:24 pm | Reply
      • Clark Nova

        He repealed Glass-Steagall, which certainly greased the skids for our slide into hell.

        August 28, 2012 at 11:17 pm |
      • agincourt98

        Then Clark dear, if it was such awful legislation why didn't the Bush Administration fix it? After all they had 8 years to do so.

        August 29, 2012 at 5:27 pm |
  17. Light up or leave me alone

    It's not the worlds' election

    August 28, 2012 at 3:26 pm | Reply
    • Clark Nova

      But it's the world's world.

      August 28, 2012 at 11:14 pm | Reply
  18. jeru0455

    I don't know what the point of this article was. I thought that it was common knowledge that only Americans were dumb enough to vote Republican.

    August 28, 2012 at 3:27 pm | Reply
    • Clark Nova

      Common knowledge everywhere except here, where people are to dumb to grasp that.

      August 28, 2012 at 11:15 pm | Reply
  19. Brian in Toronto

    The rest of the world think both parties in the US are insane for taking 2 years to campaign for a job that last 4 years. Think of all the money you could save and how much more the current Government could get done if it wasn't fighting the next election battle.

    Another thing that would help the rest of us like you a bit more is if you stop referring the POTHUS as the "leader of the free world". No one elected you for that position.

    August 28, 2012 at 3:46 pm | Reply
  20. HMMMMM

    Obama is really Muslim, not Christian. America suppose to be a Christian country, that is run by Christian people. Ever since we move are industries to other countries, that's when are National debt was made, and now its fixing to be 16 trillion dollars now. If we make cars on water,( which was already invented), that means we don't have to use gas again, and it will save us a couple of 1000's of dollars. Now WE will be really joyful, but the oil companies will get mad for the people not buying their oil, and they are not making their millions,or billions of dollars. Right now what are the oil companies doing with their billions of dollars, keeping it, FOR WHAT??!!!!! If their making more money, then half the people around the world, why can they reduce their gas to 50 cents a gallon, and if its because of Iraq, no, its really are people are not drilling oil all in and around America. Lets drill in America, places where people can find oil. Anyways here my last saying.... Long ago lots people use to work on farms, now they work in cities, to me if we have lots of farmers making their own food, learning other things that people suppose to do on a farm, but maybe we need to learn other things besides farm things, that means we can make a better economy, but its little bit to late now. By the way don't use charcoal in a grill, or any other type to cook hamburgers, or any other sort, because if you eat one hamburger, that's like smoking 600 cigars, and it can even give you cancer. bye

    August 28, 2012 at 3:53 pm | Reply
  21. Republican Not Voting for Romney

    Obama will be re-elected. Thank goodness. Romney is one of the worst candidates I have ever seen. People love our Prez, all over the world. He has restored our reputation, unlike what GW did to our nation.

    August 28, 2012 at 3:55 pm | Reply
    • Men in Black

      Good grief? What planet do you call home? It's sure not Earth.

      August 28, 2012 at 4:54 pm | Reply
    • amargosa

      With 6 trillon dollors in the hole, in four years. What the other two did in 16 years, and you call that good. HA, HA

      August 29, 2012 at 11:04 am | Reply
    • CJ

      How did he exactly "restore" our reputation? The world STILL hates us. Take your head out of your ars and look around.

      August 29, 2012 at 11:08 am | Reply
  22. breezy

    you have got to be kidding me with this question – the rest of the world sees romney as exactly what he is – an over-privileged, incompetent nincompoop.

    August 28, 2012 at 4:16 pm | Reply
    • Clark Nova

      It helps that the rest of the world doesn't depend on five giant corporations for 95% of their news. There's still a free press in a lot of those countries.

      August 28, 2012 at 11:12 pm | Reply
  23. Pnm9pnm

    Do not have to read 2 sentins look praz.usa is not the world leader.(((((((((((((()(((()()(((PNM.

    August 28, 2012 at 4:16 pm | Reply
  24. Sophia Czoch

    Who cares........

    August 28, 2012 at 4:33 pm | Reply
  25. bailouts

    if you think the world still wants obama you're mistaken.

    he has singlehandedly:

    destabilized the entire middle east: tunsia, libya, egypt, and now lebannon, syria, not to mention he never even gave vocal support in 2009 to the iranian people who were screaming the in the streets."won't you rocognise us mr. obama. he did NOTHING.

    he gave away 1 trillion to all his special bundlers,their businesses, filled up the public employees' pensions, health benies, and retroactive back pay all with taxpayers' money.....which were under 40% liquid which by law are required to have at least 50% cash on hand to remain a legal union. he did really did it to us..the largest heist of money in the history of the world.

    great president.... what a smuck..

    August 28, 2012 at 4:35 pm | Reply
  26. bailouts

    noone in the world except the UN cares whoh obama is anymore..he did

    August 28, 2012 at 4:37 pm | Reply
  27. bailouts

    noone in the world, except the UN, cares who obama is anymore..he did NOTHING except alienate our friends, and empower our enemies.

    August 28, 2012 at 4:38 pm | Reply
    • NEC

      You must have been living in a cave the last 4 years if you actually think that, unless you consider everyone but Israel and enemy which most of the far right do. The Taliban sure hate him and our drone attacks, I guess a few hundred pounds of explosives going off on top of you WOULD be considered 'empowering'!

      August 28, 2012 at 4:43 pm | Reply
  28. John Roberts

    "But Obama’s popularity is only 38 percent in China and only 31 percent there want him to get another term."

    LOL, China. Have you heard what Mitt has been saying about you?

    August 28, 2012 at 4:42 pm | Reply
    • Clark Nova

      Yes, but they've also seen all of the American jobs that he sent them.

      August 28, 2012 at 11:10 pm | Reply
  29. No doubt about it

    Of course the world wants Obama. Romney will make the US stronger.

    August 28, 2012 at 4:53 pm | Reply
  30. Michael

    I can not believe they did not put in the results for whether the people of Kenya wanted to see Obama re-elected or not.. Such a disgrace bwahahha.

    August 28, 2012 at 5:01 pm | Reply
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