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.

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

soundoff (448 Responses)
  1. Elowrey

    Who cares what the world wants. They have no place at the table when it is time for the election of our representatives. They can either deal with who we elect or shut up, stop taking our government hand outs and just go away. Don't give a crap what the rest of the world thinks of us, our politicians, our capitalist ways or our socialism.

    August 29, 2012 at 3:50 pm | Reply
    • amphiox

      Who cares, Elowrey?

      You, american citizen who (presumably) wants to make a educated choice about who your leaders should be, one criteria for which needs to be how effective their foreign policy and diplomacy is going to be, should.

      August 29, 2012 at 4:15 pm | Reply
  2. amphiox

    So, the people in the world who agree with the Tea Party Republicans about Obama are:

    The Mexicans, Chinese, and Middle Easterners.

    The irony, I think, would be lost on them.

    August 29, 2012 at 4:10 pm | Reply
  3. Adam4321

    Obama's way to fix economy we will spend our way to prosperity.
    To bad that did not work for Greece.
    How can any of you vote for Obama if he already stated that after his second term U.S will be 20 trillion in debt.
    Who will pay for this? The next guy that gets in the White House?
    None of you guys would let Obama manage your finances so why vote for him to manage the countries economy.

    August 29, 2012 at 4:31 pm | Reply
  4. BK

    So our allies want Obama elected and the nations where our enemies come from want Romney elected.

    Do I even have to comment?

    August 29, 2012 at 4:39 pm | Reply
  5. Aviv

    ROMNEY!!!

    August 29, 2012 at 4:45 pm | Reply
  6. sad

    its funny to see all of you right and lefties at each others throats while this country plummets into the abyss, maybe you can all take a deep breath and remove your heads from one anothers rear ends and pull together for once to put a man or woman into office that actually cares for the people of this country obama and romeny will both spell the end for the US

    August 29, 2012 at 5:20 pm | Reply
  7. AtlJack

    Notice that G.W. Bush is NOT at the convention? Why? Because the Republicans want us to forget we had 8 years of conservative policy and it collapsed the economy.

    Bush was handed a two year SURPLUS by Clinton... Obama was handed the Great Recession by Bush.

    As FDR demonstrated, it takes awhile to repair the damage done by right wing policies (don't tax the rich... let poor people die- remember when the GOP crown in the primary CHEERED the idea of a guy dying)

    ReElect President Obama.

    August 29, 2012 at 5:31 pm | Reply
    • sad

      yea elect obama so he can turn the united states of american into the soviet stats of america, romney is no better go back to the farm sheeple

      August 29, 2012 at 5:35 pm | Reply
    • Unbelievable

      I LOVE THIS!! YOU SAID THIS SHORT N' SWEET!! WAKE UP AMERICA!!!!! REELECT OBAMA!!

      August 29, 2012 at 7:01 pm | Reply
  8. E=MC2

    The Democratic Party is the party of rich multi millionaires like Nancy Pelosi, Al Gore, the Clintons, the Kennedys, Kerry and on and on. If their goal was to public service and they were simply that, public servents, how did they get so rich? Is it greed that allowed Al Gore to make $100 million or was it his patetnt on the internet he invented? How did the Clinton's make $50 million? Was it their public service salaries or the exorbitant fees Slick Willy charges for speaking? How about the Kennedy's? Wothr billions and have trusts set up for them in off shore accounts, but no one dares question them, not even when one kills a woman while driving drunk. John Kerry....now there's a fine man......let's see he married a Mellon and then a heinz...hmmm..sounds like he is a money chaser oh and tax cheat.....worth over a billion and he parks his boat in anothe rstate to avoid taxes....then there is the emperor himself, Obama who made up stories in his two books which made him millions. He could have given it to charity, but it is nicer to just keep it- estimated worth? 10-12 million. Not bad for a community organizer. You see folks, the media elite and hollywood fakes all talk the talk but live very....VERY extravegant lifestyles, lifestyles that they live yet criticize Republican's for doing. It's called hypocrisy and the media has pulled the wool right over your head folks. Republicans, they dont preach to the poor and yet live wealthy lives. They want to raise the living standards of the lower class and make no excuses for their wealth. It's called hard work. Are there abuses? Yep, but the blatant hypocrisy of the Democrats is astounding. No one questioned Kerry's wealth or the Kennedy's, but if a succesful Republican comes in, like Romney, it is the focus of all the media and the liberals. Wake up people, hard work buy some makes them rich, but also provides jobs to the vast majority of people. All their money? Where do you think it goes? Under their mattress? No, you see they invest it in stocks which allow companies to raise capital to expand their business which is the driving force for jobs in our nation. Government cannot pay people. The U.S. tax payers pay the government bills. Any social program is not free, it has to be paid for and by whom? You and I. Well, 40 some odd percent of Americans pay no taxes while the top 10 % of wealthy Americans pay 70% of the nations bills. And our President wants more. It not fair, it's stealing. The government should decide how much of YOUR money you get to keep, that is not it's role. yet now it seems to have become it's driving force for everything it wants to "give" the people. That is why Europe is dying financially and the U.S is following in it's footsteps. All empires must fade and it is bad decisions by leaders that do it. romeny may not be great, but he is vastly superior to Obama who had no experience leading anything, yet we elected him to lead the most powerful nation on earth. Fool you once, shame on you for voting for Obama, fool you twice shame on the U.S. for losing it's way.

    August 29, 2012 at 5:46 pm | Reply
    • Unbelievable

      OH!! BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH!! ANYONE IS BETTER IN OUR WHITE HOUSE THAN THE "SHRUB". (ERR...BUSH!!!)
      HE'S THE REASON WE ARE IN THE MESS WE ARE IN!! FACE IT! CLINTON HAS BEEN THE BEST PRESIDENT TO DATE. AND OBAMA? WELL.. HE JUST NEEDS TO BE GIVEN A CHANCE! SHAME ON AMERICA TO CONSIDER VOTING FOR (DUMBNEY) OH...ROMNEY. HE'S JUST ANOTHER MILLIONAIRE THAT PLANS ON STAYING THAT WAY AND WILL NOT TAKE CARE OF THE MIDDLE CLASS AMERICANS...WTH! ARE THE AMERICAN PEOPLE THINKING?? WASN'T 8 YRS. ENOUGH HEARTACHE..FROM THE (SHRUB)????????????????????

      August 29, 2012 at 6:59 pm | Reply
      • 1ofTheFallen

        Obama and the Democrats have destroyed our economy. Bush called for financial reform 13 different times starting in 2003 because he knew our housing market was oveurheating. Everytime Bush called for financial reform Democrats Barney Frank and Chris Dodd said that Bush was crazy for trying to slow down the housing market. Democrats can run anything into the ground just look at what they have done the last 4 years. Trillions of taxpayer money wasted and misspent with hugh tax increases starting next year.

        August 29, 2012 at 7:30 pm |
      • 1ofTheFallen

        Obama and the Democrats have destroyed our economy. Bush called for financial reform 13 different times starting in 2003 because he knew our housing market was oveurheating. Everytime Bush called for financial reform Democrats Barney Frank and Chris Dodd said that Bush was crazy for trying to slow down the housing market. Democrats can run anything into the ground just look at what they have done the last 4 years. Trillions of taxpayer money wasted and misspent with hugh tax increases starting next year. The American people are going to be in a world of hurt next year with ObamaCare causing many more small businesses to shut their doors.

        August 29, 2012 at 7:31 pm |
      • illuminated genius

        BOTH OF THE CANDIDATES SUCK. YOU WANT TO CHOOSE BETWEEN TWO MEDIOCRE CANDIDATES SUCH AS OBAMA AND MITT ROMNEY IT IS YOUR CHOICE. I SUPPORT RON PAUL AS A WRITE IN, THEY CAN FORCE PEOPLE TO CHOOSE BETWEEN TWO CORPORATIONS PUPPETS BUT I WILL NEVER SUPPORT EITHER OF THEM, ESPECIALLY WHEN THEY ARE FLAWED. THE USA HAS TO WAKE UP NOW AND STOP BEING FORCED TO PICK BETWEEN THE DEMOCRATS AND REPUBLICANS THE ABSOLUTE DICTATORS OF AMERICA. WE NEED TO SUPPORT A THIRD PARTY CANDIDATE SUCH AS A INDEPENDENT. BOTH THE DEMOCRATS AND REPUBLICANS HAVE FAILED TO IMPROVE THINGS IN THIS COUNTRY.

        August 30, 2012 at 10:38 am |
    • illuminated genius

      SHAME ON YOU FOR VOTING FOR ROMNEY! SHAME ON ANYONE WHO WANTS TO RE-ELECT OBAMA. WHO IS THE LEAST WORST CANDIDATE I ASK? I WILL VOTE FOR RON PAUL AS A WRITE IN, AND I REFUSE TO SUPPORT CANDIDATES WHO ARE NOT GOOD ENOUGH TO BE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.

      August 30, 2012 at 10:41 am | Reply
  9. Jerry

    I'm guessing if they are expecting a handout to be our friend then they'll want Obama.

    August 29, 2012 at 5:49 pm | Reply
    • Unbelievable

      AND! I'm guessing that IF the American people want the RICH, to get Richer!! pick Mitt "Dumbney" errr....Romney!!!

      August 29, 2012 at 6:51 pm | Reply
  10. EVN

    Nothing really about whether anyone outside of the U.S. wants Rommey. Just because less than a majority in some other country may not have a favorable view of Obama or may not want to see him re-elected, that doesn't say anything at all about wanting Rommey instead.

    August 29, 2012 at 6:21 pm | Reply
  11. SokrMom

    I feel pretty confident saying that what the rest of the world would most appreciate is if Americans would stop being so extreme, and return to getting along. We are very important to the world economy and, unlike Europe, China or India, we have a political and economic system that is neither unstable nor rife with corruption. America could be a bright spot in the world were it not for the increasingly crazy rhetoric from the right to the effect that some kind of civil unrest is likely if we don't all vote for Romney. It is enough to cause uncertainty abroad about the U.S. (and even among some Americans).

    August 29, 2012 at 6:24 pm | Reply
  12. lily

    Democratic men really don't like women–if they did they would be willing to wear cond oms instead of making the women take unnatural hormones, with terrible-side effects or undergo the emotional and physical trama associated abortion! They think with their tes t icles and think that the only thing women should consider when they vote is–the state of their v aginas. They need to wake up to the fact that women care about their positions in the board room more than laying on their backs in the bed room.Women care about owning a home–having a job–the poor state of public education far more than they do about being able to sleep around without worrying about preg nancy.We have evolved –too bad the men that support Democrats haven't. I would gladly support government resources used to provide free condoms as birth control–if men used them they could erase most STD's from the world, prevent preg nancy, no need for guardacile, abortions–but if slu ts want take a dangerous drug to prevent pregnancy–let them pay for it !!

    August 29, 2012 at 7:00 pm | Reply
  13. 1ofTheFallen

    Why has Obama spent millions of $$$ hiding his college transcripts? Obama likes to talk about transparency and criticize Romney over taxes but Obama has spent millions of $$$ trying to keep the American public from seeing his college records. Why? What is Obama hiding? Did he join radical muslim groups in college or receive funding from Islamic groups to pay for college? Did he get money from the Black Panthers which he protected during the last election? Not very transparent.

    August 29, 2012 at 7:16 pm | Reply
  14. Sylar75

    We need a leader that can get the parties to work together to solve our problems. The sides are too divided and until this happens, it doesn't matter who the POTUS is. We are screwed unfortunately.

    August 29, 2012 at 7:19 pm | Reply
  15. 1ofTheFallen

    Democrats destroyed our economy. Bush called for financial reform 13 different times starting in 2003 because he knew our housing market was oveurheating. Everytime Bush called for financial reform Democrats Barney Frank and Chris Dodd said that Bush was crazy for trying to slow down the housing market. Democrats can run anything into the ground just look at what they have done the last 4 years. Trillions of taxpayer money wasted and misspent with hugh tax increases starting next year.

    August 29, 2012 at 7:22 pm | Reply
  16. Joe cLARK

    Neither candidate is the right choice given the times we live in.

    August 29, 2012 at 8:32 pm | Reply
  17. Panties

    Most of you sheeples are Not Very Nice.

    August 29, 2012 at 10:21 pm | Reply
  18. al

    dont really care for politics and dont think either party could care less about people but definetly dont trust republicans

    August 29, 2012 at 11:18 pm | Reply
  19. brown

    The War will come with this Presidency. Prepare yourselves ... you are going to be participants!

    August 29, 2012 at 11:44 pm | Reply
  20. Andrey

    That is a joke right?

    August 30, 2012 at 12:09 am | Reply
  21. Kim hyun

    I think Obama not reelection next president of u.s cuz he loose the u .s economic power .in2008u.s first world economic leader but now thina is first so he was loose the power!

    August 30, 2012 at 12:15 am | Reply
  22. Wash123

    The WORLD just don't like Republicans. Plain and simple, end of discussion.

    August 30, 2012 at 12:25 am | Reply
  23. Arenagal

    Leading from behind, I don’t know who decided to use that kind of language to describe President Obama’s leadership because it is not true. The president has led tactically. We had a president George Bush who “led from in front” and he led us into two wars of which we are still fighting after a decade. It has gone on for so long that many Americans have forgotten that we are still at war, and so far I haven’t heard any speech given by the GOP convention speakers as to how we are going to bring this national expense to an end.

    August 30, 2012 at 5:34 am | Reply
  24. roy

    Neither!

    August 30, 2012 at 7:50 am | Reply
  25. johnny

    Re elect Pres Obama, lt him complete the job without any hindrance from Republican Congress..

    After listening to Rep Ryan speak, I am absolutely convinced this VP candidate is completely out of touch with the real world. He and Romney are a pair of shockingly outdated Grand Old Politicians running for the presidency.

    Why is China always in Romney's political agenda in many of his speches ?

    In this era of close connectivity among nations, by using China as a punch bag in election rally suggest recklessness and living too long inside a cavey.

    China is now an influential country, economically and militarily even. I doubt China ever want to have anything to do with such hawkish American leaders.

    Is Romney unwaware that it will not help America's national debt by being unfriendly to China? Because America cannot solve its monster debt problem alone. The global economics has changed. Uptodate we have yet heard the details on how these two Grand Old Politicians intend to pull America out of its deep financial quagmire

    Its surprising to me that Romney and Ryan deliberately pick China as a rallying call in order to win American votes,

    Even before he becomes a president, Asia is starting to be wary of Romney's political ideology. China has got more friends in the rest of the world than America. Should Romney ramp up his dislike for China, he will make it difficult for Asia to take sides without causing any divide among themselves.

    I can only think of one other reason why Romney dislikes Chinese Government – the Mormon church is unable to proselyte freely in China, to convert Chinese to Mormonism. This is dashing the Mormon church's hope of increasing their declining general membership.

    August 30, 2012 at 8:34 am | Reply
  26. dweezil22

    sugapea wrote:

    "Democrats care more than ever about 'people'."

    Yes, by giving other peoples' money to those who don't earn it.

    August 30, 2012 at 8:49 am | Reply
  27. hsbrealtyworld

    The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were neither necessary nor urgent and it cost the Americans dearly in trillions plus loss of life and humiliation of defeat. Pakistan was harboring Bin Laden and supporting Talibans and we giving them billions in aid to an untrusting country that was abetting and training on their soil. We couldn’t have been more foolish. Not forgetting that America was experiencing a decade long recession with millions without jobs and foreclosures at all time high during this period.
    President Bush pursued polices that brought America to the brink of bankruptcy, dollar devalued against most currencies; gold prices rose 6 times, while most manufacturing jobs shifted abroad. Whatever IT jobs were left in the US was mostly grabbed by Asians on temporary visas that were easily given out while the unemployment figures were rising.
    We need to cut down property taxes, wages of government employees, control government expenditure on frivolous spending, bring jobs back to the American citizens and Mitt Romney is unlikely to follow these policies of frugality. Mere campaigning on TV is not going to fix America. I will give President Obama another 4 years to sort out the mess the rich Republicans have created for all of us who seem to be so out of touch.

    August 30, 2012 at 9:00 am | Reply
  28. SW

    'Does World want Romney or Obama?' Get over yourselves – other than you the American voters, the World has no affect on your decision. We don't wish to mire in the muck of your politics – we have our own problems mostly caused by America's financial downfall anyway.

    August 30, 2012 at 9:35 am | Reply
    • Mostly

      What do you call it when someone says "get over yourselves" and then claims to speak for the entire world in the same sentence?

      Whatever you call it, I've got to say, if you're a European you have to take responsibility for the outstanding policy choices you keep making. Angela Merkel is your Mitt Romney: there's a reason Europe is still in recession and the US isn't.

      September 4, 2012 at 5:21 pm | Reply
  29. Matt

    The world can have both of these clowns. I don't see either of the major parties representing my interests and this year will be doing my part to support someone outside these parties. If we want change, the change must come from the voters.

    August 30, 2012 at 9:42 am | Reply
    • illuminated genius

      I WILL VOTE FOR RON PAUL AS A WRITE IN. I WILL NOT GIVE INTO THE CORPORATIONS DICTATORSHIPS NOR THEIR PUPPETS CALLED OBAMA AND MITT ROMNEY. I WANT AMERICA TO BE A DEMOCRACY AGAIN AND NOT BE RULED BY TWO PARTIES WHO HAVE FAILED AMERICA WITH BROKEN PROMISES AND LEFT US IN NATIONAL DEBT, WITH A WEAK ECONOMY. BOTH THE REPUBLICANS AND DEMOCRATS ARE TO BLAME. THOSE WITH A SHORT MEMORY, GEORGE W BUSH TANKED OUR ECONOMY IN THE LAST 8 YEARS AND THEN OBAMA FAILED TO DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT. THE REASON AMERICA IS BEING FORCED TO CHOOSE BETWEEN OBAMA AND ROMNEY IS THAT THE VAST MAJORITY OF AMERICANS TODAY ARE FOOLS. THOSE WHO ARE INTELLIGENT AND DONE THEIR HOMEWORK AND KNOW THINGS VERY WELL ABOUT BOTH OBAMA AND MITT ROMNEY WOULD SEE MAJOR FLAWS IN BOTH CANDIDATES. OBAMA DOES NOT DESERVE TO BE RE-ELECTED PRESIDENT, AND MITT ROMNEY IS A FAKE AND A COMPLETE SELL OUT. ROMNEY HAS CHANGED HIS STATUS ON ALL THE ISSUES SO IT SUITS HIM, HE IS A TYPICAL POLITICIAN DISHONEST, HYPOCRITICAL AND ONE MAJOR FLIP FLOPPER. I ENCOURAGE REAL AMERICANS TO PROTEST BY SUPPORTING A THIRD PARTY AND A INDEPENDENT AS PRESIDENT. RON PAUL SHOULD RUN AS A INDEPENDENT.

      August 30, 2012 at 10:33 am | Reply
  30. Don

    The fact that 92% of the French people want Obama reelected speaks volumes – and if I were running the RNC I'd certainly draw Americans' attention to that point.

    August 30, 2012 at 9:45 am | Reply
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