How the world sees Obama
July 16th, 2014
03:43 PM ET

How the world sees Obama

By Bruce Stokes, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Bruce Stokes is director of global economic attitudes at the Pew Research Center. The views expressed are his own.

Beleaguered at home, U.S. President Barack Obama remains beloved in many nations abroad. And he is far more popular than his predecessor George W. Bush. But the bloom is definitely off the Obama rose.

Obama’s election in 2008 was widely approved of around the world, and there were high expectations for the incoming American leader, whose election seemed to promise an end to the anti-Americanism that had plagued Washington’s relations with the rest of the world for the past several years.

And, despite revelations such as National Security Agency spying on foreign leaders and the growing sense in the United States that President Obama is already a lame duck domestically, his continued (if somewhat diminished) favorability abroad suggests he remains a force to be reckoned with in international affairs. But will the president follow the well-trodden path of his predecessors in spending more time on foreign policy in their last years in office as their domestic influence has waned?

His popularity abroad suggests he might.

Today, Obama remains largely popular. Half or more of the public in 27 of 43 countries surveyed by the Pew Research Center in 2014 said they had confidence in him to do the right thing in world affairs – his median positive approval rating is 55 percent, similar to the American public’s view of his handling of foreign policy. Indeed, in most nations, the public’s assessment of Obama’s performance is largely unchanged since 2013, and his image has dropped by double digits in just five nations – Brazil, Germany, Argentina, Russia and Japan. But it has risen appreciably in Israel and China.

Western Europeans’ views of Obama, meanwhile, remain quite positive, and the president hits ratings he can perhaps only dream of now back at home – more than eight-in-ten French and three quarters of Italians and British have confidence in the U.S. president doing the right thing internationally.

Indeed, revelations that Washington has read both Americans’ and some foreigners’ emails and listened in on their telephone conversations appears to have significantly damaged Obama’s approval in only one EU country, with Germans’ views of Obama falling 17 points in the last year. In addition, Russian faith in Obama, already quite low in 2013, is down 14 points to 29 percent, a likely casualty of the Ukraine confrontation. (Obama’s handling of that crisis has not won the U.S. president much support in Ukraine, either, where only 44 percent give him a positive grade).

Asians’ appreciation for President Obama echoes that of western Europeans – half or more of the publics in nine of 11 Asian nations surveyed have confidence in Obama to do the right thing in world affairs. Such pro-Obama sentiment is particularly strong in the Philippines (89 percent) and South Korea (84 percent). About half of Chinese, meanwhile, now approve of his conduct internationally, up 20 points in the last year. Still, Just 7 percent of Pakistanis think highly of Obama, making them his most severe critics.

In Africa, Obama maintains a strong image, with half or more of the public in all seven nations surveyed giving Obama a positive rating. He is particularly appreciated in Kenya and Tanzania, where about three quarters of those surveyed approved of his performance.

Latin Americans take a more jaundiced view of the U.S. president. In just four of the nine countries in the survey do half or more approve of his conduct of foreign affairs, with the president’s highest rating a relatively modest 58 percent in El Salvador, while appreciation for his international stewardship is down 17 points in Brazil and 13 points in Argentina in just the past year.

Obama’s lowest regional approval is in the Middle East, where only 13 percent of Palestinians, 17 percent of Jordanians and 19 percent of Egyptians have confidence in Obama’s leadership this year. This contrasts starkly with Israel, where almost three quarters of respondents give Obama a thumbs up, a 10 point rise over the past year.

Still, although President Obama’s popularity has held up relatively well in much of the world over the past 12 months, there has been a considerable drop off since Obama took office in 2009 – his ratings have declined in 19 of 21 countries for which there is comparable data, including a 30 percentage point drop in Argentina, a 25 point fall off in Japan, a 23 point decline in Egypt and 22 point slides in Germany and Russia. Only in Israel has the public’s view of Obama improved significantly.

All this said, however much disappointment global publics may have in Barack Obama, they still prefer him to his predecessor George W. Bush. In 2008, the year he left office, a median of just 19 percent in 20 nations had confidence in Bush’s handling of world affairs, compared with 57 percent that still have confidence in Obama in those same countries.

Of course, with two and a half years remaining in office, the Obama legacy has yet to be written. But one thing is clear: He restored faith in the U.S. presidency in the eyes of many around the world. And while that impact is waning, it still remains a strong American asset abroad.

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Topics: Politics • United States

soundoff (277 Responses)
  1. Eric Darling

    I love how some of these Right Wing Brits who don't even live in this country like to denigrate and insult our President. It's none of your business what the vast majority of Americans who re-elected him think of him (it's quite favorable) since he saved our country and economy from utter Right Wing Republican ruin. What part of that don't you Brits get? What part of taking out OBL (after Bush gave up after 8 years) don't you get? STFU already, and go back to your fish & chips and keep drinking that tainted tea over there. Mind your own business already, we got this. Hillary will be our next President, so deal with it.

    September 11, 2014 at 8:14 am | Reply
    • Jon

      No, Hilary doesn't need to be president. I appreciate your respect for Obama, but you should look into a lad called Bernie Sanders. I can agree with the teabaggers on one thing, which is Hilary doesn't need to be president. If the polls end up giving us the option of Hilary and some teabagger/republican/conservative, I won't be voting. I'll be leaving.

      September 20, 2014 at 2:46 am | Reply
      • DaveW

        I agree.

        September 24, 2014 at 11:58 pm |
      • ken

        BYE

        October 6, 2014 at 9:22 pm |
    • hkirwin

      You really need to put down the kool-aid and open your eyes. Obama is a disaster. Then again, you may enjoy foodstamps, poverty, and crumbs from the table top. To each their own.

      October 12, 2014 at 8:40 am | Reply
      • jess

        Goodluck with electing the next Republican president which will happen in the year 3000.

        October 14, 2014 at 12:53 am |
    • jim

      The world see's Obama as we do at home, a weak and indecisive leader who cannot be counted on.

      October 12, 2014 at 2:32 pm | Reply
  2. Story Girl

    What a farce! Is this too hide the "BRAND NEW, hot off the press" all time low the news networks are oddly hiding!! I know he is at an all time low in Israel. I am sure that anti-democratic countries love him for his embracing evil ways!!

    September 11, 2014 at 3:49 pm | Reply
    • MELVYN EZEKIEL

      I BELIEVE HIS FAVORABILITY RATING IS AT AN ALL TIME LOW IN ISRAEL!! YOU ARE ABSOLUTELY

      RIGHT. ALSO MOST PEOPLE IN ASIA HAVE LOST CONFIDENCE IN HIS ABILITY TO LEAD. A WEAK

      LEADER IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF JIMMY CARTER!!!

      September 14, 2014 at 2:42 am | Reply
    • DaveW

      "...embracing evil ways." Unh hunh. Can you be a little more specific? Precisely what evil does our President embrace? Geez.

      September 25, 2014 at 12:03 am | Reply
      • hkirwin

        Islam.

        October 12, 2014 at 8:43 am |
  3. ritz

    barf

    September 13, 2014 at 8:45 pm | Reply
  4. m.s.mohamed ansari

    ECONOMIC COLLAPSE REASON ILLEGAL WAR AND ROYALBUDGET $1.7TRILLION
    next BBC All press and media Arabs leader and G20 leader ELECTRONIC VOTE ,,WHITE HOUSE HOUSE OF COMMAND,HOUSE OF LORD,,MICROSOFT, under control by CONGRESS ATO Z CONTROL BY QUEEN ELIZABETH still British rule the global 21 st century

    Royal budget and wedding cost. 10 generation total $ 57 trillion
    Each every politician rolling 8 years only
    But queen family enjoying 10 generation

    GLOBAL ECONOMIC FALL REASON WAR. Improve economy only peace and prayer
    WAR cost total $ 3.5 TRILLION. Every poor human blood tear .please saves economic
    POVERTY FAMINE &Effected education many people suicide. Many people Drug addict
    Jobless PRESENT ECONOMIC CRISIS
    Effected All liberal democracy. Billion of people tax pays.
    FDI INVESTOR &Joint ventured, effected global Federal Reserve
    Effected CNC manufacturer & energy power
    BANKRUPT 170 BANKS OVER ALL 87000 BRANCHES
    Million of people death and is wounded. NATO &US. Coalition troops 8000 wound 35000, public 800000
    Increase every day by day OPEC. Every good leader 8years but queen family enjoying10 th generation Y
    Global environment climate change this leads to agricultural &human health problem
    HISTORY + 114. MDCCLXXVI +114.UNITEDKING+114.HOUSE OF COMMAND +62
    WHITE HOUSE +52 =114. QUEEN+62 POPE +52 =114
    Please bring original HISTORY .Six thousand journalist are suppressing the truth of history but in one day it will come out
    Now we are in 21st century there were times former journalist exposed truth and sacrificed their precious life for the sake of truth, they unveiled the real history. Perhaps contradicting to their present power and money clouded their mind and our upcoming generation becomes a victim.
    We do not believe politicians as we used to, we do not believe the media, and whereas we believe each other”
    Thanking you this is turning point of improve GLOBAL ECONOMIC
    1. Press freedom 2.libral democracy 3.all country equal currency4.open emigration 5.free trade policy 6.avoid electronic vote 7. Every one equal right

    Your’s sincerely
    M.S.MOHAMED ANSARI
    Pragmatism has now fallen foul of the continuing power of the press.

    http://costofwar.com/

    http://edition.cnn.com/SPECIALS/war.casualties/index.html

    http://openlibrary.org/authors/OL3647712A/World_Media_Association

    Economic save only 6 point. Peace, prayer, liberty, unity, friendly, simple

    September 21, 2014 at 3:16 am | Reply
  5. netinbra

    It's sad that the rest of the world loves America and are even more US patriots than the own American people. Obama had a bill done by the senate to help the immigration problem, but the house denies. There are many other bills like trying to get gun control, raising the minimum wage, that Obama would love if it passed but the republicans in the house won't even put it for a vote.... These politicians in Washington must hate the American people that all of the good bills Obama wanted to pass the republcans are against it.

    September 25, 2014 at 2:01 am | Reply
    • ken

      Educate yourself Harry Reid is the one holding up progress ,but since you a bigoted libtard I know where your coming from all you low lifes do is lie

      October 6, 2014 at 9:24 pm | Reply
    • hkirwin

      you are a perfect example of the new norm in America. You live off of crumbs and like it. Before Obama a minimum wage job was an entry position into the work force. Now it is a career. You want to ear enough money from working at MacDonald's to buy a new home, a new car, vacation the world, and sed your kids to a great college. NEWS FLASH!!!! it ain't happening. You want open borders in hope that immigrants will work so the Government can afford to send you a small check every month. Good luck with that.

      October 12, 2014 at 8:50 am | Reply
  6. pbinca

    The U.S. can barely manage its own affairs. If I lived in a conservative country, I'd be very concerned about the spread of hedonistic, undisciplined American culture. The U.S., to me, is no longer a beacon of stability, but rather a growing cesspool of kinship dysfunction, banal entertainment-escapism, gun-fantasy, cybercrime and know-nothing anti-authoritarianism. Granted, very many nations are in similar or worse shape, but the nations which like Australia, Canada and Scandinavia that are retaining a wholesome character are not powerful enough to lead International Governance.

    September 28, 2014 at 1:41 pm | Reply
    • hkirwin

      you mean like the crack head major of Toronto?????????????????? ROTFL

      October 12, 2014 at 8:52 am | Reply
  7. emmarcee

    So this guy is saying the Asians love U president than Americans do. :) I am thinking our State dept may need to take his visa away before he runs of to Saudi Arabia!!

    October 11, 2014 at 11:09 pm | Reply
  8. commonsensepoliticalparty

    If those other countries love him so much, they can have him!

    October 12, 2014 at 12:09 am | Reply
  9. Probis

    Obama Legacy: killing caged ailing Bin-Laden and giving us a brutal and lethal ISIS having 10's of thousands commandos. Wow, what a legacy!

    October 12, 2014 at 2:01 am | Reply
  10. geronimo

    Anyone with a brain sees him the same way now that they did in 2008. Useless inept narcissistic con-man.

    October 12, 2014 at 8:22 pm | Reply
  11. edmundburkeson

    Recall Obama now!

    October 12, 2014 at 9:34 pm | Reply
  12. 1zb1

    You can always tell the comments that come from the rightwingnuts: They're the ones with no facts, no reality, no truth, full of hate, and completely ignorant sounding.

    October 13, 2014 at 5:31 pm | Reply
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