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 (366 Responses)
  1. George patton

    The world should be disgusted with Barack Obama's strong arm tactics toward other countries, trying to force his will upon them. This is currently going on with Russia as Obama backs the Neo-Nazis in Kiev! Thanks to both Bush and Obama, we've become the most hated country in the world!!!

    July 17, 2014 at 6:55 am |
    • fred

      mostly hate America cuz we act like we rule the world

      July 17, 2014 at 8:26 am |
  2. Hadenuffyet

    Russia dislikes him , hmmm , he must be doing something right.

    July 17, 2014 at 7:10 am |
    • Joseph McCarthy

      Another stupid comment from another ignorant, Tea Partying nitwit above! These people never cease to amaze me with their unmitigated ignorance! I bet that this joker never saw the inside of a High School.

      July 17, 2014 at 7:33 am |
      • Yakobi

        ...says the ignoramus who thinks anyone who disagrees with Obama is a "tea bagger". Pigeon-hole much, slappy?

        July 17, 2014 at 2:09 pm |
    • jonny

      no putin thinks he is weak and he will continue to take over countries as he wishes. Not saying to go to war over europe let them fight there own battles, but obama is viewed as weak on the world stage, he cannot even stop the illegals from crossing from mexico into the US The guy is a dud,

      July 28, 2014 at 5:39 pm |
  3. what

    # 1 a joke...
    # 2 a joke...
    #3 a joke.....
    #4 etc etc etc etc

    July 17, 2014 at 7:25 am |
  4. what

    help wanted...

    new president that knows what he is doing.

    July 17, 2014 at 7:26 am |
  5. Spgfld Tom

    I am truly interested in how popular Obama is in Kenya. Any chance he could finish rest of his term there? How would Kenya respond if their country was invaded by 57,000 "unaccompanied minors" and their leader attended fundraisers and took a 2 week vacation in the midst of the crisis, instead of solving the problem. Oops, that's how third world dicators act.....never mind.

    July 17, 2014 at 8:52 am |
    • He is not wanted in Kenya

      Only by the Lou tribe, any kikuyu will tell u they do not like Obama

      July 21, 2014 at 9:56 am |
  6. JK

    Of course Western European countries view him more favorable. Previous presidents always understood to do things in their county's best interests. He does not. The Western Euro leaders do things in their own interests, of course.

    July 17, 2014 at 9:14 am |
  7. Shayna

    So much for the GOP's claim that Obama has ruined our standing abroad – unless they're unhappy that Russians dislike us!!

    July 17, 2014 at 9:22 am |
  8. guest

    We need to dial back or dismantle the patriot act. no more black boxes at the ISP offices. The fact that almost our entire country refused to listen to very educated people about the negative consequences, the fact that the patriot act breaks just about every privacy law from every country except maybe north korea, the fact that right wing america paid absolutely no attention to the law until snowden, all lead to one conclusion, these laws need to be dialed back. It is time for america to accept that the bush administration duped the american populace. It is time to expect the government to pull the plug. It is time to stop allowing rupurt murdoch to wag the dog worldwide.

    July 17, 2014 at 9:31 am |
    • Joey Isotta-Fraschini©

      A patriot act is a good thing. I like feeling as safe as possible on planes and subways. I like bridges that will probably stay up until I've driven to the other side.
      I wouldn't be happy for the government to watch my using toilet tissue, but if it interests them, they can watch.
      I sometimes call folks very unflattering names, and I cuss at home. So what? They can't put me in jail for that.

      July 17, 2014 at 10:29 am |
  9. Ross Rosenberg

    With the following comment.... "Only in Israel has the public’s view of Obama improved significantly." your credibility for anything else in this article is completely worthless!

    July 17, 2014 at 10:06 am |
  10. Oracle

    It's funny to me that the foreign countries that have actually been touched by the Presidents policies and decisions dislike him. They all celebrate him until they are affected by him, and then they see what a buffoon he is as a leader. Kind of like the U.S.

    July 17, 2014 at 10:12 am |
  11. Truthblogger

    Like Joey and Ferhat, I believe this President has accomplished so much, too much the list, that he will go down as one of the great Presidents, despite all the obstruction and hate by the right. Health care, saving the economy, and ending two wars would be enough for any president to earn accolades. He has resisted putting US troops in a number of situations which would have only to creating more enemies than we have, more financial strain on the country, and would not have helped at all, Libya, Syria, and The Ukraine as examples. The right brayed, and brayed about a stronger response and now Putin is desperately trying to get the US to retract sanctions. This President is smart and make the right, thoughtful call, time and time again. That is why he has been elected twice, despite all the right lies, deceptions, and far superior sums of money spent. No other President has faced such a well financed machine that works 24/7 to thwart his administration. Nevertheless, the truth can be suppressed because they cannot control the many forms of information exchange where the truth comes out and people can make their own assessments.

    July 17, 2014 at 10:39 am |
    • drowlord

      The economy is not saved. Employment is significantly lower today than it was at any point in his first year in office. He botched the pull-out of those two wars and that region is in chaos and we'll undoubtedly be forced back into it. His health care reform is precarious and easily contested - costs are skyrocketing (any article covering actual numbers show that healthcare spending has increased more in 2014 Q1 than any other time period in the last decade, with the largest premium hikes ever, and a decrease in medical services performed).

      I don't blame Obama for all these things. He came into the presidency with America in ruins after GWB's decade of incompetence. But he hasn't fixed anything. He's fumbled every ball.

      July 17, 2014 at 10:50 am |
      • mickinmd

        It should be obvious to anyone that Bush setting up a Shiite-dominated government in Iraq and a corrupt government in Afganistan was NEVER going to result in stable situations. The longer we stayed in Iraq and stay in Afghanistan is going to result in MORE wasted lives and money. We need to be like the ancient Romans: go in and whack the hell out of an enemy, get out, and let them know it will be twice as bad next time. That way, you don't fall into al-Qaeda's current stated aim of bleeding the USA of resources by tempting us to spend, spend, spend on long-term military entanglements.

        July 17, 2014 at 12:55 pm |
    • The Fact of the Matter

      Benghazi, Fast and Furious, IRS, VA, $17 trillion national debt and growing... yeah – great president. [sarcasm off]

      July 17, 2014 at 10:57 am |
      • Will B

        All True, but only you and 3 others are concerned about it.

        July 17, 2014 at 11:17 am |
      • Matter of fact

        1. Benghazi/Fast and Furious involve a total of, IIRC, 5 people dead. People do not respond to this because of the right's hypocrisy involving their dismissal regarding deaths during shootings and 9/11. If you can dismiss 20 kids dying at Sandy Hook then do you think people are going to really care about a single border agent or 4 people in a foreign country?

        2. The GOP can't simultaneously complain about all these inefficiencies in the Obama admin AND stone wall all his appointments to department positions. At least, you can't do that AND try to pretend its his fault.

        3. The GOP can't simultaneously filibuster more bills now than ever before and then pretend its Obama's fault that nothing gets done.

        4. The GOP should stop saying '$17 Trillion' as though Bush handed Obama $0 debt and a balanced budget.

        5. The above show a pattern of deceit and hypocrisy, which is why people ignore the GOP's message.

        July 17, 2014 at 12:25 pm |
      • sly

        Benghazi was 100% Republican.

        President Obama requested increased security 3 times, but House-GOP veto'd all 3.

        More Republican's with American blood on their hands.

        Now GOP is letting the illegal immigrants die as well – Obama has asked for $4 billion to end the problem. Republicans response: "Let them die, we don't fund anything to solve the problem of illegals".

        July 17, 2014 at 1:26 pm |
      • Yakobi

        Sly is such a know-nothing. All he can say is, "Ugh. Republicans to blame for everything. Ugh. Me smart because me never hold democrats accountable."

        July 17, 2014 at 2:15 pm |
      • Bill, Bloominton IL

        Liberals will all say it is not Obamas fault. Cannot wait until the "I didnt do it" tour is finished and a republican president says "I own it and will take care of it" The worst president in my lifetime.

        July 17, 2014 at 3:02 pm |
      • Hope

        Bill – Hope you can wait more than 9 years.

        July 17, 2014 at 3:10 pm |
      • Yakobi

        Heh–this guy thinks Elizabeth Warren will stand a chance against any republican. How naive can you get.

        July 17, 2014 at 3:26 pm |
      • Not

        @Wakobi – Not as naïve as a poor person that votes against their own interests.

        July 17, 2014 at 3:57 pm |
    • This just in from Faux News

      Obama and Hillary downed a Maylasian jet. And they blame it on a bad chicken dinner.

      July 17, 2014 at 2:03 pm |
      • Dr. Rumack

        Yes, yes I remember. I had the lasagna.

        July 17, 2014 at 2:34 pm |
    • Ken from FL

      Obviously, you haven't been paying attention.

      July 17, 2014 at 2:28 pm |
    • whodatperson

      America has freed more people in it's existance than any country on the face of the earth. Period. There isn't even a question about it unless you're unfamiliar with history, which American kids are these days.

      The french? LOL
      The Brits? lol
      The Russians? Slavery and a life of crap to eat, drink, living conditions that are 3rd world
      Africa? not!
      Germans! Oh... goodness. WWI, WWII

      NOBODY, but NOBODY

      We don't 'control' any of the oil in Iraq, Afghanistan before, during or after Bush I, II, Reagan, whatever

      Today... the world is a mess
      Bush didn't start Syria, Obama did
      Bush didn't start Libya, Obama did
      Bush didn't start Egypt, Obama did
      Bush didn't start the Ukraine, Obama did

      Obama's economic policies are horrific and the markets are getting realllllly jittery today. The bubbles are worse than the previous, which I do blame Bush for in part.

      The debt is horrendous – DOUBLE Bush

      Unemployment is HIGHER – and NOT reported honestly. You can't have more people on welfare, more on foodstamps, more collecting a SSI check and be in BETTER position.

      Wake up and use your brains.

      July 18, 2014 at 9:57 am |
  12. BADGUY

    Obama, undoubtedly, has done MORE for the lower and middle classes, than previous Presidents. His ACA medical insurance program and his economic "save" of the USA's economy, is unmatched by ANY President.... certainly in the last 150 years. He is one of the VERY few American Presidents, who has "taken on" and disrupted the Iron neck lock the top 1% and their Republican representatives in Congress, have had on the USA's economy and politics.

    July 17, 2014 at 10:47 am |
  13. Big Bob

    Anti-Americanism still exists in the world. That's why they approve of this president. He's the worse thing that ever happened to us as a sovereign nation.

    July 17, 2014 at 10:58 am |
    • sly

      Of course the world is 'anti-american'!

      We've murdered more women and children than any Nation.

      Americans are the Terrorists. Just look at all the right-wing-white-males who have killed thousands in home-grown terroist bombings. We are the enemy!

      Thank you President Obama for keeping America safe from foreign terrorist attacks – the 1st President in 20 years!

      July 17, 2014 at 1:13 pm |
      • Yakobi

        Yet another America hating blurb from sly. Him and his kind would rather see America destroyed than protect itself. It's scary that people like him can actually vote.

        July 17, 2014 at 2:19 pm |
      • I"m

        I'm more afraid that Yakobi can vote. Yakobi is poor and yet supports the GOP. The GOP hate the poor, old, sick, non-white, non-Christian, female, and gay people. The GOP want to gut your SS and Medicare. But go ahead. Keep voting against your own interests. It's your right to be stupid.

        July 17, 2014 at 3:13 pm |
      • Yakobi

        Your hate-mongering is stuck in a feedback loop. It's time you realize the democrat policies you think are good things will ultimately bankrupt and destroy the country from within. The sooner you do, the better off you'll be.

        July 17, 2014 at 3:24 pm |
      • It's

        It's the GOP that HATE the poor, old. sick. non-white, non-Christian, female, and gay people. I'm just pointing that out to you. Don't you just LOVE your GOP party?

        July 17, 2014 at 4:03 pm |
      • Go home

        Move to Cuba.

        July 18, 2014 at 9:48 pm |
  14. Jeffb

    Of COURSE he's popular (everywhere OUTSIDE the U.S.)
    Obama treats other countries' citizens better than he treats his own.
    The "refugees" from Central America are living better here than our OWN children. Today's headline was that the U.S. spends 1000 a DAY on these kids, and OUR kids go hungry. He asks Congress for 3.8 BILLION ? HOW many of our kids would be fed on that " How many homeless Vets could get a roof over their heads ? A Pipeline from Canada through our midsection which will give long term jobs to a total of 15 Americans ? REALLY ?

    July 17, 2014 at 11:31 am |
    • Collegegrad22

      I find it interesting that the same people complaining about how much we are spending on illegal immigrant children all of a sudden care about the money that WE DON'T spend on American children! Give me a break, we all know if the illegal immigration issue wasn't at the forefront, you would STILL be blocking any attempts at spending the money on children of low income families. Republicans have been crying about "welfare babies" for ages, but now they all of a sudden make it seem like they care.....lmao! Nice try.......

      July 17, 2014 at 3:19 pm |
  15. john reilly

    " 55 % approval of obama overseas matches US numbers."..........are you serious ?

    RCP average on foregin affairs is 36 %.....overall his approval is 42%

    July 17, 2014 at 11:32 am |
  16. chri§§y

    @ jeffb, i am an advocate for homeless vets so i get quite angry that theyve been treated so shabbily but theres one think you must understand. There are 1000s of these children in a strange land where they know no one and dont speak the language even. There is absolutely no way they could survive without some help! And when he asked for that money it wasnt just for feeding and clothing them! Its also for security and judicial needs for them as well as preventing more from comming in! And i dont think we have EVER had a POTUS who cares more for humanity than Obama! EVER!

    July 17, 2014 at 11:41 am |
    • Yakobi

      You're wrong. None of it is for preventing more from coming in. That would require changing the law in how "other than Mexico" illegal immigrants are handled–something the GOP has presented and the democrats won't support. Why? Because democrats hate America and wish it destroyed.

      July 17, 2014 at 2:39 pm |
      • The

        The GOP would have to change the law the GOP implemented in 2000 and reaffirmed in 2008 for Obama to do anything different with the children. I haven't heard the GOP suggesting that.

        July 17, 2014 at 2:55 pm |
      • Yakobi

        You haven't kept up with the debate, because that's exactly what they're going to do. And the democrats (Pelosi) are saying they're opposed to that. Why? Because they WANT more illegals to come in and receive government handouts, believing they'll eventually become citizens and vote for the party who welcomed them here and gave them freebies.

        July 17, 2014 at 3:07 pm |
      • Citizen

        Do you really think we want to destroy our own country are you even an American you just like shooting your mouth off to get everyone angry yeah you right wing hate mongers will get your fight Oneday just evil thrives when good people do notthing

        July 17, 2014 at 9:49 pm |
    • Go home

      Easy. Take some home and support them. Unless you're the typical hypocritical lib...

      July 18, 2014 at 9:50 pm |
  17. chri§§y

    And Congress had no qualms voting in raises for themselves while ahem *working* fewer days. And sorry i have a very hard time using the word work when im talking about congress! As for the no time in our history has medical care or insurance rates been so high. You cant possibly think that wasnt by design i hope! Those things were manipulated with the help of congress just to further their cause in destroying ONE man!!!

    July 17, 2014 at 11:50 am |
  18. texas tommy

    Just curious, if we took a poll in the United States on how our citizens view other nations leaders......exactly what
    would they learn from that? Other than most Americans wouldn't even know who the hell they are, much less how
    good of a job they are doing. Why would we give any credence to their opinion on Bush or Obama?

    July 17, 2014 at 11:52 am |
  19. Peach

    Who cares what the rest of the world thinks.....he's an incompetent president and clearly doesn't have a foreign policy nor a domestic one. I guess that's why his approval rating is 38% here in the States. I believe the defense rests.

    July 17, 2014 at 11:52 am |
    • Still

      Still mad that you voted for Palin?

      July 17, 2014 at 2:56 pm |
      • Yakobi

        Nothing better to say, troll? Or are you too dim to even pick a handle?

        July 17, 2014 at 3:05 pm |
      • You

        You haven't said anything yet except Faux News talking points.

        You're poor and yet you support the GOP. The GOP hate the poor, old, sick, non-white, non-Christian, female, and gay people. The GOP want to gut your SS and Medicare. But go ahead. Keep voting against your own interests. It's your right to be stupid.

        July 17, 2014 at 3:15 pm |
      • Yakobi

        Stupid = believing the government can take of you.
        Stupid = believing the democrats have your best interest at heart instead of their own.
        Stupid = thinking bankrupting the country by racking up huge deficits is a good thing.
        Stupid = not realizing Obamacare is making healthcare MORE expensive for everyone.
        And finally, stupid = being too dumb to think of a handle. Here's one for you: "PalinTroll". You'll fit nicely right next to "palintwit", another genius.

        July 17, 2014 at 3:21 pm |
      • Some idiot

        Some other idiot stole my last "handle" (good buddy!). My last "handle" was Yakobi.

        July 17, 2014 at 3:26 pm |
      • Yakobi

        Suit yourself. You're now "some idiot".
        Hey, it fits!

        July 17, 2014 at 3:27 pm |
      • Just curious

        Just curious. Why do poor people (like you) vote for the GOP? Don't you know you are voting against your own interests. Probably not.

        July 17, 2014 at 3:41 pm |
  20. Nick

    Conservatives in this country may fool themselves and think they're fooling others when they hide their racism behind politics but they don't fool me. Obama may not be perfect, but he's infinitely better than his predecessor.

    July 17, 2014 at 12:14 pm |
    • jharry

      You are the racist.

      July 17, 2014 at 12:23 pm |
      • Foxrepublican

        no he's really not. I know that it's the answer to give to say it's the other person that's the racist, but the facts are pretty clear on which party lacks inclusion.

        July 18, 2014 at 10:37 am |
  21. jharry

    ".....a force to be reckoned with in international affairs."

    Really? I cracked up at that.

    July 17, 2014 at 12:22 pm |
  22. palintwit

    We arrive in rusty 1964 motorhomes.
    We bring our bibles and loaded assault weapons.
    We wear ridiculous clothing and have teabags dangling from our earlobes.
    We carry misspelled racist signs as we stomp all over the White House lawn.
    We eat Chick-fil-A and wash it down with Everclear.
    We are Sarah Palin's real Americans.
    We love the baby jesus but we love to boink our cousins even more.
    We believe that the earth is only 6,000 years old and that early man walked with the dinosaurs.
    We believe that nascar is a real sport and that Dale Earnhardt was a great American athlete.
    We are the birthers. We are tea party patriots.
    We are bigots and inbreds. We are morons and we are proud.

    July 17, 2014 at 12:30 pm |
    • So True

      Don't forget. Our primary residence is on blocks or wheels and is financed.

      July 17, 2014 at 2:06 pm |
    • 'palintwit' is the real twit

      What's it like being stuck in 2008?

      July 17, 2014 at 2:16 pm |
      • It's not

        It's not 2008 so WHY oh WHY is Palin still shooting off her mouth TODAY!!!

        July 17, 2014 at 2:47 pm |
      • Yakobi

        Why is Al Gore? Or Bill Clinton? Or any other ex-politician?
        More importantly, what do you care?

        July 17, 2014 at 3:16 pm |
      • You

        I don't CARE. She is irrelevant and stupid. That's why it's so fun (and easy) to make fun of her. Do you think Palin is relevant?

        July 17, 2014 at 3:22 pm |
      • Yakobi

        Obviously you do care, or you wouldn't get so riled about her.
        To answer your question, no, I don't think she's relevant, because I'm not a Tea Partier. To them she might be relevant, but they're fast becoming irrelevant, too.

        July 17, 2014 at 3:29 pm |
      • But

        But you are a poor person that votes for the GOP. Just like the Tea Tards. I just don't understand it.

        July 17, 2014 at 3:43 pm |
      • Yakobi

        I find your assessment of me funny. It's indicative of someone with no substantial argument to pigeon hole someone else in a vain effort to make their side irrelevant. The logic flow is this: I don't like democrat policies, therefore I must be a Tea Partier, therefore poor (don't know where that comes from), thus my points are invalid. Brilliant! Keep setting up those straw men.

        July 17, 2014 at 3:51 pm |
      • I'm

        I'm not assuming you are poor because of anything you posted here. You ARE poor because EVERYONE posting here is poor, So why do you vote against your own interests? It doesn't make any sense.

        July 17, 2014 at 4:00 pm |
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