Obama’s global popularity wanes

US President Barack Obama arrives from a campaign trip yesterday in Washington


The world’s love affair with Barack Obama is not quite over – but it’s on the rocks. A survey of global opinion of the US president shows large numbers of non-Americans feel badly let down by the man awarded the Nobel peace prize for 2009.

A Pew Research Centre poll of attitudes toward the US in 21 countries found that confidence in Mr Obama’s foreign policy has fallen sharply since he took office three years ago, particularly over drone attacks.

Hopes that Washington would prove more internationalist, seek UN approval for military action and be more even-handed in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have been dashed. Foreigners also feel let down by Mr Obama’s inertia on climate change.

Perhaps most worryingly for Washington, the real collapse in confidence is over the US economy, with majorities in the UK, Germany and France saying that China is now the world’s top economic power. But Mr Obama still commands far more respect than his predecessor, George Bush.

The poll reveals particular hostility to US drone attacks in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Yemen. Although Washington claims the attacks are carefully targeted at major terrorists, they frequently kill civilians.

The drone strikes are backed by 62 per cent of Americans but have only minority support in every other country polled by Pew.

The strongest overseas support for the US strategy is in Britain, where 44 per cent approve. But in France, China, Mexico and Russia there are large majorities opposed to it.

The US president’s standing remains strong in Europe, where he has an 80 per cent approval rating – down just 6 per cent on three years ago. But it is a different story elsewhere. The sharpest drop in confidence has been in China, where support has fallen from 62 per cent in 2009 to 38 per cent this year.

Obama’s lowest standing is in the Muslim world, where fewer than one in four approve of his policies. That is still markedly higher than views of the US as a whole. Just 15 per cent of people in Muslim countries have a favourable view of the US.

When he came to power, nearly half of non-Americans thought the new US president would seek international approval to use military force. Just 29 per cent believe he has done so. He was also expected to “be fair with the Israelis and Palestinians” and to confront climate change. Large majorities now feel let down on those issues.

Still, the romance many Europeans developed with Mr  Obama, giving them a more sentimental view of the president than most Americans have, largely continues. Large majorities in Europe would like to see him re-elected, led by 92 per cent of those polled in France.

This is not so in the Middle East, where three out of four Egyptians and clear majorities in other countries want him out of office.



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