WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama still has great popularity abroad — where he enjoys higher approval ratings than he does at home — but foreign publics are a lot less happy with his administration's foreign policy, according to a new poll by the Pew Trust.
The survey released Thursday found that Obama remains popular in most parts of the world even though his job approval rating in the United States has dropped to 47 percent from 64 percent in February 2009.
In largely Muslim countries, however, opinion of Obama is now "decidedly negative," said former Sen. John Danforth, R-Mo., the co-chair of the Pew Global Attitudes Survey, despite the president's widely hailed speech a year ago in Cairo calling for "a new beginning" in U.S. relations with the Islamic world.
In Turkey, confidence in him fell to 23 percent from 33 percent, to 33 percent from 42 percent in Egypt and to 25 percent from 31 percent in Jordan. The survey was taken before Israeli commandos assaulted a small flotilla of civilian vessels attempting to break Israel's blockade of Gaza.
In China, support for Obama's policies fell to 44 percent from 57 percent, but overall the president's approval ratings abroad were "off the charts," an astonishing accomplishment for a politician, Danforth told reporters.
However, he said: "The world likes the idea of Obama more than the reality."
"Popularity for the idea of Obama does not translate into support for anything that is really difficult," Danforth said, referring to foreign views of the U.S. military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"There is no indication that the world populations like the hard things, and so the harder the issue and the more concrete the problem, and the more concrete the actions, the less support they receive," he said.
The poll also found, however, that in 16 of the 22 countries surveyed, people expressed at least some confidence in Obama to do the right thing in world affairs. The president's approval ratings were high in Western Europe, particularly in France and Britain, where more than 84 percent of those polled said they had confidence in Obama.
The telephone and face-to-face poll surveyed some 25,000 people in 22 countries between April 7, 2010 and May 8, and has margins of error that range from plus or minus 2 percent to plus or minus 5 percent.
"Doing hard things is trying to gain consensus," said former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, the other co-chair of the survey project. "The United States is indispensable, but there's nothing in the definition of indispensable that says alone."
Albright referred to the survey finding that 15 of the nations polled think that the United States fails to take the interests of other countries into account when making foreign policy decisions.
"No matter how strong we are, the United States cannot do everything itself," Albright said.
Albright and Danforth emphasized that global pubic opinion affects the nation's ability to pursue its national interests worldwide.
"They are not just issues for foreigners," Albright said, "They're issues that affect our day-to-day life.
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