Politics & Government

Foreign nations overwhelmingly prefer Obama, survey finds

WASHINGTON — Foreigners overwhelmingly expect the next American president to change U.S. foreign policy "for the better," but have more confidence in Democratic candidate Barack Obama than Republican rival John McCain, according to a multi-nation poll released Thursday.

The survey of nearly 25,000 people in 24 countries also found, for the first time in a decade, a modest uptick in the United States' dismal global image.

One reason for that may be the boisterous U.S. presidential campaign, which is being watched closely from Asia to Europe and the Middle East. More Japanese (83 percent) are following news about the race than are U.S. citizens (80 percent), the poll showed.

The annual survey, conducted by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center, found that if foreigners had a vote in November, they would vote in a landslide for Obama.

Of the two-dozen countries surveyed, publics in just two, Jordan and Pakistan, rated Obama and McCain about evenly. But in both countries, there was little confidence in either candidate.

Obama, the first African-American nominee from a major political party, "has a great international appeal," said Andrew Kohut, president of the center and director of its Global Attitudes Project.

The widespread global expectations for a shift in U.S. foreign policies could burden Bush's successor, Democrat or Republican, as soon as he takes office.

The new president will almost immediately be faced with tough decisions on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Iran's nuclear program, climate change and other thorny issues. And, Kohut noted, U.S. Middle East policies that much of the world finds objectionable appear unlikely to change.

Previous global polls have documented widespread global opposition to U.S. foreign policies; low confidence in Bush virtually everywhere except sub-Saharan Africa; and low favorability ratings generally for the United States.

But the new survey found higher favorable ratings for the United States in 10 of 21 countries for which comparable data from the previous year was available.

Those countries included South Korea, Indonesia, India, China, Poland and Tanzania. (The polling, done in nearly 60 languages, took place in late March and April, before a dispute over U.S. beef exports prompted huge protests in the South Korea).

"For the first time in this poll, we have some encouraging signs about the image of the United States," Kohut told a press briefing.

Still, he said, there is "no sea change" in global views of this country.

Opinions of the United States still remain negative in much of Western Europe. And in four majority-Muslim countries that are nominally U.S. allies, approval ratings remain in the cellar. They are Egypt (22 percent favorable); Jordan and Pakistan (19 percent); and Turkey (12 percent).

In Lebanon, 80 percent of its Shiite Muslim population considers the United States "more of an enemy" than a friend.

The poll also found:

_ Widespread economic gloom, with residents in 18 of the 24 countries describing economic conditions as bad, and many blaming the U.S. economy for their woes.

"Most think the U.S. is having a considerable influence on their economy, and it is largely seen as a negative one," says a report accompanying the poll.

_ The U.S. public, which has long been a champion of free trade and globalization, is the least supportive of trade of the 24 countries surveyed.

_ Slipping approval ratings for China for the second year in a row, due to concerns over its human rights record and other policies pursued by Beijing.

Majorities in every country-with the exception of France, Japan and the United States-said it was a good decision to hold the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.

The poll, which included both telephone and face-to-face interviews, had a margin of error between 2 percent and 4 percent, depending on the country surveyed.


For more on the poll: http://pewglobal.org