- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 12, 2008

It may be the one election a presidential candidate would rather not win, but Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama is crushing Republican rival Sen. John McCain in a poll of citizens of nearly two dozen foreign countries, according to a new survey released Thursday

The latest overview of global attitudes conducted by the Pew Research Center found that in 22 countries polled, more respondents expressed confidence that Mr. Obama will “do the right thing regarding world affairs” than will Mr. McCain, often by huge margins.

The difference was especially striking in a number of key U.S. allies. In France, Germany, Australia, Japan and Britain, the average positive score for Mr. Obama was 79.6 percent among residents saying they were following the American election closely, compared to an average of 38 percent for Mr. McCain.

Only in Jordan did the Arizona Republican earn a statistical tie, with just over one in five Jordanians saying either candidate will pursue a better foreign policy.


Mr. Obama, Illinois Democrat “is showing strong international appeal pretty much everywhere,” said Pew Research Center President Andrew Kohut. “He has already made quite a splash across the water.”

The survey of more than 24,000 people in 24 countries, was conducted between March 17 and April 21, when Mr. Obama was still battling to wrap up the Democratic nomination against New York Sen. Hillary Clinton.

Mr. Kohut said that Mr. Obama’s opposition to the Iraq war, which was widely opposed overseas, was one source of his popularity. Another source, he said, was that Mr. Obama “was not George Bush,” who ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the survey as the most unpopular leader of a major power.

The pollster said Mr. McCain’s lower ratings probably had little to do with his specific policy proposals on issues such as global warming, Iran or nuclear proliferation.

“My guess is that [people abroad] don’t know that much about him personally and haven’t focused on him. He’s seen as the Republican candidate and thus is associated with Mr. Bush,” he said.

Whether winning an international popularity poll is a smart political move is another story. Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, also outpolled Mr. Bush in global surveys before the 2004 vote, but was put on the defensive at home because of his high ratings in countries such as France.

Despite Mr. Bush’s low ratings, the latest Pew survey found that global favorability ratings for the United States edged up in 2008 after six years of unrelenting declines.

In 16 of the 23 nations polled, favorable views of the United States were higher than in 2007, rising by 3 percent in Russia, 5 percent in France, 7 percent in India and China, and 19 percent in Tanzania, one of two African nations polled.

But the Pew survey also demonstrated how short-term events can affect perceptions. The April survey found that positive attitudes toward the United States in South Korea hit 70 percent this year, compared to 58 percent in 2007. But the streets of Seoul this week have been filled with huge crowds protesting a decision to lift a ban on imports of American beef and other foods.

Other findings from the survey include:

*Favorability ratings for China have declined in a number of countries, reflecting concerns about China’s emergence as a power in Asia and its clout as a global exporting giant. Opinions are particularly negative in Western Europe.

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