- The Washington Times - Friday, June 13, 2008

It may be the one election a presidential candidate would rather not win.

In a major survey of people who can’t vote in the U.S., Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama is crushing Republican rival Sen. John McCain in a poll of citizens from nearly two dozen U.S. allies, according to a new report released Thursday.

The latest overview of global opinion conducted by the Pew Research Center also found that attitudes toward the United States in general turned slightly more positive in the final year of the Bush presidency, even though the president continues to get among the lowest approval marks of any major world leader.

Pew President Andrew Kohut said in a briefing that in 22 of the 23 foreign 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 expressing the hope that either candidate will pursue a better foreign policy.

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

International expectations for Mr. Obama and for a new post-Bush U.S. foreign policy are so high that analysts have begun to warn the next U.S. leader will have trouble meeting them.

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

The survey of more than 24,000 people in 24 countries - including the United States - 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 Rodham Clinton.

Mr. Kohut said that Mr. Obama’s early 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 former 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,” Mr. Kohut said.

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 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.

Other findings from the survey include:

cFavorability 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.

cU.S. respondents in the Pew poll were the least positive about the benefits of international trade of the two dozen countries surveyed. Fifty-three percent of Americans said trade was “good for the country,” down from 59 percent a year ago.

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