- The Washington Times - Friday, July 24, 2009

President Obama’s rock star status has boosted global confidence in America, sparking a debate over whether this allows the U.S. to take the lead on global security issues or if the support is merely lip service.

The U.S. image is more positive than it has been since before President George W. Bush took office, according to the latest Pew Global Attitudes Project survey released Thursday.

Favorable opinions of the U.S. in Western European countries have soared by double digits since Mr. Obama took office, and views of the U.S. have become more positive in key countries in Latin America, Asia and Africa, the report said.

While people in predominately Muslim countries still do not widely trust the U.S., opinions are moderately higher than in the Bush years. Israel is the only country where opinion of the U.S. dropped, although it remains higher than in most countries.

The view that the U.S. will do the right thing in world affairs jumped by at least 13 percent since Mr. Bush’s last two years in all countries except Israel and Pakistan, with many countries reporting an increase of confidence in the U.S. by more than 50 percent.

“Obama contrasts with the style of President Bush. He tells people what they want to hear; he’s apologetic rather than assertive; he’s got that rock star image,” said John Danforth, a former Republican senator from Missouri who co-chaired the Pew survey project with former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright.

The turnaround in global attitudes is driven by positive views of Mr. Obama’s personal characteristics - not his specific policy agendas - leaving analysts to disagree on whether the popularity will materialize into support for U.S. foreign policy.

Mrs. Albright said the president’s approval ratings will give the U.S. a better chance of making progress on global security issues such as arms control, climate change and energy policy.

“We were unable to get what we wanted the last eight years. People all over the world laughed at us, criticized us,” she said. “We’ve got a long way to go, but its a lot better to start here.”

Mr. Danforth, however, said he doubted that Mr. Obama’s approval would translate into other countries increasing assistance to the U.S. in the war on terror.

“They want to do these things but won’t pay the price to do it,” he said.

Views of the U.S. influence on national economies did not become more positive since Mr. Obama took office, showing the same anti-globalization sentiment as during the Bush administration, the report said.

Andrew Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center, said the recession is to blame rather than falling support for capitalism or the free market.

“People see the American economy as having directed their economies into a bad place,” he said.

The Global Attitudes survey, taken in May and June, interviewed 27,000 people in 25 countries and had margins of error ranging from 2 percent to 4 percent.

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