Daniel W. Drezner

A hard measure of Obama’s soft power [UPDATED]

A hard measure of Obama’s soft power [UPDATED]

The Pew Global Attitudes project has released their 2009 report, which means we finally have some hard numbers to see whether the election of Barack Obama has altered global perceptions of the United States. 

And it turns out the answer is yes in most places: 

The image of the United States has improved markedly in most parts of the world, reflecting global confidence in Barack Obama. In many countries opinions of the United States are now about as positive as they were at the beginning of the decade before George W. Bush took office. Improvements in the U.S. image have been most pronounced in Western Europe, where favorable ratings for both the nation and the American people have soared. But opinions of America have also become more positive in key countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia, as well.

Here are the numbers:

Most of the results are not surprising.  The Obama effect is pretty substantial in Western Europe and Latin America, and nonexistent or negative in the Middle East and Russia.  A small positive effect in sub-Saharan Africa, though this is in pat due to the fact that U.S. favorables were already pretty high in that region. 

The surprising results are in Eastern Europe, Pacific Rim and South Asia.  Obama does poorly in Poland — perhaps because he’s been perceived as more accomodating towards Russia. 

In the Pacific Rim and India, however, favorability ratings increased by a fair amount.  I’m particularly surprised by the bump in India, given the occasionally prickly tone between the policymakers of the two countries. 

Question to readersObama said a few weeks ago that he thought a soft power bump would help advance U.S. interests.  Given the data, do you agree? 

UPDATE:  Wow.  Kevin Drum digs through the report and finds an even better measure of the increase in U.S. standing — asking respondents whether they think “America will do the right thing in world affairs.”  The numbers here are pretty stunning: 

Wow.  I mean, wow.  In a lot of ways this is the more interesting result, because it suggests that other countries think the United States is now more competent.