- By Uri Friedman
Uri Friedman is deputy managing editor at Foreign Policy. Before joining FP, he reported for the Christian Science Monitor, worked on corporate strategy for Atlantic Media, helped launch the Atlantic Wire, and covered international affairs for the site. A proud native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, he studied European history at the University of Pennsylvania and has lived in Barcelona, Spain and Geneva, Switzerland.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney may be riding high after his convincing win in the Illinois primary, but he’s still getting the cold shoulder from one demographic group: Swedes.
On Tuesday, Sweden’s The Local highlighted a new survey by the Swedish arm of the online polling firm YouGov, which found that 74 percent of Swedes would vote for President Obama over either Romney or Rick Santorum. Eighty percent of Danish respondents and 73 percent of Norwegian respondents said they’d choose Obama over Romney, while British respondents endorsed Obama at a less enthusiastic 58 percent. (A separate study by a YouGov affiliate found that 60 percent of British "influentials" believe Obama is better than his Republican challengers for British interests.)
Swedes aren’t just more receptive to Obama — they’re actively concerned about what a Republican return to the White House could mean for the world. Fifty-two percent said an Obama loss could negatively affect global security, compared with 49 percent in Denmark, 47 percent in Norway, and 33 percent in the United Kingdom. Roughly a third of respondents in each country are worried that a GOP victory could negatively affect Europe’s economy and foreign policy.
YouGov also found that Norwegians, Danes, and Swedes are intensely following news about the U.S. presidential election — so much so that, according to one estimate by a media monitoring service, 498 articles about the American contest have appeared in the Swedish press this year, compared with a mere 107 on the already completed elections in neighboring Finland.
That generally liberal Northern Europe is enamored with Obama may not be all that surprising. And Romney hasn’t exactly endeared himself to the region by accusing the president of wanting to turn America into a "European-style entitlement society."
But while Swedes may not have a vote in the election, overseas perceptions of U.S. presidential contests can matter. Obama’s campaign speech before an adoring crowd in Berlin was a major storyline during the 2008 race. In a Foreign Policy article last week, Oliver Kamm argued that David Cameron’s recent visit to Washington suggests that the British prime minister is already betting on Obama winning reelection. Today on the site, Tom Ricks wonders whether Saudi efforts to stabilize the oil market amount to a "vote" for Obama.
The YouGov survey isn’t the only polling indicating that Obama is wildy popular in Northern and Western Europe — significantly more popular, in fact, than he is at home. But how about elsewhere in the world? Pew’s 2010 Global Attitudes Project report offers the most comprehensive data here. Majorities or pluralities in 16 of the 22 countries surveyed expressed at least some confidence in Obama to "do the right thing regarding world affairs," but only in Kenya and Nigeria — the two African countries surveyed — did Obama enjoy Western Europe-level adoration. U.S. allies such as Japan (76 percent), South Korea (75 percent), and India (73 percent) also expressed high levels of support.
But powerful U.S. frenemies such as China (52 percent) and Russia (41 percent) gave Obama an icier response, as did predominantly Muslim countries such as Egypt (33 percent), Jordan (26 percent), and Turkey (23 percent) — a reality that Obama’s handling of the Arab Spring did not alter.
Obama’s poorest showing in 2010? Pakistan, where only 8 percent of respondents expressed at least some confidence in him. The good news for the president? We imagine Mitt Romney wouldn’t fare any better.