Daniel W. Drezner

How popular are Obama and McCain internationally?

A few months ago I blogged the following:  I think the notion that mere election of Obama would represent a “soft power surge” as it were, should be tempered.  It’s not that there would be no Obama effect.  It’s just that it would be concentrated in places where elites are enthusiastic about him and his ...

A few months ago I blogged the following

I think the notion that mere election of Obama would represent a “soft power surge” as it were, should be tempered.  It’s not that there would be no Obama effect.  It’s just that it would be concentrated in places where elites are enthusiastic about him and his policies.  This would mean Europe, Africa and Latin America, I suspect.  Other regions — the Middle East, Russia and Asia — might be less receptive. 

As the race draws to a close, I see prominent commentators are starting to speculate about whether electing Obama would bring a soft power surge.  Hey, now we have some real live data!  Foreign Policy and Gallup have run polls in 70 countries from May to September 2008.  The big findings

Gallup Polls conducted in 70 countries from May to September 2008 reveal widespread international support for Democratic Sen. Barack Obama over Republican Sen. John McCain in the U.S. presidential election. Among these nations, representing nearly half of the world’s population, 30% of citizens say they would personally rather see Obama elected president of the United States, compared with just 8% who say the same about McCain. At the same time, 62% of world citizens surveyed did not have an opinion.

Looking at the interactive map, I see that my initial supposition was partly in error.  I was right about Europe and Africa leaning heavily towards Obama.  I was surprised to see, however, that Japan, South Korea, and Saudi Arabia all trended towards Obama as well.  On the other hand, large swathes of Latin America and South Asia are pretty indifferent to the whole election.  As for McCain, there was no country in which enthusiasm for him outpaced Don’t Know/Refuse to Say.  He did the best in Georgia (23% to 18% over Obama, with 62% not knowing or saying).  One final thought — it’s too bad that other countries (Russia, China, Brazil, Ukraine, Iraq, Israel, Indonesia) were not polled.  UPDATE:  Two online and unscientific global responses:  one from the Economist and one at If the World Could VoteAt The National Interest, Nikolas Gvosdev points out that the global affection for Obama could be fleeting:

It would be foolhardy for the Obama team to assume that these strong ratings can easily and swiftly be translated into renewed acceptance of U.S. policies. And publics in other countries that are expecting an Obama administration would reverse or alter every last policy of the Bush administration are going to be disappointed. 

 Twitter: @dandrezner

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