Dramatic Improvement in Our International Image

President Obama and progressive foreign policy have quickly shifted international perception of the United States, writes Ruy Teixeira.

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President Obama has pursued a far different foreign policy than his conservative predecessor George W. Bush. He is heavy on consultation and diplomacy and notably light on the unilateral use of U.S. power to achieve objectives—and the world has noticed.

The massive 25-nation Pew Global Attitudes survey shows that from 2008 to 2009, favorability toward the United States increased in 21 of 24 nations, excluding the United States. This increase in favorability included double- digit rises in 11 nations: France (up 33 points), Germany (+33), Indonesia (+26), Spain (+25), Mexico (+22), Britain (+16), Argentina (+16), Nigeria (+15), Brazil (+14), Canada (+13), and India (+10).

Increase in favorability toward U.S.

A related change is an enormous increase in the number of people internationally with a lot or some confidence that the U.S. president will do the right thing in world affairs. The median level of confidence in the U.S. president among the 21 countries surveyed in both 2008 and 2009 shifted from just 17 percent for Bush in 2008 to 71 percent for Obama in 2009.

The Obama-Bush confidence gap

This “confidence gap” between Presidents Bush and Obama is extraordinary and tells us a lot about how low the United States had sunk in the world’s esteem under Bush’s and the conservatives’ watch. It’s good to know that a progressive foreign policy has been able to repair some of this damage so quickly.

Ruy Teixeira is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress. To learn more about his public opinion analysis go to the Media and Culture page and the Progressive Studies program page of our website.

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Ruy Teixeira

Former Senior Fellow

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