World Publics Optimistic About Obama Presidency

Public Opinion Snapshot

One of the many problems that the Obama administration inherited from Bush and the conservatives is America’s abysmal image around the world. It is therefore good news that recent polling data finds the world’s publics in an optimistic mood about relations between the United States and other countries.

A BBC World Service poll found that an average of two-thirds of the public in 17 countries believe the Obama presidency will produce improved U.S. relations with the rest of the world. Just 19 percent said relations would stay the same, and only 5 percent thought they would get worse.

The most optimistic countries were Ghana (87 percent expect improvement), followed by Italy (79 percent), Germany (78 percent), Spain (78 percent), France (76 percent), Mexico (74 percent), and Nigeria (74 percent). In our own country, 65 percent believe relations with the rest of the world will improve.

These optimistic opinions represent a very large shift from early fall of last year. At that point, the average response across countries was 47 percent better/21 percent no change/9 percent worse.

Chart One

World publics also have a clear agenda for the Obama administration. The highest rated priorities are dealing with the global financial crisis (an average of 76 percent across countries rate it a top priority) and withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq (50 percent average). This suggests that if the Obama administration succeeds in achieving these objectives, it will both make the United States happy and reap the additional benefit of an improved image around the world.

Chart Two

Read more public opinion analysis from Ruy Teixeira.