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A new global survey shows the U.S. is rated more favorably now than last year. The reason? Barack Obama


Mike Madden
July 23, 2009 8:24PM (UTC)

WASHINGTON -- What a difference an election makes: Nearly every country in the world has a more favorable opinion of the United States now that President Obama has taken over the White House from that other guy who used to have the job.

Approval ratings for the U.S. ticked up -- sometimes by big margins -- around the globe in this year's Pew Global Attitudes Project survey of citizens of 25 nations, released this morning. In Brazil, favorable ratings of the U.S. went from 47 percent in 2008 to 61 percent now. In Mexico, from 47 to 69. In Germany, the approval rating shot from 31 percent to 64 percent, and from 42 percent to 75 percent in Spain. Muslim nations were a little more grudging; approval of the U.S. climbed from 19 percent to 25 percent in Jordan, from 22 to 27 percent in Egypt and 51 to 55 percent in Lebanon.

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Still, the global economic collapse, which spread from Wall Street around the world, hasn't been helpful to attitudes about the U.S. Majorities in 12 countries, from Canada to Russia, say U.S. economic influence on their nation is negative.

The margin of error varied by country, but it ranged between 2 and 4 percent. In Western Europe, the U.S., Canada and Japan, surveys were done by phone, but in most of the world, they were done in person.

"This new attitude towards the United States is being driven by personal views on Obama and confidence in him, rather than opinions on his policies or expectations about the specific things he's going to do," said Andrew Kohut, the director of the survey for Pew. "So it's about Obama."

That was most clear in Indonesia -- where 79 percent of respondents knew Obama had lived as a child. Approval of the U.S. nearly doubled, going from 37 percent to 63 percent.

The only holdouts were Israel and Pakistan. In Israel, where Pew didn't poll last year, the U.S. favorable rating dropped from 78 percent in 2007 to 71 percent this year. In Pakistan, it slipped from 19 pecent last year to 16 percent now. Both of those are easy to explain; it's increasingly clear that Pakistan is tied up with the Taliban's return in Afghanistan, and 49 percent of Pakistanis say they're "very worried" that the U.S. may someday be a military threat to their nation. As for Israel, the Bush administration went out of its way to side with them in negotiations with Palestine, while Obama has tried to indicate he intends to be more even-handed. Still, the vast majority of Palestinians --- 66 percent, even after Obama's Cairo speech on the Middle East -- say they don't expect Obama to be fair in the region. The speech did make Palestinians slightly less skeptical of Obama's intentions. But it had the opposite effect on Israelis; before the speech, 37 percent said they thought he wouldn't be fair, and afterwards, that climbed to 47 percent.

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Mike Madden

Mike Madden is Salon's Washington correspondent. A complete listing of his articles is here. Follow him on Twitter here.

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