Global approval levels of President Barack Obama’s foreign policy have declined significantly since he first took office. But a new public opinion poll on Obama’s approval ratings abroad reflect that despite widespread opposition to the administration’s drone strike policy and a widespread perception that the U.S. acts unilaterally, attitudes toward the U.S. are generally more positive than in 2008, the final year of the George W. Bush administration.
The Pew Global Attitudes Project, conducted by the Pew Research Center, finds that key American allies remains largely confident. 80 percent of Europeans expressed “confidence in Obama,” a six percent reduction from 2009, and 74 percent of of Japanese expressed confidence, an eleven percent reduction. However, the U.S. remains unpopular in strategically important country’s in the Muslim world, including: Egypt; Jordan; Turkey and Pakistan.
Perceptions of the U.S. role in the world have also shifted during the past three years. Majorities in Germany (62 percent), Britain (58 percent), France (57 percent), and Spain (57 percent) now name China as the world’s top economic power.
The administration’s drone strike policy, which the White House has found challenging to explain to a domestic audience disconcerted by the president’s “kill list” of drone strike targets, face widespread opposition abroad. In 17 of the 20 countries polled, more than half of poll respondents disapproved of U.S. drone strikes targeting extremists in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. The U.S. was the only country in which a majority — 62 percent — approved of drone strikes.
Despite the opposition to the administration’s drone policy, there is considerable support for Obama’s reelection, particularly in Europe. 92 percent of French and 89 percent of German respondents support his bid.
Perhaps most importantly, majorities or pluralities in 12 of the countries polled expressed a favorable opinion of the U.S. while the prevailing view is negative in only five nations. In France, Spain and Germany the percentage of people with a positive view of the U.S. is at least 20 percentage points higher than in 2008, the final year of the George W. Bush administration. “While confidence in Obama has slipped, in many of the countries surveyed, people continue to express confidence in President Obama’s foreign policy leadership,” says the report.
While often overlooked, American “soft power” remains highly regarded. The “American way” of doing business is especially popular in the Arab world – more than half in Lebanon (63 percent), Tunisia (59 percent), Jordan (59 percent) and Egypt (52 percent) say they like this aspect of American. Majorities or pluralities in 18 of 20 countries view the U.S.’s contributions to science, technology, music and television positively.