Poll: U.S. Image Abroad Up Under Obama

In Focus

A new poll of global attitudes toward the U.S. shows dramatic improvements in opinions in Western Europe, but continuing deep animosity in much of the Muslim world.

"Views about the U.S. in many of these Muslim countries are very extreme," Andrew Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center, tells Robert Siegel. "They are very hostile, and there's great distrust of the United States and that's why in six months, [President] Obama couldn't turn it around the way he's turned it around in Western Europe."

Obama was able to turn it around dramatically in Western Europe, the poll by the Pew Global Attitudes Project found. Kohut says when the results first came in, he didn't believe them.

Last year, 31 percent of Germans polled had a favorable view of the U.S.; this year the number was 64 percent. In France last year, the U.S. had a 42 percent favorable rating. This year, it's 75 percent.

"What really comes home is no surprise: that Barack Obama is popular," Kohut says. "But really a great surprise — by how much he changed basic attitudes toward the United States in just one year."

In the Muslim world, however, with which Obama has vowed to build bridges, the message is more complicated.

In Turkey, a major NATO ally, the U.S. had a 12 percent favorable rating last year and a 14 percent rating this year. In the Palestinian Authority, it was 13 percent last year and 15 percent this year. There were some small gains in Egypt, site of Obama's speech to the Muslim world, and Jordan, and a major boost in Indonesia, where he spent part of his childhood.

"It's a really mixed message in the Muslim countries," Kohut says. "Some change of progress, but no sea change as there was a sea change in much of the world."

The survey polled between 700 and 3,169 people in 24 countries and the Palestinian Authority. Brazil, China, India and Pakistan had mainly urban samples. The margins of error were plus or minus 3 or 4 percent in every country except China and India where it was plus or minus 2 points.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.