Drones torpedo Obama support

The world’s love affair with Barack Obama is not quite over, but it is on the rocks.

A Pew Research Centre poll of attitudes toward the US in 21 countries found that confidence in Obama’s foreign policy had fallen sharply since he took office three years ago, particularly over drone attacks.

Hopes that Washington would prove more internationalist, seek United Nations approval for military action and be more even-handed in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have been dashed.

Foreigners also feel let down by Obama’s inertia on climate change.

Perhaps most worryingly for Washington, the real collapse in confidence is over the US economy, with majorities in the United Kingdom, Germany and France saying that China is now the world’s top economic power. But Obama still commands far more respect than his predecessor, George W Bush.

Approval ratings
The poll reveals particular hostility to US drone attacks in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Yemen. Although Washington claims the attacks are carefully targeted at major terrorists, they frequently kill civilians.

The drone strikes are backed by 62% of Americans, but have only minority support in every other country polled by Pew.

The strongest overseas support for the US strategy is in Britain, where 44% approve. But in France, China, Mexico and Russia, large majorities are opposed.

The US president’s standing remains strong in Europe, where he has an 80% approval rating, down just 6% on three years ago. But it is a different story elsewhere. The sharpest drop in confidence has been in China, where support has fallen from 62% in 2009 to 38% this year.

Obama’s lowest standing is in the Muslim world, where fewer than one in four approve of his policies. That is still markedly higher than the views of the US as a whole. Just 15% of people in Muslim countries have a favourable view of the US.

When he came to power, nearly half of non-Americans thought the new US president would seek international approval to use military force. Just 29% believe he has done so. Still, the romance many Europeans developed with Obama, giving them a more sentimental view of the president than is held by most Americans, largely continues.

Large majorities in Europe would like to see him re-elected, led by 92% of those polled in France. This is not so in the Middle East, where three out of four Egyptians and clear majorities in other countries want him out of office. – © Guardian News & Media 2012

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Chris Mcgreal
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