Mitt Romney argued in an op-ed last week, “It is hard to name even a single country that has more respect and admiration for America today than when President Obama took office.” Yesterday, making his third Sunday show appearance in three months, Romney repeated the line on “Face the Nation.”
“Our esteem around the world has fallen,” Mr. Romney said. “I can’t think of a major country – it’s hard to think of a single country – that has greater respect and admiration for America today than it did five years ago when Barack Obama became president, and that’s a very sad, unfortunate state of affairs.”
Let’s put aside, at least for now, whether it’s appropriate for a two-time failed presidential candidate to be quite so eager to smear a twice-elected president during a crisis. Let’s also sidestep questions about why Romney is ignoring tradition and working aggressively to position himself as a prominent anti-Obama attack dog.
Instead, let’s just consider the claims on the merits. After all, this isn’t a subjective question; it’s a knowable thing – either the nation’s international stature has deteriorated or it hasn’t.
And in this case, the former one-term governor doesn’t seem to know what he’s talking about.
Harry Enten took a closer look at the data a few days ago and found Romney’s criticism doesn’t stand up well to scrutiny.
In 2012, Gallup asked whether people “approve or disapprove of America’s leadership” in 130 countries. It had asked the same question in 2008 in most of those same countries.In 2012, the percentage of people approving of America’s leadership was up 7 percentage points in the median country since 2008. It was up 6 points in the Americas, 6 points in Asia and 18 points in Europe. It was down 3 points in Africa. More people approved than disapproved in every region.Pew has conducted international polling asking whether people had a “favorable or unfavorable view of the United States” in every year since 2002. Pew has surveyed countries as diverse as Argentina and Uganda, but it has polled a different set of nations each year. The best years to look at are probably 2007 and 2013, when Pew polled more countries than usual.From 2007 to 2013, Pew found that views of the United States improved in 22 countries. Eight nations’ favorable ratings increased by at least 20 percentage points; only four saw a decline. The median country’s views of the U.S. went up by 9 points.
There’s just one other related angle to keep in mind. If Romney is genuinely concerned with whether, and to what degree, the U.S. is respected and admired around the world, he’s apparently angry with the wrong president.
Looking over the data from the Pew Research Global Attitudes Project, the actual drop in our stature came under Bush/Cheney, when much of the world repelled from the Republican administration’s policies on war, torture, and global cooperation.
If Romney’s sincere about the importance of international respect, where was he from 2001 to 2008?