Republicans are heavily invested in the idea that President Obama lacks international respect. There’s new evidence that suggests the GOP has it backwards.
It was just a few months ago that Jeb Bush insisted that during the Obama era, “We have lost the trust and confidence of our friends. Around the same time, Scott Walker and Donald Trump reportedly had a chat about “how poorly” the United States is now “perceived throughout the world.” Mitt Romney added, “It is hard to name even a single country that has more respect and admiration for America today than when President Obama took office.”
Actually, it’s incredibly easy to name countries that have more respect and admiration for the United States today than when President Obama took office. The Pew Research Center published a report last week on “Global Attitudes & Trends” and found that America’s overall image around the world remains quite positive – and in much of the world, impressions of the U.S. have improved since the end of the Bush/Cheney era.
More specifically, though, President Obama is an especially popular figure in many parts of the world.
Half or more in 29 of 40 countries surveyed say they have confidence in President Obama to do the right thing in world affairs. Throughout his terms in office, Obama has received particularly strong ratings in Europe and Africa, and that continues to be the case this year. Majorities in every EU and sub-Saharan African nation surveyed give him positive marks. […]Overall, Obama’s image has improved in the last year. In 14 countries of the 36 countries where trends from 2014 are available, more people now say they have confidence in the U.S. president. The largest gain occurred in India, which Obama visited in January. Almost three-in-four Indians express confidence in Obama, up from 48% a year ago. Double digit gains are also found in Ghana (+22 points), Turkey (+21), Nigeria (+20), Uganda (+11) and Brazil (+11).
It’s probably time for Republicans to update their talking points.
In fairness, Obama’s popularity is not universal. He fares far less well in the Middle East – including a drop of support in Israel, where Netanyahu allies have soured on the U.S. leader – and the president is wildly unpopular in Russia for reasons that should be obvious.
But in general, across the board, particularly among U.S. allies in Europe and Asia-Pacific, Obama enjoys considerable public support.
Just as important is the fact that we can compare international impressions of Obama with those of his immediate predecessor. I found this Pew Research Center report from late 2008, which found much of the planet losing respect for the U.S. and rejecting George W. Bush to a striking degree.
And therein lies the irony of contemporary GOP whining – Republicans seem absolutely convinced that President Obama is seen abroad as a hapless failure, but the argument is completely backwards. Obama is quite popular across much of the planet, while it’s Bush who was reviled abroad. GOP candidates promising to restore global respect for the White House have a problem: they’re six years too late.
The sooner Republicans realize this, the better. It’s not just a matter of saying things that are true – though I tend to think that’s an appealing quality in a presidential candidate – it’s also the fact that GOP confusion is causing some Republicans trouble. Remember, it was just a couple of weeks ago that Scott Walker said British Prime Minister David Cameron told the governor directly that he’s unsatisfied with Obama’s leadership. The incident quickly blew up in Walker’s face.
If Republicans want to argue that Obama shouldn’t be popular abroad, fine. But reality is not in dispute.