Monday, April 19, 2010

The BBC World Poll

According to a new poll by the BBC, world opinion of the U.S. has improved since Barack Obama became president.
For the first time since the annual poll began in 2005, America's influence in the world is now seen as more positive than negative.
This warms the hearts of liberals, who think that international affairs is a popularity contest, and that the opinion of foreigners is more important than an aggressive pursuit of U.S. national interests. The poll also notes that there are two countries where views of the U.S. turned negative. Unfortunately, both are important to American interests.
The only countries where perceptions of the United States became more negative overall were Turkey (where the proportion with positive perceptions of the United States fell from 21 per cent to 13 per cent and negative perceptions increased from 63 to 70 per cent), and in India (where positive perceptions dipped from 43 per cent to 39 per cent and negative views increased from 20 to 28 per cent).

I don't think the president has much to do with the shift in Turkey, where the rise of Islamist sentiment has turned it from a strong ally to a nominal one, but apparently India, a much more important ally, has not been too impressed with the U.S. under Obama. Overall though, I'd be wary of reading too much into this poll. It's not surprising that weak leadership and failure to advance U.S. interests leads some to view the U.S. more favorably. But if you look at the details of the poll, which considered 27 different countries, you find of those surveyed only 19% had a favorable view of Israel's influence, with a full 50% seeing it as a negative influence on the world. In comparison, Russia received a 30% favorable rating, with only 37% percent seeing it as a negative influence. North Korea is a 17% favorable, only 2% below Israel, and only 48% see it negatively.

When world opinion sees North Korea and Israel in the same light, and has much more positive impressions of Russia and China, world opinion is pretty worthless.

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