Barack Obama ran for president in 2008 based in part on the promise that he would restore America’s standing in the world, and a new Gallup poll released today shows that he has done just that. Respondents in 100 countries were surveying and the United States was the most popular world power at 47%. This is a roughly 14% increase in America’s global standing since the Bush administration.
Gallup found that Obama has managed to turn the US from the power that trailed Japan, Germany, France, Russia, and even China from 2007-2008 into the most popular of the world’s global powers. US leadership is now approved of by 47% of the world and only 25% disapprove. Germany is second with a 40%/17% approval to disapproval ratio. France was third with a 39% approval rating followed by Japan (37%), the UK (35%), China (31%), and Russia (27%).
The poll also found that by nearly a 4 to 1 margin, the US is the most popular migration destination. Canada and the UK were tied for second at 7%. I can already hear conservatives snickering and saying, “Of course Obama made us popular around the world, he is always apologizing,” and then throwing in some variant of their belief that real leaders like tyrants must be despised.
However as Gallup pointed out a recent study has shown a potential real world impact that global popularity can have on terrorism, “Princeton economist Alan Krueger’s recent analysis in Science magazine of 19 countries in the Middle East and North Africa suggests there is a statistical link between global leadership approval ratings and terrorist attacks. The findings should not be misconstrued to mean that lower approval ratings equal more terrorist attacks. The main takeaway is that the “…results are inconsistent with one hypothesis: that public opinion is irrelevant for terrorism because terrorists are extremists who act independently of their countrymen’s attitudes toward the leadership of the countries that they attack.”
The hypothesis presented above is one most frequently relied on conservatives. America should go it alone because the terrorists hate our freedoms and are going to attack us no matter what we do. What conservatives ignore when they discount the value of global popularity is the role that it plays in winning the hearts of potential extremists. If the US can create an environment where people grow up and live with a favorable impression of America, then this can be used to negate the message of extremists before it has a chance to take root.
It is also much easier to build an international coalition when your leader doesn’t spend his free time pissing off the rest of the world. Even though Republicans like Sarah Palin love to paint Obama as a globally reviled international failure, the opposite looks to be true. Obama and his administration’s policies have rebuilt America’s image aboard. The rest of the world is beginning to trust America to lead again.
In the eyes of the world the image of America as a cowboy nation with no respect for the concept of freedom and the very values that is was founded on is slipping by the wayside. Obama has rebuilt our nation’s global standing, and helped to potentially increase our future security.
To borrow a phrase from George W. Bush, “Mission Accomplished.” Heck of job, President Obama.