Barack Obama has damaged Amerca’s standing around the world due to his “weakness” and “strained relations” with allies. Those are the charges made against Obama by some of his most vocal critics. For example, former vice-president Dick Cheney recently told Fox News host Sean Hannity that “the perception around the world is increasingly negative” when it comes to views of the United States — and that’s the direct result of “a problem with weakness” on the part of Obama.
Karl Rove, Republican consultant and former top advisor to President George W. Bush, also complained this week of “declining confidence in America’s leadership,” while 2016 Republican presidential hopeful, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, asserted that “our allies are increasingly unsure about our ability to counter both North Korea and Chinese expansionism.”
The Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan think tank that researches public opinion and policy issues, gathered data over the past 10 years about the perception of the United States, and of US presidents, in foreign countries. The Atlantic Monthly published a report this week summarizing Pew’s findings and they may be surprising. At least to Cheney, Rove, and Rubio.
In almost every region of the world, Pew found that favorable views of the United States are dramatically higher than during the Bush administration. Barack Obama personally is viewed far more positively than Bush, according to the Pew findings.
In fact, in Germany, the popularity of Barack Obama in 74 percentage points higher than Bush’s was circa 2008. In Brazil, Obama is beating Bush’s 2008 popularity rating by 52 points, and by 56 in Great Britain.
The favorable view of the United States is also high around the world. The one exception is among most countries of the Middle East, where US favorability is historically low, a trend that has been unbroken under Barack Obama.
The lone Middle Eastern country that views both the US and Obama favorably is Israel, where despite reported tensions between Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu and Obama, the United States most recently had an overwhelming 83 percent favorability rating, according to Pew.
Obama himself is viewed strongly with favor by Israelis as well, with 61 percent expressing “confidence” in Obama to “do the right thing,” and 57 percent saying they approve of Obama’s international policies.
Despite Rubio’s assertion that the United States’ Asian allies fear that Obama is not capable of standing up to North Korea and China, it is in South Korea where Obama gets his second-highest marks for his international affairs, with a whopping 73 percent approval.
Another Asian country, the Philippines, leads the way in approval for the Barack Obama foreign policy with a 76 percent approval, while in Japan — another country that could be threatened by North Korean aggression — Obama gets a 62 percent approval rating for foreign affairs.
However, if Cheney and Obama’s other critics were referring to Pakistan, they could not be more correct. In that country, Barack Obama has a virtually non-existent approval rating of four percent.
The Pew data comes from public opinion polls, not opinions of world leaders themselves. While it is essentially impossible to know in most cases what individual world leaders believe, a recent poll found that Americans’ confidence that other world leaders “respect” Barack Obama has been slipping. But to the extent that leaders of other countries reflect the views of their own citizenry, the American perception would appear at odds with the data.