Many American reports are out today, including this article in the Christian Science Monitor, citing the just released Pew Global Attitudes Survey that President Obama’s rock star status in the world has severely declined. I could have told you this, as it comes as no surprise to this American, but some of the data in the report is quite revealing. Obama’s support for deadly drone strikes has all but evaporated any goodwill he had in Muslim majority countries. (Anyone remember his famous Cairo speech in 2009?) The world’s majority does not support the Obama drone campaign, with the American people (62%) still mostly in support of such actions to take out extremists and Al Qaeda supporters.
Not only has Obama’s popularity waned, but also the perception that the United States is the leading economy in the world.
The Obama era has coincided with major changes in international perceptions of American power – especially U.S. economic power. The global financial crisis and the steady rise of China have led many to declare China the world’s economic leader, and this trend is especially strong among some of America’s major European allies.
Four years ago, a plurality of 45 percent in the 14 countries also surveyed in this year’s poll named the US as the king of the global economic hill, as opposed to 22 percent who picked China. Today 42 percent place China in the throne, while the percentage naming the US has slipped to 36.
In European countries especially, China is viewed as the leading economic power: About two-thirds of Germans hold this opinion, while nearly 60 percent of Britons, French, and Spaniards do as well.
Thanks a lot, Europe, especially you, Germany, where nearly four years ago in August 2008 several hundred thousand of your own citizens cheered on the American presidential candidate Obama as he spoke in Berlin. Check out this Associated Press photo of Obama’s fans in Berlin.
“Those were the days, my friend, we thought they’d never end,”goes the old song made popular by Welsh singer, Mary Hopkin. Seriously, this China economic power number one ranking is a somewhat shocking perception, but I recall telling many a listener when I lived in Beijing in 2007 that this century would not be called “The American Century,” but rather “The China Century,” thanks to not only China’s growing economy but also its super culture power status (Confucius Institutes, for example). Little did I know then that a mere five years later many parts of the world would view China the greater economic power over the United States. Interestingly, 48% of the Chinese people surveyed by Pew still consider the United States the world’s economic leader versus just 29% citing China. For the record, the United States is still the world’s strongest economy. Most of the US slippage is due to the perception that the dollar is not the leading economic indicator it once was.
The US president, much less the United States, may not hold rock star status in Europe these days, but we can cast our eyes across the Pacific to our Northeast Asian treasured ally. Here is what the Pew Global Attitudes Survey had to say, and I thank you in advance:
In Japan, 72% currently express a favorable opinion of the U.S., up from 50% four years ago. America’s image in Japan improved dramatically in 2011, due in part to American relief efforts following the devastating March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Fully 85% of Japanese respondents expressed a positive view of the U.S. in last year’s poll.
Is there anything about this drop in Obama’s popularity that surprises you? How about the United States? Do you think we obsess over our position in the world more than other countries? I think we do. After all, we are the nation of celebrity, and just like actress Sally Field once said after winning her second Oscar® for Best Actress, “you like me right now, you like me,” America really wants to be liked, not just in the Facebook sense.