At home it's all about oil spill
, a staggering deficit, high unemployment
and the blood and treasure pouring into two wars. But in most parts of the world, American President Barack Obama
remains highly popular, an international
pop star leading a country that is more warmly received in most quarters than it was under his predecessor, George W. Bush
Yet the favorable findings in an extensive Pew Research Center survey
do not extend to the Muslim world, and approval of Obama elsewhere does not necessarily equate to approval of his policies. In Egypt, America's favorability rating slipped from 27 percent to 17 percent, compared to 2009, while in Turkey, a key U.S. ally, confidence in Obama dropped 10 points to 23 percent. In many Muslim nations, the United States is still seen as a military threat.
Beyond Muslim countries, Obama get mixed marks on foreign policy
, as many of those sampled still think the U.S. moves unilaterally in world affairs, according to the Pew Global Attitudes Project
, which polled more than 24,000 people in 22 nations between April 7 and May 8. (From country to country, the margin of error ranged from 2.5 to 5 points, plus or minus.) About as many approve as disapprove of his handling of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan
and the tense situation in Iran
But Pew noted that "in a striking difference from the Bush years, these policy disagreements have not significantly dented the U.S. image. The U.S. favorability rating in Western Europe is overwhelmingly positive, and confidence in Obama to do the right thing remains high." This is especially true in Germany, Pew said, where 90 percent trust Obama, and in France
(87 percent) and Great Britain (84 percent). In the United States, 65 percent of those surveyed said they thought Obama would do the right thing in world affairs.
"In most countries, especially in wealthier nations, President Barack Obama gets an enthusiastic thumbs-up for the way he has handled the world economic crisis," a summary of the findings said. "The notable exception is the United States itself, where as many disapprove of their president's approach to the global recession as approve." With unemployment at 9.7 percent, the oil still spilling into Gulf Coast waters and a constant battering from conservative talk show hosts and bloggers, Obama's troubles at home have grown. Groups, like the Tea Party
movement, work actively to elect candidates opposed to his policies.
In late March, a CNN/Opinion Research poll gave Obama a 46 percent approval rating
on job performance and found a majority disapproved of his handling of five of seven domestic issues, including the economy. And yet, the same survey found 70 percent of Americans liked him -- that is, approved of him on a personal level. Pew put his approval rating in the United States at 47 percent -- down from 64 percent the month after he took office in 2009. Just prior to the White House announcement that BP had agreed to set up a $20 billion relief fund, a USA/Today Gallup Poll found that 71 percent of Americans
did not think the president had been tough enough on the giant oil company responsible for the disastrous spill.
From the outset of his administration, Obama seemed intent on improving America's image abroad and using his personal charisma and platform as the first African-American president to charm foreign audiences. In his first year in office, he traveled extensively, taking seven international trips to 16 foreign countries
. This year the schedule slowed down. Other than a surprise visit to Afghanistan in March and a trip to the Czech Republic in April to sign a new arms agreement with Russia, Obama has stayed home to wrestle with domestic issues. Twice, the White House postponed planned trips to Indonesia and Australia, the first time to focus on health care reform; the second time because of the spill.
But a positive impression abroad lingers. The United States is viewed favorably by 73 percent of the French, compared with 42 percent feeling positive in 2008 -- Bush's last year in office. In China, 58 percent have a favorable view, compared with 41 percent in 2008. America is off the charts in African nations, like Kenya -- Obama's father's birthplace -- and Nigeria, at 94 percent and 81 percent, respectively. Most of those nations also generally support America's anti-terror efforts, though the numbers narrow when it comes to keeping troops in Afghanistan.
But it is a different story in Muslim countries. In Pakistan and Egypt, only 17 percent of the public hold America in a good light, down a little from 2008. In Jordan, Israel's Arab neighbor, only 21 percent see the United States positively. And just 11 percent in Turkey, a NATO country, want the United States to stay in Afghanistan.
America's image also took a hit in Mexico after passage of a state law in Arizona giving the police the right to check the immigration
status of individuals they deem suspicious. The country's favorability rating tumbled to 44 percent from 62 percent before enactment of the law.
Significantly, given the 2009 worldwide recession, less than half the population was satisfied with the direction of their respective countries -- that finding included only 30 percent in the United States.