If the world could vote, Barack Obama would most likely win in a landslide.
A new BBC World Service poll surveyed people in 22 countries and found that, in every one of them, Democratic nominee Barack Obama was favored over Republican candidate John McCain. On average, 49 percent would like to see Obama prevail, while only 12 percent prefer McCain, according to the survey of 22,531 adult citizens of the 22 countries. The rest offered no preference.
The pro-Obama margin differed widely—from 82 percentage points in Kenya (where Obama's father was born) to 9 percentage points in India.
Obama's African-American heritage appears to be one key factor. By a margin of 46 percent to 27 percent, those polled overseas said his election as president would "fundamentally change" their perception of the United States.
The clear finding of global preference for Obama may not be an entirely good thing for his political prospects at home, though. After the Illinois senator delivered a widely praised foreign policy speech to more than 200,000 people in Berlin in July, McCain aides sought to portray Obama's foreign foray as emblematic of his purported distance from the concerns of ordinary Americans. A McCain spokesman, Tucker Bounds, sniped at Obama for describing himself as a "citizen of the world" and pointedly noted that McCain was campaigning in front of "the American citizens who will decide this election." McCain himself said he'd like to deliver a speech in Berlin some day—"as president of the United States rather than as a candidate." (It turns out he had given a talk in Canada the previous month.)
The poll could still be good news on the foreign policy front for Obama, should he win in November. Several of the nations most enthusiastic about an Obama presidency are key allies, such as Canada, France, Germany, Britain, and Italy. That goodwill could, to some degree, strengthen Obama's hand in asking for more allied help in Afghanistan, dealings with Russia, and other issues. It could be a source of "soft power" for a president trying to galvanize overseas support for U.S. initiatives.
The optimism about Obama abroad could itself help improve relationships that were wounded amid the controversies sprouting from President Bush's actions in Iraq and on arms control, global warming, and other issues—actions often characterized overseas as reflecting Bush's go-it-alone instincts. Among those asked, 46 percent believe U.S. relations with the world would improve with an Obama White House, while only 20 percent said so with regard to a McCain presidency.