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World Views

Mitt Romney’s Kenyan connection, Barack Obama’s problem with Pakistan, and other insights from global polls

The BBC polled nations around the world to see where peopled stand on the American presidential race. The unsurprising result? President Obama takes the international “vote” in a landslide, no doubt in part due to the wide visibility of the incumbent abroad.

Obama earned plaudits abroad on his first election campaign too, as this 2008 Gallup survey of world public opinion shows. The two polls aren’t directly comparable, as they involved different countries and perhaps methodologies. Nonetheless, it’s worth remarking that, if they are compared, while Obama had a 3:1 lead over John McCain in 2008, he has a 5:1 lead over Romney.

Obama’s exception? Pakistan, the unhappy venue for much of America’s drone war on terrorism, where slightly more of the population backs Romney. Obama hasn’t had a great relationship with the country since he stated his willingness to bypass Pakistani approval to go after Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, and then went ahead and did so 2011.

Strangely, Kenya boasts major support for Romney. Nearly 20% of Kenyans favor Romney’s election, a greater depth of support for the Republican than any other country surveyed, and far more than the 3% GOP nominee John McCain received in 2008. However, President Obama also garners huge support—some 65% of the population in his father’s homeland back him for reelection. The unusual intensity of the opposition to Obama there might reflect the country’s interest in American politics, or a simply reflect domestic political tensions mapped on to the US election.

Germany goes for Obama. Maybe it’s no surprise given his reception there in 2008, but Obama has done well to maintain his popularity despite the tensions between debt-wary Germans and the comparatively profligate United States since the financial crisis. I’ve always thought Obama would have fit in well with Germany’s center-right Christian Democratic Union.

China far more interested today than in 2008. We’ve already told you about China’s interest in the US election, and this new data bears that out: When the country was polled in 2008, only 17% of respondents could summon an opinion on Obama and his rival, Republican Senator John McCain. This year, the BBC finds nearly 30% of China’s citizens supportive of Obama, with nearly 10% behind Romney. The same phenomenon holds true in India: Stronger opinions about both candidates in 2012, where Gallup found little interest in 2008.

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