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Survey: Obama's more popular abroad than at home

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • Pew Research Center sampled attitudes from 22 countries on Obama, U.S.
  • In traditionally friendly Muslim nations, U.S. favorability rating down noticeably
  • Obama's popularity much higher in some foreign countries than it is in the U.S.

(CNN) -- A recent international survey shows President Barack Obama's popularity is much higher in many foreign countries than it is in the United States.

And the survey says world opinion of the U.S., which spiked in 2009 when Obama first took office, has generally remained far more positive during Obama's tenure than it was during George W. Bush's presidency.

According to the Pew Research Center's latest Global Attitudes Survey of more than 24,000 people in 22 countries, 79 percent of South Koreans have a favorable image of America. U.S. favorability is at 74 percent in Poland, and at 63 percent in Brazil.

Kenya appears to like the U.S. best of all, posting a 94 percent favorability rating.

Across the 22 countries, 63 percent of people expressed confidence in Obama and 58 percent expressed overall approval of his international policies. His ratings were overwhelmingly positive in Europe and in most of the Asian countries surveyed. At home in the U.S., an average of six major polls shows that 48 percent approve of how Obama is handling his job.

But the view of the U.S. and Obama is much dimmer in Muslim countries. After a slight uptick in 2009, America's favorability rating in traditionally friendly Muslim nations has dropped noticeably.

The U.S. favorability rating fell to 17 percent of respondents in Egypt, the lowest ranking in the survey, down from 27 percent. Turkey, a key U.S. ally, and Pakistan also posted 17 percent favorability ratings toward America.

Turkey's favorable views of Obama dropped to 23 percent of respondents, compared to 33 percent of respondents last year.

"We see the same pattern just about all Muslim countries," Pew Research Center President Andrew Kohut told CNN. "He's still better regarded than President Bush, but he's less well-regarded than he was a year ago."

This year's 176-page survey report notes that "significant percentages continue to worry that the U.S. could become a military threat to their country."

The report says that even beyond Muslim countries, "majorities continue to see the U.S. as acting unilaterally in world affairs."

"There is general confidence in (Obama's) foreign policy but when we get to specifics, it sort of falls apart," Kohut said. "There is a mixed view about the way he's handling Afghanistan, a mixed view of the way he's handling Iraq and Iran, in much of the world."

Since 2001, the Pew Research Center's Global Attitudes Project has conducted worldwide public opinion surveys and analyses on a broad range of subjects, including views and attitudes toward the U.S. and American foreign policy, according to the center's website. The group describes itself as a "nonpartisan fact tank."

Obama for the most part get high marks abroad for his approach to climate change and other issues, according to Pew.

"Most of the world, except here in the United States, gave him pretty strong grades for dealing with the global recession," Kohut said. "Fifty-eight percent outside of the United States, 46 percent approval inside the United States. So there's the disconnect."

Contrary to Pew surveys conducted during President George W. Bush's presidency, the report shows that America's favorability rating in Western Europe is "overwhelmingly positive," according to the survey report, which also says "confidence in Obama to do the right thing in world affairs remains high: 90% express confidence in Germany, 87% in France, 84% in Britain and 69% in Spain."

Not surprisingly, U.S. favorability in Mexico has declined in what the report called "the Arizona Effect," a reference to the state's new SB 1070, which gives Arizona expanded immigration enforcement powers. The rating went from 62 percent in polling conducted before the law's enactment to 44 percent afterward.

But overall, internationally, "the American people are well regarded, and some of the discontents that we saw in the Bush years with the American people have more or less disappeared ... except in the Muslim world," Kohut said.