June 4, 2009
By Michelle Nichols
NEW YORK, June 4 (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama has boosted his country's image abroad by six points since his election in November with a 22-nation poll on Thursday showing 42 percent of people expressing a favorable view of America.
As Obama prepares to speak to the Muslim world in Cairo in a bid to repair tattered U.S. relations, the Ipsos/Reuters survey showed a 25 point jump in favorable views of America in Turkey, the only majority Muslim nation polled, to 49 percent.
The poll was taken between April 14 and May 7, shortly after Obama visited Istanbul and met with religious leaders as part of a bid to unite moderates of faiths against extremism.
"This suggests that any sort of strategy to engage with the Muslim world puts a premium on him as the messenger and going there and talking to them," said Clifford Young of Ipsos Global Public Affairs, the international market research and polling company that carried out the online poll of 22,000 people.
"There's this very positive Obama effect and he is contributing significantly to increasing the U.S. credibility around the world," he said.
In India, where the Muslim population is a minority but still one of the largest in the world at 140 million or double the number of Turkish Muslims, the positive view of America rose one point to 73 percent, while in China, where there are about 20 million Muslims, it rose eight points to 42 percent.
Obama, whose father was Muslim and who lived as a boy in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, hopes to mend a U.S. image damaged by former President George W. Bush's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the treatment of U.S. military detainees.
He visited Saudi Arabia on Wednesday and met with King Abdullah. On Thursday the first black U.S. president will speak to the Muslim world when he gives an address in Egypt.
An Ipsos poll of 7,000 people in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan in March found that an average 48 percent had a favorable view of Obama, while 33 percent had a positive view of the United States.
Obama's Middle East trip and planned Cairo speech drew condemnation from al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, who said in a taped message that the U.S. leader had planted seeds for "revenge and hatred" towards America in the Muslim world.
"A six percent improvement in six months at the global level -- that's fairly significant," Young said. "Obama's especially having an effect in those countries that had the most doubt about the United States."
"We're seeing a honeymoon effect," Young said. "That doesn't necessarily mean it has to decline, it means it has to be reinforced with concrete actions on the ground."
Along with Turkey, six other countries posted double digit rises in favorable views toward America -- France, 13 points to 39 percent, Belgium, 12 points to 36 percent, Germany, 11 points to 31 percent, The Netherlands, 11 points to 27 percent, Canada, 10 points to 44 percent, and Spain, 10 points to 43 percent.
Only three of the 22 countries polled did not record any increase in the positive image of America -- Russia remained unchanged at 18 percent, the lowest ranking, while in Poland it dropped four points to 48 percent, and the Czech Republic fell one point to 35 percent.
Ipsos polled people in the United States, Canada, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, South Korea, China, Japan, Australia, India, Russia, Czech Republic, Poland, Turkey, Sweden, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, France, Spain, and Britain.
The 22 countries polled make up 75 percent of the world's gross domestic product.Respondents in the online poll were recruited and screened, the survey said. The results are then balanced by age, gender, city population and education levels. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.1 percent