People around the world are hoping a new president in the White House will bring positive change to US foreign policy — and more trust Sen. Barack Obama rather than Sen. John McCain to "do the right thing" in world affairs, according to an international survey of 24 countries by the Pew Research Center.
"The world loves Obama," said Moises Naim, editor of Foreign Policy magazine. "If the election was held today in the world, Obama would win."
For the first time in this decade, the global image of the United States may be improving as President Bush's tenure draws to an end, according to the Pew's latest Global Attitudes Survey released Thursday.
"This improved climate of opinion about the United States reflects an anticipation of a change in the White House," said Andrew Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center.
Distrust of the United States has intensified across the world along with the Iraq War. But while America's image remains negative or mixed in most countries, there has been a modest improvement in global attitudes toward the United States since 2007 in 10 of 21 countries.
"This is an anticipatory bump," Kohut said. "People around the world think the next president will have a positive change on U.S. foreign policy."
The survey was conducted in March and April in 24 countries in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, the Americas and Africa, and includes more than 24,000 respondents.
There is a widespread belief that U.S. foreign policy "will change for the better" after the inauguration of the new president next year, among those paying attention to the fight for the White House, including large majorities in France, Spain, Germany, Nigeria and Tanzania.
In nearly every country surveyed, greater numbers express confidence in Obama that McCain when it comes to "doing the right thing" for world affairs, the survey found.
McCain is rated lower than Obama in every country surveyed except for the United States, where his rating matches Obama's, as well as in Jordan and Pakistan, where few people said they have confidence in either candidate, according to the poll.
"The Barack Obama effect is real," said New York Times columnist David Brooks, noting the inflated number of foreign journalists covering Obama on the campaign trail. "Global interest is big and obviously reflected in this poll."
Brooks said Obama's global popularity could have an effect on voters in the United States.
"The idea that Obama will give the U.S. a new vision or a new face is a powerful political argument for him," he said.
However the sentiment isn't universal. In Jordan and Egypt, more people who said they're following the election said they expect new leadership to change U.S. foreign policy for the worse.
Since the start of the war in 2002, the image of the United States has declined in many parts of the world, especially in the Middle East.
Huge majorities around the world continue to express little or no confidence in President Bush. But in anticipation of a new president, people around the world are not expressing the consistent, relentless, negativity seen over the past seven years, Kohut said.
The headline, Brooks said, can be likened to actress Sally Field's infamous Academy Award acceptance speech: "You really, really don't hate me as much as you used to."