June 12, 2008 -- 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.
Obama Trusted to 'Do the Right Thing'
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.
Poll Reflects Low Confidence in Bush
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."
Despite earlier Pew polls reporting the rise in anti-Americanism throughout the world, especially in countries in the Middle East, Brooks said there is a basic faith people around the world in the nature of the U.S.
"The one thing people say, even in the Middle East, is that they like the way we do business here," Brooks said.
"There is a basic faith in the American way," agreed Kohut.
However many people around the world believe the United States has a double-standard when it comes to human rights and foreign affairs, Naim said.
"The world is obsessed, perhaps rightly so, with what's happening in Guantanamo Bay." he said.
'Obama Is Changing the World'
People around the globe are expressing an extraordinary level of excitement and interest in the U.S. election.
Many people around the world said they are paying "close attention," the survey found.
The positive view of Obama found in the survey is reflected in numerous media reports from around the world.
"For the time being, Barack Obama is changing the world," read the Times of London last week when Obama secured the Democratic presidential nomination.
"Most Germans see Sen. Obama as a kind of mixture of JFK and Martin Luther King," Karsten Voigt, Germany's envoy of trans-Atlantic relations on Germany's ARD/ZDF morning show gushed last week.
Germany's weekly magazine Der Spiegel published a cover story featuring Obama in February with the headline: "The Messiah Factor: Barack Obama and the Longing for a New America."
In France, Obama's book "The Audacity of Hope" has been translated into French and has been a top best-seller for months.
"People are very enthusiastic about Obama, because we have a mixed population in France and we have racial and ethnic problems. So it's a source of great excitement for young Frenchmen," Denis Lacorne, professor of political studies at the Institute of Political Studies in Paris told ABC News in March.
The survey also found that people around the world are worried about the global economy and blame the United States for having a negative impact on their countries' economies.
Assessments of people around the world of their economies dimmed in 2007 and 2008, and majorities in 18 of the 24 countries surveyed described economic conditions in their countries as bad, although those in China and India did not share in that pessimism.
"The American economy is now seen as having a considerable influence — and a negative impact … on national economies, both large and small, in all parts of the world," read the survey.