WASHINGTON-The outcome of the U.S. presidential election, no matter who wins, will likely have a positive impact on the international media's perception of the United States, according to two separate polls.
In an informal poll, the majority of the polled participants, all members of the international media, stated that electing a minority would resonate positively throughout the international media spectrum.
The importance of improving the United States’ image abroad has become evident to all three presidential candidates, as a panel discussion held at American University demonstrated. Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy advisor, Lee Feinstein explained the importance of being respected in the international community.
“The way you’re viewed today is important because of the kinds of challenges we’re facing right now. We’re more powerful than all other countries… but we are fighting two ground wars… and a resurgent Al Qaeda… our closes friends in Europe who are increasingly alienated from us.” Feinstein continuted,” It actually really matters that we have a reputation around the world because we cannot address these problems on our own.”
The 2008 US Presidential Elections are being followed closely by the international media. The Financial Times, a British publication, published an op-ed devoted to warning the Britons of the dangers of a McCain Presidency.
The BBC devoted an entire webpage to the US elections, complete with blogs and columnists along with articles that cover every minute aspect of the US Presidential Elections.
Why? The world has an invested interest in the leader of the United States since it holds the position of being the sole superpower, and thus its policies reverberate internationally, according to Nina Gomez, a Mexican reporter based in Tijuana.
Dozens of foreign-based webpages have emerged, focusing on educating non-Americans about the US Presidential Elections. In an interview with Fariba Amini, an Iranian journalist, Amini explained the significance of the election to the international community.
I think its historical because finally there might be a candidate who sees the world differently- and who isn’t ethnocentric or US-centric- Obama’s message is an honest message, and even if he isn't elected, at least it’s a start,” Amini explained. “It shows that people in the country really want changes, both domestically, economically and internationally.”
Of the three candidates, Obama has garnered, if not the most support worldwide, at least the most ardent. A tiny village town in Japan has had “Obama day,” and The World Wants Obama Coalition has links to 20 other organizations supporting Obama.
The Wall Street Journal recently published an article, written by three journalists, stationed in Latin America, Africa and Europe respectively, in which they noted the fervid interest in Obama.
This time around, all three candidates have made restoring America's stature abroad a key part of their foreign-policy platforms, making overseas opinions of the U.S. of greater interest to American voters. And the fact that Sen. Obama -- a man with African and Muslim roots and an Arabic middle name, Hussein -- could become U.S. president has created buzz around the world.” The Wall Street Journal article continued,”In Germany, the title of a recent book, "Obama: the Black Kennedy," echoes frequent newspaper headlines comparing Sen. Obama with Germany's favorite former U.S. president. In Kenya, the homeland of Sen. Obama's father, people order the local beer, Senator, by asking for an ‘Obama’."
The WorldWantsObama.Org states in its manifesto that its purpose is to “build a global movement to show American that there are millions of people around the globe that back Obama, and encourage America to engage with international opinion.”
Obama has come to represent the “American Dream” and everything that the international community likes about the United States, according to Dominique Moisi, a French writer.
“Barack Obama campaigning under the banner of “hope,” is the ideal choice to restore, as if by magic, America’s soft power. After all, he himself incarnates the American dream.” Moisi concluded that, “The best America for Europe and the world is a confident America, one that sheds its culture of fear and rediscovers the roots of its culture of hope. This is Obama’s America.”
Moisi is far from the only one to hold that opinion. The participants polled also tended to skew towards supporting Barack Obama, with 68.8% stating that they believe Barack Obama would be the best leader for the United States. Not a single participant thought that McCain would be the best president.
However, in the informal poll, Asia and the Pacific only consisted of small part of the respondents, and Latin America only consisted of fifth. McCain is favored by much of Asia, specifically India and China, for his economic trade views. Roger Cohen of the International Herald Tribune discussed Asia’s view in a recent article.
On specifics, the big Asian powers have also felt more comfortable with Republican policy.” Cohen went on to explain that, “In India, the general feeling is that the Republicans are more free-trade oriented, less likely to pile on single-issue objections over outsourcing or child labor, and more ready to take a bold pro-Indian strategic approach.”
Hillary Clinton is popular in Latin America because of Bill Clinton’s administration policies towards Latin America, according to Cohen.
A poll conducted by The Financial Times questioned residents of Germany, France, Great Britain, United States and Spain indicates that outside of the international media sector, European residents tend to lean towards Hillary Clinton. In any case, it revealed that Europe is much more open to an idea of a female president than the United States.
Residents of European countries believed that electing a woman would be very positive for the United States. The United States was the sole exception, with a quarter of respondents stating that they think that a woman being elected would have a negative impact.
The end results of the poll concluded that residents of Great Britain and the United States view a black president more positively, whereas, Germany, Italy, France and Spain are more positive about having a female president.
Much of the Middle East supports Obama over Clinton. Amini said that, despite Iran’s restrictive treatment towards women, the people of Iran’s preference of Obama and McCain over Clinton is not gender based.
“I think that they would be upset not because she was a woman but because she is opportunistic- one day she was for the way, the other [day] she wasn’t- one day she was for talking to Iran, next day she wasn't. She supported the war in Iraq, now she doesn't. Nothing to do about being a women, but because they see her stances being influenced by the very important Israeli lobbyist in the U.S.,”Amini said.
Amini continued to negate the role of gender in Iranian opinion. “
They are used to powerful women in the US. They see Condi (Condoleezza Rice)- they are disgusted- because of her governmental stance – not because she is black or a woman. Obama has been conciliatory- that’s why they prefer him, he wants to break the ice.”
Even if McCain is elected, the international community will still grant him the benefit of the doubt, despite his party’s unpopularity internationally. Mark Dillon, a writer for the Public Diplomacy website, expanded on why McCain would still have the support of the international community at the outset of his term.
Dillon explained that since McCain has a history of bipartisanism and has distanced himself from the Bush administration’s position on climate change, the international community sees him differently than other republicans.
“Most anti-Americanism is focused on the person of George W. Bush,” Dillon said. “Any new U.S. President who promises a new spirit of cooperation with the world will be listened to.”