What if the world could vote in the U.S. election?
Sure, polling may suggest that the world isn't following the 2012 U.S. election as closely as it did the 2008 presidential race, when a wildly popular Barack Obama embarked on his quest to replace the deeply unpopular George W. Bush.
But that doesn't mean people overseas don't care about the campaign's outcome. In a recent UPI/C-Voter/WIN-Gallup International poll, which surveyed more than 26,000 men and women in 32 countries, 62 percent of respondents said that the U.S. president has a high or very high impact on their lives, and 42 percent felt they should have the right to vote in this year's contest for that very reason. When you call yourself the leader of the free world, you'd better believe the world is going to take an interest in who you are.
So what would the election look like if the world really could vote? The short answer: nothing like the razor-thin race unfolding at home. Obama is preferred over Mitt Romney in 31 out of 32 countries in the UPI poll and 20 out of 21 countries in another BBC World Service/ GlobeScan/PIPA survey. Fifty-one percent of respondents in the UPI poll said they would cast a ballot for Obama, with more people saying they wouldn't vote for either candidate (18 percent) than would vote for the Republican nominee (12 percent). Here's how we might break down the global electorate.
There is really only one red (foreign) state in this election, and it's Israel. In a poll conducted last week, 52 percent of Israelis said a Romney win would be preferable for Israeli interests, compared with 25 percent who said the same about Obama. The divide was starker among Jewish Israelis, with support for the GOP candidate strongest among right-wingers. A plurality of Arab Israelis, by contrast, favored Obama over Romney.
The world over, the current president may have no stauncher friend than France. In poll after poll, the French top the list of Obama backers, with support ranging from the low 70s to the low 90s, depending on the survey. Many Western and Northern European nations -- including Denmark, Finland, Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom -- are similarly enthusiastic.
Elsewhere in the world, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, and Panama are staunchly in the Obama camp, with support hovering around the 60s. Obama is polling in the 50s and 60s in Asia-Pacific countries such as Australia, Indonesia (where Obama lived as a young boy), and South Korea, and in the 60s and 70s in African countries like Cameroon and Nigeria.
LIGHT BLUE STATES
This category overlaps with others on the list, but the countries involved constitute something of a special case: All have grown markedly disillusioned with Obama over the past four years.
Support for Obama in Kenya, once the home of the president's late father, has declined from a staggering 87 percent in 2008 to 66 percent today, according to the BBC, while support for his Republican challenger has risen from 5 percent to 18 percent during the same period. "Compared to other past U.S. presidents and in particular President Bush, who had very low approval levels when he left office, the Obama administration has not in any way improved relations with Africa or has had any specific economic and social policy favoring Africans," Kenyan lawyer Dann Mwangi recently noted in The Standard.
The same poll shows support for Obama falling in Mexico, China and Poland. But Romney has not capitalized on Obama's declining support in China. Instead, Chinese news outlets and officials have repeatedly condemned "China-bashing" by both candidates.
In the global context, it's helpful to think of swing states not as those that could break for either Obama or Romney but rather as countries where support for the candidates is tepid and where roughly half or more of the population wouldn't vote for either of the presidential aspirants.
Light Blue countries like China, Mexico, and Poland might also fit into this category. But so would several other nations where Obama is polling anywhere from the 20s to the 40s and Romney is stuck in the single digits or low teens. These include Ecuador and Peru in Latin America; Hong Kong and India in Asia; Iraq, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, and Turkey in the Middle East; and Bulgaria, Georgia, Macedonia, Romania, and Slovakia in Eastern Europe.
Greece might fall into this camp as well. In Russia, meanwhile, Obama is beating Romney by a margin of 27-12, according to the German Marshall Fund's Transatlantic Trends survey. Russian President Vladimir Putin has dismissed Romney's characterization of Russia as America's top geopolitical foe and described Obama as a "very honest man."
For its consistent and overwhelming opposition toward both major-party U.S. presidential candidates -- hostility that has only been inflamed by drone strikes and the Osama bin Laden raid -- Pakistan deserves a category of its own. A surprising result of the BBC's global opinion poll was that more Pakistanis supported Romney (14 percent) than Obama (11 percent). But the larger story is that the vast majority of Pakistanis didn't choose either candidate.
With headlines like "Poor choice for Americans" and "The US elections mean nothing for Pakistan," it's clear the Pakistani press agrees with public opinion.
What are the broader lessons we can learn from all these statistics? According to UPI data, countries that enthusiastically support Obama tend to cite the candidates' competence, personality, and personal background as the main factors, while countries that are supportive of Romney tend to mention the candidates' policies toward their nations. More broadly, it appears that, with some exceptions, Israel is Romney country and Northern and Western Europe is Obama country, with a skeptical rest of the world in the middle. As for Pakistan? Perhaps they'll flock to Ron Paul.