WASHINGTON: German and Russian support for US President Barack Obama has nosedived in the past year over revelations of spying and tensions in Ukraine, an influential American research group said yesterday.
And while the United States remained relatively popular, the Pew Research Centre said it found widespread opposition to US eavesdropping as well as to the Pentagon’s use of drones overseas.
Obama’s overall favourability numbers have changed little since 2013 in the 44 nations surveyed, with a median of 56 percent expressing confidence he will “do the right thing in world affairs,” according to Pew’s sweeping survey of 48,643 adults in 44 nations.
He remains popular in much of the world, except for the Middle East, where residents of every nation surveyed except Israel gave Obama an approval rating of 35 percent or below. Pakistani favourability of Obama was at seven percent, the lowest among surveyed countries.
Israelis’ Obama favourability jumped 10 points year on year, to 71 percent, while the Chinese had a sudden infatuation with the US president, jumping 20 points to 51 percent favourability.
But he suffered a stark drop in Germany, Russia and Brazil, three nations where tensions with Washington have soared over the past year. “Revelations that Washington systematically reads both Americans’ and some foreigners’ emails and listens in on their telephone conversations appears to have significantly damaged Obama’s approval in only one European Union country: Germany,” Pew reported.
Berlin was outraged last October when it was revealed that US spy agencies tapped the mobile phone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The row escalated this month amid new revelations that German nationals were arrested on suspicion of spying for the United States, prompting German authorities to order the expulsion of the Berlin CIA station chief.
Germans’ confidence in Obama dropped to 71 percent, seventeen points down from last year, while Brazilians’ confidence in him plunged from 69 percent in 2013 to 52 percent today. Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff lashed out at Washington last year over reports that US agencies snooped on her personal communications, and she canceled a state visit to Washington in October.
“Russian faith in Obama, already quite low in 2013, is down 14 points (to 15 percent), a likely casualty of the Ukraine confrontation,” Pew said. The US reputation for protecting individual liberties appears to have taken a hit in the wake of former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden’s damning revelations about the extent of US surveillance.