All Countries in BBC Poll Prefer Obama to McCain

All Countries in BBC Poll Prefer Obama to McCain

September 9, 2008

Full Report (PDF)

All 22 countries in a BBC World Service poll would prefer Democratic nominee Barack Obama elected US president instead of his Republican rival John McCain. Obama is preferred by a four to one margin on average across the 22,000 people polled.

The margin in favour of Obama ranges from just 9 per cent in India to 82 per cent in Kenya. On average 49 per cent prefer Obama to 12 per cent preferring McCain. Nearly four in ten do not take a position.

The poll also explored the expected impact of the US election. In 17 of the 22 countries surveyed the most common view is that, if Barack Obama is elected president, America’s relations with the rest of the world are likely to get better. If John McCain is elected, the most common view in 19 countries is that relations will stay about the same as they are now.

On average 46 per cent think that US relations with the world would get better with Obama, 22 per cent that relations would stay the same, and 7 per cent that they would get worse. However only 20 per cent think relations would get better under McCain. The largest number – 37 per cent – think relations under a McCain presidency would stay the same and 16 per cent think they would get worse.

The countries most optimistic that an Obama presidency would improve relations are America’s NATO allies – Canada (69%), France (62%), Germany (61%), United Kingdom (54%), Italy (64%) – as well as Australia (62%) and the African countries Kenya (87%) and Nigeria (71%).

Despite the preference for an Obama victory in all countries, significant proportions in several said they do not favor either candidate, favour both equally or do not know which would be preferable. This was particularly the case in Russia, where 75 per cent do not express a preference between the candidates, but also in Turkey (63%) and Egypt (61%).

When asked whether the election as US president of Barack Obama, an African-American man, would “fundamentally change” their perception of the United States, 46 per cent said it would while 27 per cent said that it would not.

The US public was polled separately and Americans also believe an Obama presidency would improve US relations with the world more than a McCain presidency, with 46 per cent of Americans expecting relations to be improved with Obama’s election and 30 per cent with McCain’s.

The results are drawn from a survey of 22,531 adult citizens across 22 countries conducted for the BBC World Service by the international polling firm GlobeScan together with the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) at the University of Maryland. A parallel poll surveyed 1,000 US adult citizens. GlobeScan coordinated fieldwork between July 8, 2008 and August 27, 2008.

GlobeScan Chairman Doug Miller comments, “Large numbers of people around the world clearly like what Barack Obama represents.

“Given how negative America’s international image is at present, it is quite striking that only one in five think a McCain presidency would improve on the Bush Administration’s relations with the world.”

The poll is part of the BBC’s coverage of the 2008 US presidential elections. The BBC will be bringing a unique perspective to the race by having radio, tv and online journalists reporting from a bus travelling across America over the coming weeks. Among the reporters on the bus will be those from the BBC’s Arabic, Hindi and Russian language services (

America’s global image has suffered in recent years. A BBC World Service Poll earlier this year showed that an average of 49 per cent of people in countries surveyed have a negative view of US influence in the world compared to 32 per cent who view it positively.

A similar poll conducted for BBC World Service by GlobeScan ahead of the 2004 US presidential election found that, of 35 countries polled, 30 preferred to see Democratic nominee John Kerry, rather than incumbent George Bush, elected president. At the time, the Philippines, Nigeria and Poland were among the few countries to favour Bush’s re-election. All three now favour Barack Obama over John McCain.

Participating Countries

Note: In Brazil, China, Egypt, Lebanon, Mexico, Panama, the Philippines, Turkey, and UAE urban samples were used. Please see page 6 for details.

Detailed Findings

The countries with the largest majorities favouring Obama as US president are Kenya (87%), Italy (76%), France (69%), Australia (67%), Canada (66%), and Germany (65%). While no country has more favouring McCain, in five countries the largest numbers do not take a position either way and thus the per cent in favour of Obama is fairly small. These include Russia (18% for Obama), Singapore (29%), Turkey (26%), India (24%), and Egypt (26%).

Demographically, Obama support worldwide tends to be strongest amongst youth and the more educated, but the differences are not dramatic. He enjoys 51 per cent support among those under 35 years of age and 47 per cent support from those aged 55 and older. Likewise he has the support of 61 per cent of those with university education and 40 per cent of those with only primary education.

The levels of support for McCain range from 5 per cent in Kenya to 27 per cent in Lebanon (where 39% support Obama).

While people in most countries think that an Obama presidency would improve relations with the world, three predominantly Muslim countries are among those least likely to say so. The most common view in Turkey is that relations even under an Obama presidency would get worse (28%), while the most common view is that relations would stay the same in Egypt (34%) and Lebanon (42%). This is also the most common view in Russia (22%) and Singapore (28%). However, of these, only Singapore and Turkey have a more positive view of the impact of a McCain presidency.

In no country do most people think that a McCain presidency would worsen relations. But the view that he would actually improve relations is the most common view in only three countries and in all of them it is by a modest margin: in China (31%) feel this way, India (35%), and Nigeria (31%).

Americans tend to share the predominant view expressed in other countries that an Obama presidency would improve US relations with the world, with 46 per cent taking that position, 19 per cent saying that relations would stay the same and 27 per cent saying they would get worse. Also similar to the rest of the world, the most common view (held by 41% of Americans) is that relations would remain the same under a McCain presidency, while 30 per cent of Americans think they would get better and 22 per cent that they would get worse.

In fifteen countries the dominant position was that, because Obama is an African-American, if he were to be elected it would fundamentally change their perception of the United States. Not surprisingly it would have the biggest impact on Kenyans (85%) and Nigerians (69%). But large numbers also say they would be impressed in Egypt (65%) and America’s neighbours/allies Mexico (60%), Australia (59%), and Canada (54%). In only two countries do majorities say that it would not fundamentally affect their view of America–Poland (59%) and Lebanon (51%), while a plurality take this position in Turkey (40%) and Russia (26%). In three others, views are divided on this question–Italy, Singapore, and Brazil.

In total 23,531 citizens in Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Egypt, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Kenya, Lebanon, Mexico, Nigeria, Panama, the Philippines, Poland, Russia, Singapore, Turkey, the UAE, the UK and the USA were interviewed face-to-face or by telephone in July and August 2008. Polling was conducted for the BBC World Service by the international polling firm GlobeScan and its research partners in each country. In 9 of the 23 countries, the sample was limited to major urban areas. The margin of error per country ranges from +/-2.4 to 4.4 per cent, 19 times out of 20.



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