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Muslims around the world less approving of Obama

A poll of global attitudes finds support strong in most nations, but approval has dipped in Muslim countries, due in part to Obama's handling of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Detractors also take a dim view of U.S. international decisions.

June 17, 2010|By Paul Richter, Tribune Washington Bureau

Reporting from Washington — Confidence in President Obama among the world's Muslims is slipping, according to a poll of global attitudes that also found widespread concern that the United States remained a go-it-alone nation even under the new administration.

The survey, by the Pew Research Center's Global Attitudes Project, found support for Obama had remained strong in most nations even while his approval rating at home had slipped. But in five of seven Muslim nations that were polled, he was regarded with approval by about one-third or less of respondents, and his popularity had slid over the last year.

The finding is likely to be of concern to the White House, which has worked hard to improve the American image abroad, particularly in the Muslim world.

Obama got his worst grades for his handling of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Of 22 nations polled, a majority supported his approach to the issue in only three — France, Nigeria and Kenya.

Obama administration officials have been concerned about damage to the White House image in the Muslim world stemming from developments in Gaza, where Israel, a staunch U.S. ally, has been tightly restricting the flow of goods, citing the need to prevent Hamas militants in charge of Gaza from obtaining arms.

In Pakistan, the number of Muslims who approved of Obama fell from 15% to 8% over the last year. Among Muslims in Egypt, which receives billions of dollars in U.S. aid, support for Obama has fallen from 41% to 31%, and in Turkey, it has dropped from 33% to 23%.

Many of those polled said the United States didn't give enough consideration to the views of other countries when making decisions on international issues. The median number who said the United States acted unilaterally was 63%, down slightly from the 67% who used the same description in 2007, when George W. Bush was president.

In most countries, especially wealthier ones, Obama won strong support for the way he had handed the international economic crisis. The exception was the United States, where the number of those who approved of his approach was the same as those who disapproved.

In Western Europe, support for Obama remains high. Ninety percent of Germans believe Obama will do the right thing in foreign affairs, compared with 65% of Americans.

Approval of the United States among Mexicans tumbled after Arizona enacted a law giving police increased powers to stop and detain people suspected of being in the country illegally. Forty-four percent said after the bill's signing that they approved of the United States, compared with 62% before the signing.

The past year saw a slight uptick in the number of Muslims who said that suicide bombings and other forms of violence against civilians were justified to protect Islam from its enemies. The increase in Egypt was from 15% to 20%, and in Jordan, it rose from 12% to 20%.

Still, these levels were below those at mid-decade, after the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.

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