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Survey: World's opinion of US, Obama slips

Global overall confidence in and attitudes toward the United States have slipped since the beginning of President Barack Obama's presidency, a new survey of 21 countries by the Pew Research Center's Global Attitudes Project showed.

But while confidence in Obama -- and with it the United States -- fell, people in a large number of countries continued to say they were confident in the president's foreign policy leadership, according to the poll. This did not hold true among many in predominantly Muslim countries, among them key American allies. 

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In Europe, favorable attitudes toward the United States fell seven points from 2009 to 60 percent in 2012, and 10 points in Muslim countries, to 15 percent. 

Confidence in Obama himself in Europe declined six points during the same period to a still-robust 80 percent. But the study showed fewer than three-in-ten in Egypt, Tunisia, Turkey and Jordan expressed confidence in Obama.

Confidence in Obama plummeted 24 points to 38 percent in China.

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Opinions about the United States were not close to historic lows, however, according to Richard Wike, associate director of the Pew Global Attitudes Project.

"It is worth keeping in mind when talking about Obama and America's image, he is still considerably higher than during (the presidency of George W.) Bush," Wike said. "In 2009, we generally saw a real improvement in America's image (and) in general that pattern still holds."

Read the Pew report here

With Obama's presidency, the biggest improvements in the United States' image occurred among Europeans, with people in France, Spain, and Germany registering a positive view of the U.S. that is at least 20 percentage points higher than in 2008, the study showed.

Opinions about the United States also got a big boost in Japan, where 72 percent expressed a favorable opinion of the country, up from 50 percent four years ago. America's image in Japan improved dramatically in 2011, thanks in large part to relief efforts following the March earthquake and tsunami that devastated parts of that country.

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But a major sore point for many was the United States' ongoing drone-strikes policy. In 17 of 20 countries surveyed, more than half disapproved of American drone attacks targeting extremists in countries such as Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.

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About a year after he ordered the Abbottabad raid that killed Osama bin Laden, just seven percent of Pakistanis have a positive view of Obama, the same percentage that voiced confidence in President George W. Bush during the final year of his administration. 

"Obama's effect that we've seen on America's image in much of the world really hasn't happened in many of the predominantly Muslim countries that we survey," Wike said. 

Another shift in opinion came with the world's view of China in the economic balance of power. Among the 14 countries surveyed each year from 2008 to 2012, 45 percent said the U.S. was the world's top economic power in 2008, while just 22 percent said China. Today, only 36 percent said the U.S. was the leading economic power, while 42 percent said it was China.

The Pew Research Center's Global Attitudes Project surveyed 26,000 people in 21 countries from March 17 to April 20.

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