Obama still popular in Europe, despite domestic decline in ratings
September 14th, 2011
11:53 AM ET

Obama still popular in Europe, despite domestic decline in ratings

By CNN's Dan Merica

While a new CNN poll has his disapproval at the highest point of his presidency, President Barack Obama's woes at home do not appear to have tainted the president in the eyes of Europeans even three years after his election was watched around the world.

The Transatlantic Trends 2011 poll, released Wednesday, shows that 75 percent of people polled in the European Union approved of Obama's handling of international issues. These numbers remain markedly higher than President Bush, who scored a 20 percent in 2008, and other of European leaders, who scored an average of 54 percent.

"Obviously, Europeans, by in large, can't vote in American elections but I think what is important here is that with presidential approval from Europe, the support of America's overall international affairs also increases," said Zsolt Nyiri, director of Transatlantic Trends.

Obama's approval is not as high as it used to be, though. In 2009, 83 percent of those samples in the European Union approved of Obama's handling of international policies.

"I think it is highly unlikely that it will go back to the initial high percentages," said Nyiri. "It was really rare so I think what is happening now is Obama is still popular but his numbers are coming back to earth."

On the home front, however, the president's approval rating continues to slip.

According to a Tuesday CNN/ORC poll, the president's approval rating stands at 43 percent, virtually unchanged from the 45 percent approval rating in the previous CNN poll.

The survey reveals that 55 percent say they do not approve of how Obama is handling his duties in the White House and the number of Americans who think he is a strong leader has dropped to a new low.

"I think most of the troubles that Obama is facing are domestic issue of unemployment and the economy. Europeans, however, look at Obama mostly as an international leader," Nyiri said.

The international poll showed that Obama continues to receive higher marks for his policies in Europe, than he does in the United States.

Among Europeans surveyed, 51 percent approved of Obama's handling of Libya and Afghanistan, while 73 percent approved his fighting of international terrorism.

This compares to 47 percent in the CNN/ORC poll who approve of the president's handling on foreign affairs.

Though Obama's approval rating was highest in Portugal (82 percent), Germany (81 percent) and Italy (79 percent), in 2009 all of these countries gave Obama a 90-plus rating. Spain showed the steepest decline over the three-year period, from 85 percent in 2009 to 68 percent today.

"Obama's numbers declined most in countries where they were so high [after he was first elected], that nobody expected it to last over a longer time period," Nyiri said.

The domestic poll was conducted over the telephone by CNN by ORC International from September 9-11 among 1,038 adults. It has an overall sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.

The European survey was conducted by TNS Opinion and surveyed 1,000 adults in Turkey and 12 European Union from May 25 to June 17. The over-the-phone interviews come with a sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.


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