World poll: Views of U.S. improve -- except in Muslim countries

To be more specific, views of the U.S. improved almost everywhere, including Muslim countries, after Obama was elected, but after a year in office and in the wake of his big Cairo speech last summer, he’s actually down a bit in Dar al-Islam. What happened?

Among the seven countries surveyed with substantial Muslim populations, the U.S. was seen favorably by just 17 percent in Egypt, Turkey and Pakistan and 21 percent in Jordan. The U.S.’s positive rating was 52 percent in Lebanon, 59 percent in Indonesia and 81 percent in Nigeria, where Muslims comprise about half the population.

None of those figures was an improvement from last year. There were slight dips in Jordan and in Indonesia, where Obama spent several years growing up. Egypt saw a 10-point drop, even though Obama gave a widely promoted June 2009 speech in Cairo aimed at reaching out to the Muslim world.

In all seven of those countries, the percentage of Muslims expressing confidence in Obama has also dropped since last year. Only in Nigeria and Indonesia do majorities of Muslims voice confidence in him; in Obama’s worst showing, just 8 percent in Pakistan do.

Here’s the actual poll, which is wide-ranging enough to justify 10 minutes of skimming. First up, the overall global trend. The Russians and Chinese, in particular, appear to be warming to Obama. He certainly is more “agreeable” than mean old George Bush, which may explain their cooperation in passing Iran sanctions that are so weak, even Newsweek’s now calling them a charade.

The Muslim trend at a glance:

The Shia numbers in Lebanon are easily explained as a byproduct of the campaign against Iran’s nuclear program. As for the rest, I assume The One’s learning a hard lesson here that “outreach” in Cairo doesn’t mean much if you’re going to continue most of Bush’s policies. Presumably the Muslims in the region expected rapid drawdowns in Iraq and Afghanistan plus a whole lot more Israel-bashing than they’ve seen thus far. And indeed, check out the numbers on how he’s handling the Israeli/Palestinian situation:

The poll was taken before the flotilla raid so presumably the current data is even worse now. Again, you’re seeing the limits of “outreach” here as Obama’s policy preferences butt up against political reality: He’s not going to alienate congressional Democrats by abandoning Israel completely, the way Muslim leaders would like, so his approval on Palestine is stuck. He’s not going to abandon drone strikes in Pakistan because he can’t risk the political fallout of an attack being launched from that region if he stands down, so he’s stuck there too. He can’t pull out of Iraq or Afghanistan if he believes they’re not ready to handle security yet or else he’ll face recriminations at home and abroad for the chaos that follows, so he’s stuck yet again. Frankly, he’s probably doing as well in these countries as is politically possible under the circumstances. It’s just that our policy goals don’t meet their policy goals, and if that makes them unhappy, too bad.

Speaking of their policy goals, two more graphics to chew on. It speaks volumes about Islamic political culture that the trendlines here are positive and yet these numbers still are what they are.

The good news: The Turkish population is still pretty moderate, even if its leadership is decreasingly so. And Pakistanis are surprisingly cool to suicide bombing despite the country’s status as a beehive of jihad. I guess having Taliban bombers going off over there every few weeks will do that.

As I say, though, the whole poll’s worth skimming. The climate change data on page 9 is especially fun.