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Political Notebook

Obama has lifted global view of US

July 24, 2009

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President Obama’s poll ratings may be slipping at home, but his popularity abroad is already repairing the image of the United States, which took a beating during the Bush administration.

The nonpartisan Pew Research Center reported yesterday that favorability ratings for the United States among people around the globe have improved markedly, recovering in many countries to the point before George W. Bush took office in 2001 and began the highly unpopular war in Iraq two years later.

The center, which surveyed nearly 27,000 people in 25 nations this spring for the Pew Global Attitudes Project, said the most profound shifts were in Western Europe, notably in France and Germany, where confidence in Obama exceeds that for President Nicolas Sarkozy of France and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany in their own countries.

“Opinions of America have also become more positive in key countries in Latin America, Africa, and Asia, as well,’’ said the Pew report.

But Muslims in the Middle East still hold negative views and deep suspicions about the United States. And there was one notable exception: Israel, where Bush’s policies were popular and where there is concern over Obama’s push to stop settlements on the West Bank.

The center found that in 21 of the countries surveyed, an average of 71 percent of respondents had at least some confidence in Obama’s handling of world affairs. In 2008, when Bush was in the White House, the figure in those same countries was only 17 percent. In addition, US favorability rose by at least 10 percentage points in 11 countries over last year, including in Latin America, Africa, and Asia - largely as a result of Obama’s election, the center said.

Obama has drawn adoring crowds on most of his stops on foreign trips since becoming president. The improvements “are being driven much more by personal confidence in Obama than by opinions about his specific policies,’’ Pew reported.

At the same time, several specific administration policies drew near universal acclaim, including Obama’s pledge to close the Navy-run detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and the US timeline for withdrawing US troops from Iraq, the survey found.

GLOBE STAFF AND ASSOCIATED PRESS

NRA warns senators against Sotomayor vote
WASHINGTON - The NRA stepped up its push yesterday against Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor, warning her backers that they risked losing ground with gun rights supporters, even as a powerful business lobby came out in support of President Obama’s first high court nominee.

The promise by the National Rifle Association, which announced its opposition to Sotomayor last week, to include the vote on her nomination in its influential evaluations of lawmakers is highly unlikely to prevent Sotomayor from being confirmed in early August. But it amounts to a threat to those considering whether to backing her, which could make the upcoming vote politically tougher for some Republicans and conservative Democrats whose constituents are strong gun rights advocates.

Sotomayor won the endorsement of the US Chamber of Commerce, which called her a well-qualified judge who would be fair and evenhanded on business issues. The chamber has backed every Supreme Court nominee since Justice David Souter, who Sotomayor would replace if confirmed.

ASSOCIATED PRESS