A landslide for Obama

Barack Obama on the campaign trail (picture Sage Ross)

A survey published in today’s Daily Telegraph reports that Barack Obama beats John McCain by a landslide, as long as the voters are European. (Read the survey results here.)

I don’t suppose that is very surprising: the US Democrats are closer in thinking to most Europeans on domestic policy issues than the Republicans are, and Obama is on the “liberal” wing of the Democrats. But there are some interesting results arising from the survey, nevertheless.

First, there is the question of economic competence. While, in each of the five countries polled, Obama beats McCain (narrowly in Russia, handsomely in the UK, France, Germany and Italy), the gap narrows considerably when asked “who do you think would be better equipped to lead the world economy out of its current difficulties”. John McCain is a hardline free trader, whereas Barack Obama has been flirting with protectionism during his long series of debates with Hillary Clinton, but I don’t think these results reveal an unsatisfied European longing for free trade.

I think that the answer lies in a deep-seated prejudice about right and left, that the right tends to be better at economics than the left. Right-wing economic policies are what you have to have and that left-wing economic policies are what you have when you can afford them. This principle doesn’t actually apply in practice, of course, but that doesn’t stop people from believing it. When you take the economics into account, it shows even more clearly the European preference for Obama on the other issues.

A second interesting finding is the answer to the question: “Do you think that the United States is overall a force for good or force for evil in today’s world?” The results below are striking:

 
Britain
France
Italy
Germany
Russia
Force for good
33
28
49
25
16
Force for evil
35
40
27
39
56
Don’t know
32
32
24
36
28

The Russians are the most anti-American, and the French and the Germans think the same as each other, but it is Italy that exceeds the UK in its pro-American sentiment. Indeed, the British are marginally disposed to dislike the Americans at the moment. Perhaps the election of Barack Obama, if that should happen, will restore the American reputation in Europe once again.

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