Now that American voters are drawing a clearer outline of November’s presidential contest, the rest of the world’s opinion about who should become the next president of the United States is also turning crystal-clear. With a couple of notable exceptions, the verdict is all-but unanimous: Just about everywhere, people want Hillary Clinton to replace President Barack Obama.
That is the undeniable and overwhelming impression one hears when exploring opinions in different parts of the globe. I heard it asking individuals of a wide variety of backgrounds while traveling in several countries. But don’t take my word for it.
A recent poll of people in 20 countries — the G20 group of the world’s largest economies — confirmed it. In all the countries polled, Clinton beat Trump by wide margins. The only exception was Russia, where Trump beats Clinton by more than 20 points when pollsters asked whom they want to see as the next U.S. president. In China, there’s ambivalence.
Everywhere else, Clinton outpolled Trump by enormous margins: in Mexico she beat him by 54 percent, in South Korea by 37, in France by 30, in Japan by 27. The list goes on with similar results from South America to East Asia.
Now that it seems increasingly like the election will pit Clinton against Donald Trump, the whole world is really watching, and the overwhelming reaction is widespread rejection of Trump in most quarters, along with palpable enthusiasm for the prospect of a Clinton presidency.
The distinct sentiment I encountered matches the findings of another survey in which pollsters asked Europeans how they would feel if each of the top candidates won the election. Europeans chose Clinton as their favorite by a landslide. The main feelings they predicted for themselves if Clinton becomes president: relieved, optimistic, happy. If Trump wins: afraid, disappointed, sad.
I found that combination of anticipation and apprehension in conversations in Arab states, where I was surprised to see positive sentiment for Clinton not only among women, which I expected, but also among men, and among people of all ages. I’ve heard the same in conversations with Asians, Europeans and Latin Americans.
In Israel, where most people believe President Obama’s foreign policy, particularly his nuclear deal with Iran, made them less safe, Clinton is also the top choice according to surveys, even though she helped lay the ground for the Iran deal.
Over the years I have probed global opinions about U.S. elections, but have never found the combination I see today, near-uniform excitement for one candidate and utter disdain combined with fear for another.
In 1999, during the Bush vs. Gore campaign, I asked Fidel Castro if he had a favorite. He told me he did, but said he would not reveal it because his endorsement would hurt his preferred candidate. He had a point.
The endorsement of foreigners, even when they’re not controversial figures, has an odd effect on American voters. John Kerry had to downplay his international appeal. This time, however, the respected weekly The Economist declared a Trump presidency one of the top risks to global stability. Clinton could benefit from noting that practically the entire world wants her to become president.
While Obama’s social views hold great appeal, particularly in Europe, and he is personally liked, his foreign policy is a different matter.
Millions of Europeans are deeply disappointed with Obama, and their complaints line up with some of Clinton’s own disagreements with the president. Some in Europe blame Obama’s failure to act in Syria for the refugee crisis. Obama’s reluctance to use force and his rapprochement with Iran irks Washington’s Arab allies.
After George W. Bush’s militaristic foreign policy and Obama’s pendulum swing to other end, Clinton is perceived as potentially the Goldilocks president, not too hot, not too cold. If current sentiment holds and Clinton becomes president, she could face a problem Obama encountered: living up to outsize expectations.