US election: Europeans endorse Obama for a second term

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If Europeans could vote tomorrow (6 November) in the US election, they would back President Barack Obama over challenger Mitt Romney, numerous polls have shown.

In a survey released last week by British pollster YouGov, 90% of Europeans have said that they would vote for Obama if they could cast ballots. The reason behind it is that they don’t know much about Romney, the 65-year-old former equity investor, and find his ideas leaning too far on the right.

Meanwhile, latest polls in the United States show that the race for the White House remains effectively tied with 47% voting for Obama and 46% backing Romney, according to a Reuters/Ipsos daily tracking poll released Saturday.

“Europeans across the political spectrum see President Obama as broadly on the same wavelength,” said British MEP Baroness Sarah Ludford, vice-chair of the European Parliament delegation on relations with the United States.

Criticised at home for being too European, Obama collects support on this side of the Atlantic for his policies of expanding healthcare insurance, concern for the less well-off, social liberalism on gender and sexual orientation, and climate change.

Romney, a Republican, does not particularly strike people as someone who has spent time contemplating civil liberties, human rights or the complexities of global politics, surveys show.

“Tea-Party-influenced Romney is seen as pulled to the extremes, his open criticism of European fiscal and social welfare policies jarring with modern European politics,” said Ludford, adding that even the Republicans’ nominal ally, the British Conservative party, is a staunch champion of the National Health Service.

This consensus has pushed some EU politicians and opinion makers to go as far as publicly endorsing Obama.

French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault has broken any diplomatic protocol by openly expressing his hope that Obama wins.

“If I were an American citizen, I would not hesitate to vote for Obama,” he said during a radio interview last week echoing France’s European Minister Bernard Cazeneuve.

In Germany, Thomas Oppermann, the Social Democratic leader in the Bundestag, said that Europeans prefer Obama because he stands for social balance and social justice.

“He ended the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He is for international cooperation, and he ended the era of unilateralism pursued by George Bush - that is what makes him more sympathetic for Europeans,” Oppermann said.

EU-US relations

Still, this election does not raise as much passion as in 2008, when Obama openly said underscored the importance of the EU-US partnership in global affairs.

“Just as among the US electorate, there is possibly unrealistic disappointment in Europe that ‘Hope’ has morphed into ‘difficulty. President Obama’s failure to deliver on his key election pledge to close the Guantanamo human rights black hole hurts, even if he could mostly blame Congress and ‘the economy, stupid’ for that failure,” Ludford said.

Europe is also partly disenchanted by America’s turn to the Pacific, especially China, a booming emerging economy.

“We have to realise that Europe is not as important for US foreign policy anymore, and that it is true also for Obama,” added Oppermann, arguing that Europe has to work harder to keep up its international influence and partnership with the US.

The US is still the EU’s most important political and trading partner. EU-US commerce accounts for half of the global trade, with mutually high levels of foreign direct investment, making the transatlantic economic partnership still the deepest in the world.

Europeans know that a Romney at the White House would adopt a more aggressive than the cautious Obama. That might be the reason behind the wanting to give the incumbent president a second chance.

Even if Obama’s first term has been patchy, argued the weekly Economist, which has endorsed Obama, it allowed the country to avert a Depression at a time when America had its banks and carmakers in deep trouble and unemployment rising at the rate of 800,000 a month.

“Obama has dragged America’s economy back from the brink of disaster, and has made a decent fist of foreign policy. So this newspaper would stick with the devil it knows, and re-elect him,” said the magazine’s editor-in-chief John Micklethwait.

Spain and Italy

In Spain, people are convinced that the real value of US president comes out in the second term. “Obama deserves a second chance,” said Cristiana Manzano, editor of the Spanish digital edition of Foreign Policy magazine.

The US have recovered a privileged place in Spain in the last four years, she said. That was not the case before Obama took office as a majority of citizens opposed the American invasion of Iraq, supported by the then-conservative government led by José María Aznar.

“It took the Zapatero administration several years and much work to rebuild mutual confidence, but these efforts were ultimately halted by the crisis and its dramatic efforts on the Spanish image abroad,” she said, though saying that 83% of Spaniards have a positive opinion of Obama, alluding to figures from a German Marshall Fund survey released in September.

Italians also broadly approve of Obama. “We know Obama. People don’t like him quite as much as we did four years ago, but they still like him,” said an Italian MP.

A recent SWG poll shows that Italians choose Obama as US President at 2012 Elections, in measure of 7-1 over his GOP opponent, Mitt Romney. Even people who indentify themselves as conservatives prefer Obama 63-26, while among progressives the incumbent President leads 88-2.

Italians, like Spaniards and Greeks, feel threatened by the crisis in the Mediterranean - with Syria in the middle of a civil war and Lebanon on the brink of one. Obama’s cautious policies are favoured more than Romney’s aggressive push, surveys show.

Timeline: 
  • 6 Nov.: US presidential election
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