We're Not Electing a President of the World

The poll numbers haven’t made very encouraging reading for Barack Obama. At a time he was expected to dominate, the race has been close, and the McCain/Palin ticket edged ahead by a couple of points in several polls, while states that a few months ago were solidly blue are turning a worrying shade of purple.

There is, however, one poll which should bring cheer to the Obama camp. In this poll, voters prefer Obama over John McCain by a margin of four to one – 49% to 12%. There’s just one problem: none of the people who took part in the poll are eligible to vote in November. In fact they’re not eligible to vote in any U.S. election, because they're not U.S. citizens.

The poll was carried out for the BBC in 22 countries by Globescan and the University of Maryland-based Program on International Policy Attitudes. In addition to wanting to see Obama elected, a majority of respondents in 17 of the 22 countries believed America’s relations with the rest of the world would improve under an Obama presidency, while a majority in 15 countries said an Obama victory would 'fundamentally alter' their perception of America. The detailed results, and analysis, are here.

In some respects the results are understandable. Obama was the subject of huge media interest around the world during his primary battle against Hillary Clinton. McCain has enjoyed no such attention, although the polling was carried out before the pick of Sarah Palin to be his running mate raised the profile of his campaign.

However, it's worth noting that polls produced by the BBC/GlobeScan/PIPA partnership have a habit of producing results that chime conveniently with the BBC’s soft-left worldview. Take, for example, the poll in which a majority of respondents from various countries said Iran could be dissuaded from developing nuclear weapons; the poll/in which a majority agreed that loss of innocent life was preferable to torturing terror suspects; or the poll in which a majority said too much "globalization" -- aka free trade -- was a bad thing. PIPA's latest offering, via its World Public Opinion project, is headlined "No Consensus on Who was Behind 9/11."

Then of course there's the annual BBC/GlobeScan/PIPA celebration of American unpopularity, a poll in which the U.S. is consistently ranked among the least-liked countries in the world. There was a slight improvement in this year's results, but the U.S. still enjoyed less favorable ratings than those bastions of democracy and freedom, Russia and China. The only countries viewed less favorably than the US were North Korea, Pakistan, Iran, and, of course, Israel.

GlobeScan's Chairman, Doug Miller, is suitably pleased with his latest effort, telling the BBC: “Large numbers of people around the world clearly like what Barack Obama represents." Miller continued: “Given how negative America’s international image is at present, it is quite striking that only one in five think a McCain presidency would improve on the Bush Administration’s relations with the world.”

An insight into Miller's and GlobeScan's worldview can be found in this extract from the "chairman's message" on the company's website:

At the same time, we consider ourselves part of the democratic process, "letting the people speak" to decision-makers on matters that affect them -- at meetings of world leaders, expert forums, and the boardrooms of major companies.

To which one could respond that the people get to "speak" to decision makers through democratic elections, in the choices they make as consumers, and through pressure groups and other bodies. What does GlobeScan think its less-than-convincing poll findings, filtered through a biased media, add to the discourse?

What Miller appears to be talking about is "community organizing" on a global scale -- in which case it’s hardly surprising that GlobeScan should produce a poll which suggests the majority of the world is rooting for the most famous community organizer on the planet.