WASHINGTON — Sure, polling may suggest that the world isn't following the 2012 U.S. election as closely as it did the 2008 presidential race, when a wildly popular Barack Obama embarked on his quest to replace the deeply unpopular George W. Bush. Heck, 40 percent of Russians in one survey this month didn't even know the U.S. election was taking place this year.
But that doesn't mean people overseas don't care about the campaign's outcome. In a recent UPI/C-Voter/WIN-Gallup International poll, which surveyed more than 26,000 men and women in 32 countries, 62 percent of respondents said that the U.S. president has a high or very high impact on their lives, and 42 percent felt they should have the right to vote in this year's contest for that very reason. When you call yourself the leader of the free world, you'd better believe the world is going to take an interest in who you are.
So what would the election look like if the world really could vote? The short answer: nothing like the razor-thin race unfolding at home. Obama is preferred over Mitt Romney in 31 out of 32 countries in the UPI poll and 20 out of 21 countries in another BBC World Service/GlobeScan/PIPA survey. Fifty-one percent of respondents in the UPI poll said they would cast a ballot for Obama, with more people saying they wouldn't vote for either candidate (18 percent) than would vote for the Republican nominee (12 percent). In the BBC survey, 50 percent of respondents chose Obama and only 9 percent selected Romney.
When translated into headlines, these results can paint the misleading picture that the world is crazy about Obama and dismissive of Romney. But a look at all the polling that has been conducted abroad in recent months suggests that the reality is far more nuanced. You have the French supporting the U.S. president in droves while the Pakistanis spurn both candidates, with most countries falling somewhere in between. If we were handicapping the election using the lingua franca of American politics, here's how we might break down the global electorate.