The Dalai Lama, President Obama and Pope Francis at Highest Levels of Popularity in U.S. and Five Largest European Countries

President Obama much more popular across mainland Europe than in the U.S.

May 29, 2013, 05:00 ET from Harris Interactive

NEW YORK, May 29, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- As President Obama begins thinking about his post-presidency plans, he might want to consider a move to Italy or France, whose residents give him an almost universal thumbs-up. Across the five largest European countries and the United States, President Barack Obama is tied with the Dalai Lama with the highest levels of popularity.  Pope Francis is the only leader that comes close to the two of them.

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One thing to keep in mind is that this poll does not measure job ratings, but rather how good or bad opinions are of some well-known world leaders. Across the six countries, three-quarters of adults (78%) on average have good opinions of both President Obama and the Dalai Lama. For the Dalai Lama, between 64% (in the U.S.) and 86% (in Italy) have good opinions of him. For President Obama, it is a little more of a difference, with his own country being the low point. While just half of Americans (51%) have a good opinion of the President, he is much more popular in Europe (87% in Italy, 87% in France, 80% in Spain, 83% in Germany and 79% in Great Britain).

In the U.S., Americans have higher opinions of The Dalai Lama (64%) and Pope Francis (61%) than they do of President Obama.

These are the results of a Harris Poll conducted online among a total of 7,245 adults aged 16+ in France, Germany, Great Britain and Spain and adults aged 18+ in Italy and the United States between May 8 and 15, 2013 by Harris Interactive. Click here to see the full results, including data tables and the complete list of world leaders tested.

Looking at some of the other heads of states for the countries surveyed, over two in five Britons (43%) have good opinions of Prime Minister David Cameron, similar to the 44% who have a positive opinion of him across the six countries.  Angela Merkel of Germany has the opposite issue of President Obama. While over three in five Germans (63%) have a good opinion of her, only 47% across the six countries say the same.  

The bottom of the list has some controversial figures from around the world: Kim Jong Un (4% of adults across the six countries have a good opinion of him), Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran (6%), China's Xi Jinping (14%) and Vladimir Putin of Russia (19%).

Influence of Leaders
In addition to overall opinions of the leaders, there is also the question of how influential these leaders are, again not only among their own countrymen and women, but also among adults in all six of the countries. President Obama is at the top, with 83% across all 6 countries saying he has a great deal or some influence, but it is Europe driving that as seven in ten (70%) of Americans say he has influence. Three-quarters of adults in all six countries (75%) say Angela Merkel has a great deal/some influence, including 82% of Germans who say this. Rounding out the top five most influential leaders from our list are Vladimir Putin (69%), David Cameron (61%) and Pope Francis (60%).

Job approvals and popularity share a sometimes disparate relationship for politicians. President Bill Clinton enjoyed high job approval ratings in the 1990s, but Americans gave him low marks for popularity during the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Here, there is also the issue that sometimes, the grass is greener on the other side of the pond, so to speak. Perhaps Europeans see something in President Obama from across the Atlantic that is missed up close in the United States.

To see other recent Harris Polls, as well as to see the full list of world leaders, please visit the Harris Poll News Room.

This Harris Poll was conducted online by Harris Interactive among a total of 7,245 adults (aged 16+) within France (1,018), Germany (1,016), Great Britain (1,023), and Spain (942) and adults (aged 18+) in Italy (1,006) and the United States (2,240) between May 8 and 15, 2013.  Figures for age, sex, education, region and Internet usage were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was used to adjust for respondents' propensity to be online.

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, Harris Interactive avoids the words "margin of error" as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Interactive surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in the Harris Interactive panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of Harris Interactive.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

The Harris Poll® #29, May 29, 2013
By Regina A. Corso, SVP, Harris Poll and Public Relations, Harris Interactive

About Harris Interactive
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