In early June, we released Waiting for Change, a report on President Obama’s first-year policies toward Latin America. We aren’t the only ones aware of limited progress: Latin Americans are also less enthusiastic than at last January’s inauguration.
On June 17, the Pew Research Center released its most recent 22-nation Global Attitudes Survey, with Mexico, Argentina and Brazil representing Latin American opinion. Though U.S. favorability ratings in these nations jumped after Obama’s election, this year’s poll shows that fewer people in Argentina and Mexico have confidence that Obama “will do the right thing in world affairs,” than did one short year ago. Brazil, which has received special attention from the Obama Administration, consistently responded more favorably to this poll than did the other two Latin American countries represented.
Latin American confidence in Obama is significantly lower than that expressed by many other nations. Only 43% of Mexicans, 49% of Argentines and 56% of Brazilians expressed “a lot” of or “some” confidence in Obama, while a much stronger majority of respondents from Western Europe, Asia and Africa responded positively.
Fewer Mexicans and Argentines think the U.S. considers their interests when making international policy decisions than did a year ago. When Obama came into office, 48% of Mexicans thought he would consider their needs a “great deal” or “fair amount,” but this year, only 33% felt similarly. Positive Argentine response to this question was only 16%, a slight drop from 18% the year before. Of the 22 nationalities polled, only Egyptians (15%) and Turks (9%) responded more negatively.
The Arizona immigration law has certainly affected Mexican perceptions of the U.S. and Obama. The Global Attitudes Survey states that “opinions about the U.S. have turned sharply negative…in Mexico, where resentment of Arizona’s new immigration law is fueling a backlash against the U.S., the American people, and even against President Obama.” In fact, Mexican opinion of the United States declined by 13%, more than in any other country polled.
Negative views of Obama in Argentina and Mexico extend beyond his Latin American policy. The Global Attitudes Project notes that “support for Obama’s policies in Iraq and Afghanistan is…low in the Latin American countries surveyed.” Mexicans and Argentines are quickly losing faith in Obama’s international policies. This year, approval fell from 56 to 39% in Mexico and, even more dramatically, from 57 to 37% in Argentina.
The Global Attitudes Survey makes it clear that the boost in approval of the United States in Latin America following President Obama’s election is waning. Yet, Brazilians, Argentines and Mexicans still have more confidence in Obama than in other world leaders such as Germany’s Merkel, France’s Sarkozy and Russia’s Medvedev. Now, the question is where can Obama take concrete steps to demonstrate that he does indeed consider the well-being of Latin American nations when making policy decisions? Can he still reclaim Latin American confidence? Let’s hope so.
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