I’ve only been in France for 3 weeks, but in that time, most of the people I’ve spoken to about being from the United States have asked about the presidential election– who do I want to win? How do I think it will go? Am I excited?
The French have been covering the American elections every day. Flipping through channels at night I’ve seen numerous documentaries about Obama, about Romney, about the 2012 elections, about the 2008 elections, and about the evolution of the US presidency in the last 100 years.
Let me ask you this, how many of you remember the French presidential election earlier this year (in May) where the Socialist party’s Francois Hollande beat out presidential incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy of the UMP to become France’s first leftwing president in almost 20 years?
Yeah, that’s what I thought.
Which brings me to my next question– why do the French care so much about the US election?
Now this isn’t a political blog and I was an engineer in college so I won’t pretend to know all about the intricacies of political science or international relations. But I did some research and found out some interesting stuff.
Obama has overwhelming public support all over the world. An MSN poll showed that MSN readers in 34 out of 35 surveyed countries support Obama. Only in China did the stinkers that support Romney edge out Obama supporters. The same poll showed that 88% of French MSN readers support Obama, compared to Romney’s 12%. The Economist conducted a similar poll which showed that 79.51% of self-reported voters worldwide supported Obama and that only 19.91% supported Romney. A YouGov poll in Britain, France, and Germany put the challenger’s popularity at only about 1 in 20, while he was greeted with less dismay in Pakistan, the Middle East, and North Africa.
In 2008, the French media was relieved that the Bush era was over. Obama was also the first African American president, a quality that was not lost on a multi-cultural country like France. I read an article that said that the popular opinion of Obama now has migrated over to France through the media– in other words, it’s not so much the French media that perceive Obama as a “disappointment,” but rather the French media portrays Obama as being perceived as a “disappointment” by Americans. Still, French television portrays Obama in a flattering light and affection for the American president hasn’t changed much in the last 4 years. On the other hand, Romney’s representation in the media has been mostly in relation to Obama, so the public may see him as “less charismatic, less intelligent, and less progressive.”
If Romney wins the election, France will be in a rather uncomfortable position on numerous foreign policy issues. Additionally, at a time of global economic turmoil, people outside the US look to the US president for strong leadership, economic and otherwise.
Let’s just put it this way. If Romney wins the election, I’ll strongly consider staying in France for 4 more years….