As Americans lined up on Tuesday, Nov. 4, people around the world held their breath, and largely rooted for Barack Obama.
“[The] U.S. now needs to focus more on its own economy and society and cannot afford to continue the hardline conservative foreign policy. It’s neither diplomatically good nor economically feasible for U.S. anymore,” Tushar Sharma, a 23 year old Indian graduate student living near Versailles, France wrote in an e-mail.
Obama’s popularity with the rest of the world was criticized during the campaign by his opponent John McCain, who ran television advertisements calling Obama “the biggest celebrity in the world,” alongside pictures of pop singer Britney Spears and hotel heiress Paris Hilton.
Obama is something of a phenomenon in Europe; during his Europe trip in July, his appearances drew large crowds. In Berlin, his speech at the historic Brandenburg Gate garnered a crowd of about 200,000 people, numbers comparable to what John Kennedy and Ronald Regan received only as sitting presidents, not while they were candidates.
Janine Obermayer, 23, of Manchester, England said Obama’s win meant that America’s relation to the rest of the world would change: “I heard on the BBC radio this morning, America is a bit like the flu, if it coughs we all get sick. We’re pretty chuffed that Obama’s won, he’s the best of a bad bunch, and McCain seems to be a bit of a chump.”
A more scientific inquiry into Obama’s global popularity found that it vastly overwhelmed that of his Republican rival. The English magazine The Economist wanted to test the general theory that if the world could vote in the Presidential election, it would vote for Obama by creating a global electoral college. The results were dramatic. Once their polling had closed, Obama won 9,115 electoral votes to McCain’s 203. McCain only came out as the majority winner in four countries; Algeria, Cuba, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Iraq.
Ryan Strong, 24, an American living in London wrote in an e-mail that the excitement for Obama was unavoidable: “Everyone follows American politics probably even more than some Americans, which is a bit sad. Even on the bus I’ve heard conversations about how great it is. People have more respect for America for seeing the error in their ways and voting for a man that is about change. People are hopeful that this will be a world changing event.”