Friday, October 24, 2008

Obama's international appeal

One of the reasons (not a main one, but still one of the ones) why I suspect people are supporting Obama is because of his international appeal.   After years of the US being disliked I think that most everyone can agree that it would be nice if more countries liked us.    This isn't just because America wants to be the popular cheerleader in high school.  This goes to the theory that if other counties like us then they will A) Be more likely to help us out and B) Less likely to attack us.

I would like the international community to like us more, so I looked to check out who would the rest of the world pick if they could.   This NY Times article (Rebranding the US with Obama) quotes the statistic that 22 nations surveyed by the BBC preferred Obama over McCain.  Also, they quoted the statistic that nearly half said an Obama election would "fundamentally change" their perceptions of the Unites States.   Anyway, I looked up the survey and found it here.

I find no fault in the questions about other countries preference for either Obama or McCain.  In fact I think this is a pretty important feather in Obama's cap.   However, I do find fault with the survey on whether or not an Obama election would "fundamentally change"  your perception of the United States.  Below is the question as it is worded on the BBC survey:


M3. To what extent do you agree or disagree that the election of Barack Obama as US President, being an African-American man, would fundamentally change your perception of the United States?


01 Strongly agree

02 Somewhat agree

03 Somewhat disagree

04 Strongly disagree


Am I wrong to think that is a leading question?   Personally I think that adding the clarifier "African-American man" is

not necessary and points the person being surveyed towards a certain answer.  Also, another thing that concerned and annoyed me about the survey was that there wasn't the same question about McCain.   As I have written before (which my brother in law disagrees with) I think the McCain/Palin ticket seems to be another big step for American because Palin would be the first female VP.   Either choice in my mind I think will change the perception of the United States.   What is frustrating is that the BBC didn't even to think to ask the question about the McCain/Palin ticket.  I think it would be a more convincing argument if the BBC had included that question.

Please note I do feel like Obama would be liked more by other countries and would fundamentally change more people's opinions on the United States than McCain/Palin.   I think that he would help the way America is viewed by the rest of the world.   The first statistic from the BBC about 22 countries preferring Obama over McCain is telling.  However, I wish there was a 2nd statistic about who would more fundamental change your view of America.

Anyway, I emailed my former Marketing professor about the survey since he teaches a class about Market Research.  His response is below:

Definitely leading in my opinion and the African-American part is unnecessary, again, in my opinion.  Also, it would have been interesting to ask the question a little differently (without the African-American part) and ask about both candidates or both tickets.


The question may be bad, but I suspect the sentiment is correct in the sense that Obama would change the perception overseas more than McCain, McCain’s running mate notwithstanding.  That, of course, is just my opinion, but the candidate farther away from the Bush administration is likely to be seen as more “change” even before race is introduced.  I also suspect race would trump gender as more “change.”  Again, just my opinion.


There is the usual array of bad instruments out there on both sides.  My latest axiom is that it is hard to ask non-leading questions when you are objective and it’s easy to ask leading questions when you are not objective—we have plenty of evidence of that!

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