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World has 'high hopes' for Obama

Graph showing US relations with world

There is worldwide optimism that Barack Obama's presidency will improve US relations with the rest of the world, a BBC World Service poll suggests.

In a poll of more than 17,000 people in 17 countries, about 67% said Mr Obama would strengthen US relations abroad.

The poll also indicates that people expect Mr Obama to make the global economic crisis his top priority.

This was followed by pulling US troops out of Iraq, tackling climate change and brokering Middle East peace.

A similar BBC-commissioned poll held six months ago - before Mr Obama was elected - indicated that just 47% of respondents thought he would improve US relations with the rest of the world if elected.

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This time, in just two countries - Japan and Russia - did less than a majority agree with the general optimism of the latest survey.

In Japan, 48% thought US relations would improve, while in Russia 47% of people surveyed expected an improvement.

The most optimistic views were in Europe, where nearly 80% of those surveyed in Italy and Germany, for example, thought US relations with the rest of the world would improve under Mr Obama's presidency.

The survey was conducted for the BBC World Service by the international polling firm GlobeScan, with the Program on International Policy Attitudes (Pipa) at the University of Maryland in the US.

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"Familiarity with Obama seems to be breeding hope," said Steven Kull, director of Pipa. "But then again, he is starting from a low baseline, following eight years of an unpopular US president. Maintaining this enthusiasm will be a challenge given the complexities he now faces."

Except in India and Egypt, the polling was completed before the conflict in the Gaza Strip began. In Egypt, 75% of people said brokering peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians should be Mr Obama's top priority.

On average, across all 17 countries, 72% of respondents said dealing with the global financial crisis should be the top priority. That was followed by a 50% score for withdrawing US forces from Iraq.

Addressing climate change was third, on 46%, brokering Middle East peace at 43% and supporting the Afghan government against the Taleban at 29%.

Priorities for Americans were slightly different.

While concern for tackling the global financial crisis was also high in the US - at 75% - concern for supporting Afghanistan's government against the Taleban was higher than in other countries, at 46%.

Some 60% of Americans thought improving US relations with the rest of the world should be Mr Obama's top priority.

In total, 17,356 people were questioned between 24 November 2008 and 5 January 2009 in Chile, China, Egypt, France, Germany, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Nigeria, Russia, Spain, Turkey, the UK and the US.

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