President Obama is currently on a three-country tour of sub-Saharan Africa, a part of the world where he enjoys consistently sky-high favorability ratings – higher even than in Europe, according to Gallup data tracking public opinion in more than 100 countries. That data is mapped out above to give you a sense of just how popular Obama is in Africa.
To be clear, Gallup's data is from 2011; the company has not yet uploaded its 2012 numbers (I've asked for them and will update if they come in). But it appears consistent with other and more recent polls that have long found warm attitudes across the sub-Saharan toward both the United States and Obama. While attitudes toward Obama have cooled a bit since his reelection (more on this below), they remain astronomically high compared to the rest of the world.
Obama, on his Africa trip, is visiting Senegal, where he enjoys 83 percent support; Tanzania, which reports 70 percent approval; and South Africa, where, despite some smallish but vocal "NO-Bama" protests against his visit, he has 76 percent approval. By contrast, Gallup's weekly tracking poll says he has only 46 percent approval in the United States. And, as you can see in the above map, he scores much lower in North Africa, where culturally distinct Arab-majority societies are more associated with the Middle East than sub-Saharan Africa.
Out of the 100-plus countries surveyed by Gallup, Obama is by far the most popular in Ghana, where he received 92 percent approval, exactly double his rating at home.
Pro-American attitudes appear to be remarkably common in much of sub-Saharan Africa. As I've written before, some scholars of the region say that Africans tend to be keenly aware of how well African Americans have been doing since the civil rights movement and see it as a point of African pride that the leader of the world’s most powerful country has roots in their continent.
Still, popular approval of Obama has cooled in Africa since his 2008 election, as it has in much of the world. The Washington Post's Sudarsan Raghavan, writing in November about the noticeable decline in Kenyan enthusiasm for Obama's reelection compared to his 2008 campaign, explained the trend:
But other commentators expressed disappointment over what they considered Obama’s low level of interest in sub-Saharan Africa. “When Obama was elected in 2008, he gained the status of a demigod of some sort in most of Africa. The years that followed, however, were marked by disappointment,” wrote Charles Onyango-Obbo, a columnist for Kenya’s Daily Nation, the country’s most respected newspaper. “Many Africans have been complaining that, as they say in Uganda, Obama 'didn’t look into' Africa. He didn’t give Africa any groceries.”
This chart, also from Gallup, shows changes in the U.S. president's approval rating in three sub-Saharan countries, two of which he's visiting on this tour.
As you can see, attitudes improved substantially after Obama entered office in 2009, although they were also relatively high for President George W. Bush, who received generally low marks elsewhere in the world. And they have since dropped a bit, though remain far higher than anywhere else.
Be sure to follow The Washington Post's ongoing coverage of Obama's Africa trip.