International Papers

Outsourcing the Vote

Who the world wants to elect president on Nov. 2.

Newspapers around the world paid particular attention to the results of a coordinated poll that measured how people who can’t vote on Nov. 2 hope to see the U.S. presidential race end. One paper went a few steps further by providing step-by-step instructions in how to influence the American election’s results.

A consortium of 10 newspapers conducted parallel polls of the people in their countries, asking who they would like to see win in the race between President George Bush and Sen. John Kerry. In eight out of the 10 countries, Kerry won. (For tables of the questions asked and each country’s responses, click here.)

The Age of Australia reported that “voters” Down Under mirrored the average of respondents in the nine other countries (Canada, Britain, France, Spain, South Korea, Japan, Israel, Russia, and Mexico):

Fifty-four per cent of Australian voters would prefer to see John Kerry in the White House—a figure that exactly matches the average of the 10 surveys.Sixty-five per cent of Australians have an unfavorable view of Mr. Bush. Just 28 per cent would prefer him to win on November 2. The averages across the 10 nations were 63 per cent and 27 per cent respectively.

Millions of undecided American make this race a cliffhanger, but the world does not seem to suffer from any such indecision. Only in Russia were the results of the poll within the margin of error; 52 percent of Russians polled said they want Bush to win, while 48 percent preferred Kerry. Kerry has the solid support of respondents in eight of the nine other countries that participated in the project. The lone state to rally for Bush was Israel, where 50 percent said they prefer the president and 24 percent supported Kerry.

Ha’aretz of Israel assessed why Israel is so far out of synch with the rest of the world. While others may resent Bush’s domineering role on the international scene, Israelis appreciate the support he has offered. Bush “supports Israel’s struggle against Palestinian terror and holds Yasser Arafat responsible, whether passively or actively; at the same time, he presents a vision of an agreement with a moderate and democratic Palestinian state,” the paper said. “To other countries, Iraq may look like an unnecessary entanglement. To Israel, it means the removal of a serious threat.”

As part of the package of stories circulated by the 10 polling papers, the Age ran a roundup of interpretations of the results in each country. Some highlights:

  • Britain: “[O]nly one in four British voters says they have a favorable opinion of the American President.”
  • South Korea: “93 per cent of Koreans surveyed said they believed in the importance of good Korea-US relations, but 67 per cent said the current relationship was worrying.”
  • France: “It could not be more clear: 72 per cent of the French population wishes for John Kerry’s victory at the US presidential election, while the incumbent is backed by only 16 per cent. France rejects President George Bush more than any other country.”
  • Israel: “Israel loves America and loves the American President. It loves George Bush, but it also loved Bill Clinton very much. … It loves the American president because he holds the umbrella that protects Israel from its enemies.”

The Guardian of Britain wasn’t satisfied with merely polling British sentiments about the upcoming U.S. election. It launched an ambitious project aimed at showing Brits how they can play a pivotal role in determining the outcome. Dubbed the Clark County Project, the paper has targeted one of the most hotly contested counties in the key battleground state of Ohio and is offering readers the names and addresses of registered voters. “Writing to a Clark County voter is a chance to explain how US policies effect you personally, and the rest of the world more generally, and who you hope they will send to the White House,” the paper told its readers.

Anticipating the cries of meddling, a Guardian columnist argued that the Declaration of Independence foreshadows the right of the world to have a say in this election. It “excoriate[s] the distant emperor George for his recklessness, insisting that authority is only legitimate when it enjoys ‘the consent of the governed.’ As the world’s sole superpower, the US now has global authority. But where is the consent?”

Thousands of Britons have joined the effort, but if the sampling of replies published in the pages of the Guardian is representative of how the good citizens of Clark County are taking the British attention, the effort may backfire. One American Democrat summed it up, writing, “Nothing will do more to undermine the Democratic cause in Ohio than having patronizing Brits wander around Clark County telling people how to vote.”