U.S. President Barack Obama joins other world leaders at the United Nations this week to discuss progress toward achieving the Millennium Development Goals and U.S. involvement in foreign policy issues more broadly.
Here's some data to keep in mind amid the photo ops and sound bites:
- Less than one-third of Americans in February said the United Nations is doing a good job of trying to solve the problems it has had to face. That's not a very positive assessment but it's the best it has been since 2005, suggesting its image is recovering from its involvement in the lead-up to the Iraq war.
- Globally, views of U.S. leadership remain for the most part improved compared with 2008, when former President George W. Bush was in office. Still, new data from 2010 on Asia and Africa find some countries giving back some of the gains seen in 2009. These findings suggest Obama's global honeymoon is likely over and that views worldwide will be influenced by what the U.S. does going forward.
- The official goal of the U.N. summit is to accelerate progress toward the Millennium Development Goals to curb global poverty. Gallup reported on world citizens' views on the quality of their air and water earlier this year and will publish a global report on hunger next week. In the past, we've also reported on sub-Saharan Africans' ability to afford food, as well as their views on sanitation and efforts to fight malaria. When we asked them to name the most important issues they would like to see addressed, agriculture, jobs, and poverty rose to the top of the list.
- Iran and North Korea are also expected to come up in Obama's address, both regarding their nuclear ambitions and the prospect of tougher sanctions against them. Among 20 countries frequently in the news, Iran and North Korea are Americans' two least favorite. Six in 10 Americans see the military power of these nations as a critical threat to the vital interests of the United States.
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