There’s some serious election fever going on, even in Spain! I’m always surprised at how interested my friends in Barcelona are in American politics. They consistently know enough about the U.S. to be reasonably well-informed and have opinions. And the most popular of those opinions? Lots of pro-Obama sentiments.
Check out this graphic from the BBC of who different countries would choose in the 2012 U.S. presidential election:
Spain has the lowest levels of support for Romney, which surprised me. It’s not like Spain is a crazy liberal country. In the south I met a lot of pretty conservative people, and their current prime minister, Rajoy, is conservative. (Of course, Spanish conservative and American conservative aren’t exactly the same thing, but they do share common ideas).
People here that I’ve spoken to have consistently positive perceptions of Obama, ranging from nonchalant “yeah, he’s good” comments to people who wanted to go to the U.S. just to work on his campaign. Spain isn’t the country with the highest level of support for Obama, but he is pretty popular, and my friends and acquaintances here really like him.
So what is it about Obama exactly? This is what I think (note: it’s nothing scientific, I’m certainly not an expert, and I don’t want to start an argument about politics!):
First off, he has very little common with President Bush. Bush is extremely unpopular – people still ask me how on earth he got voted into office twice! Obama gets referred to as ‘a breath of fresh air’ simply for being not being Bush.
Of course, Obama’s policies and actions matter too. He’s generally pretty cooperative with Europe. His domestic policy promotes things that are important to many Europeans, like health care. And even if you disagree with his policy, he doesn’t comes out with controversial statements like a few major Republican politicians have lately (think the women’s rights issues in this campaign).
Also, he hasn’t been in the press for making offensive or strange remarks about Europe or Spain – like when John McCain implied that he thought Spanish Prime Minister Zapatero was Latin American (he talked about working with “leaders in the Hemisphere” and “our relationship with Latin America” when answering a question about Zapatero).
Finally, I think Spain’s revolutionary streak has something to do with it. Spain’s history is full of groups taking and shifting the power – just look at the current indignados movement. Obama inspired a huge movement with a feeling that change and progress was happening.
However, some of my friends say that he hasn’t done enough to fix the economic crisis (a sore subject with Spaniards at the moment). But I really haven’t heard any harsh criticism of him or his policies.
Whatever the reasons may be, Obama is pretty popular in Spain. I’m entirely open to the possibility that I’m 100% wrong! Also, I want to stress that this data also shows that they aren’t totally pro-Obama; lots of Spaniards opted for a third choice rather than either Obama or Romney. My friends’ opinions clearly aren’t scientific or representative of all Spaniards, but I still thought they were interesting.
Anyway, I’ve been fielding tons of questions on the election, especially today. And my friends here were thrilled when I brought back a real Obama campaign poster (“I’ve only seen those on TV!”).
Let’s see what happens today! Here’s a funny election video in the spirit of things. Happy election day!
I’m interested to know what you think about Obama’s foreign image. Any expats (Spain or otherwise) have similar experiences about the election?