BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Barack Obama's extraordinarily strong approval
ratings abroad bode very well for the effectiveness of his foreign
policy, says a University at Buffalo political scientist with
expertise in international conflict and intergovernmental
Michelle Benson, Ph.D., assistant professor of political science
at UB, says the high opinion in which the overseas public holds him
"bodes very well for his ability to alter the outcome in issues of
international concern to the United States, including the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict and international cooperation in
Benson notes that "President-elect Obama's popularity will not
make political adversaries turn in to staunch allies; however, it
will likely alter the ability of the U.S. to influence and alter
conflicts around the globe.
"For example, it was relatively easy for world leaders to reject
proposals by President Bush due to his high level of unpopularity
among the populations of relevant countries," she says.
"Those same leaders will now face important pressure from their
constituencies to consider and likely support proposals from this
"In essence," Benson says, "President-elect Obama has a historic
amount of international goodwill and therefore an important but
limited opportunity to further U.S. interests and submit proposals
that might have been met with immediate dismissal during the last
eight years under George Bush."
Benson believes his election could also have implications for
domestic politics and policies in other countries.
She says, "The election of an African American -- and one of
mixed race and a mixed religious heritage -- has been hailed as
proof of an exciting and historic change of values and ideals for
the U.S., which remains the most powerful state in the world."
She points out that, unlike in the U.S., in many regions of
Africa an Obama candidacy would have been rejected out-of-hand
because the light color of his skin. In many other countries, she
say, his mixed-race heritage would make him a nearly impossible
candidate for political office at any level.
"Despite this," she says, "from Europe, Africa and Asia we see a
huge outpouring of enthusiasm at the election of this historic
figure. Perhaps his election and the excitement it has engendered
is the harbinger of a new wave of change and political tolerance in
countries around the world."
Benson's current research focuses on the international status
quo and conflict, trade and conflict, IGOs and conflict and
determinants of ethnic conflict.
Her research has been published in the Journal of Conflict
Resolution, Comparative Political Studies, British Journal of
Political Science, Journal of Peace Research, International
Interactions, Social Science Quarterly, Conflict Management and
Peace Science, Nationalism and Ethnic Politics and the
Journal of Political Science.
The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public
university, a flagship institution in the State University of New
York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB's
more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through
more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree
programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of
the Association of American Universities.