Washington, D.C., September 26, 2008 - International audiences are following the 2008 presidential election closely, with many people anticipating change in U.S. policies, panelists said today at a discussion webcast live at www.USAVotes2008.com (now downloadable on demand).
Simon Tisdall, an assistant editor and foreign affairs columnist at The Guardian in London, said foreign audiences, particularly in Europe and Africa, consider Democratic nominee Barack Obama "a symbol for change."
"That may be a mistake," because the Illinois senator has not proposed any radical overhaul of U.S. foreign policy, Tisdall said, adding McCain is a "well-known figure" in international circles and has said he would have a different multilateral approach from GOP President Bush.
Richard Wike, associate director of Pew Global Attitudes Project, said whoever wins the November 4 election will face a number of challenges in the international arena. "It's not just Iraq," he said, "many people want the United States and NATO out of Afghanistan too."
Wike also said the United States will be tested on the environment, where it is viewed as a polluter, and the "global impact of the American economy."
Adam Clayton Powell III, vice provost for globalization at the University of Southern California, said many audiences abroad, including those in places like China, are getting more information about the 2008 election from the Internet. "They are looking online for things that interest them," he said.
And audiences pay close attention to content on international broadcasts, Powell said. "People are pretty sophisticated" at detecting bias, he said.
In Africa, Sunday Dare, chief of VOA's Hausa service, said people are fascinated with Obama's story – he is half-Kenyan, his rise to power and his defeat of Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primaries. Although McCain is not as well-known as Obama, audiences are familiar with the story of his personal heroism as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. Bush is also popular in Africa, where he has supported HIV/AIDS treatment, malaria prevention and development projects.
"Nigerians are fascinated with the American political process," Dare said.
To provide international audiences with information about the election, VOA recently launched USAVOTES2008.com, a website that combines news and information with interactivity.
The Voice of America, which first went on the air in 1942, is a multimedia international broadcasting service funded by the U.S. government through the Broadcasting Board of Governors. VOA broadcasts approximately 1,500 hours of news, information, educational, and cultural programming every week to an estimated worldwide audience of more than 134 million people. Programs are produced in 45 languages.
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