By Debra Killalea
We love him but it seems his own countrymen can’t stand the sight of him.
Barack Obama, who has 43.9 million Twitter fans, has also landed the title of the most unpopular US President since World War II. This means he even rates lower than his predecessor George W. Bush.
While it’s no secret his popularity has been waning, a new poll has revealed just how disliked he has become since sweeping to power in 2009.
A Quinnipiac University survey has shown that even Republican Party presidential nominee Mitt Romney would have been a better choice for voters.
According to the poll, 45 per cent of people say the country would have been better off if Mr Romney had been elected in 2012, and a staggering 38 per cent see him as a better choice.
Leaders are generally rated lower once in power — take Prime Minister Tony Abbott, for example. His popularity has plummeted to the depths that saw Julia Gillard outed in favour of Kevin Rudd’s return.
But Obama’s popularity would come as a shock to Australians who have mostly regarded the president as being in line with our way of thinking.
And he’s certainly popular on Twitter. In December 2012, President Barack Obama scored the most retweeted tweet of the year with an image of him and first lady Michelle embracing along with the words “four more years”.
So why do we love him?
According to conservative commentator Tom Switzer from the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, American presidents — with the exception of George W Bush — have always been well regarded by Australians due to the ANZUS treaty and our close alliance with the US.
The treaty, which is an agreement underpinning the enduring military alliance between the United States of America and Australia, is one policy most of us are comfortable with, Mr Switzer said.
Obama is also regarded as quick on his feet, a confident speaker and isn’t an embarrassment or prone to gaffes, he said. Australians also have a fondness for the First Lady — a regular on the Ellen Show.
But it’s probably the president’s thinking that most Australians connect with. His climate change policies have carried favour, particularly with younger Australians.
Earlier this month Obama introduced the toughest global warming measures of any American president and is reportedly keen to talk about climate change at the G20 summit in Brisbane later this year.
And he said Australia had got gun control right while his own nation “should be ashamed” at its inability to address a surge in school shootings.
But, most importantly, the president loves us back. “I love Australia, I love Australians,” Obama told Tony Abbott last month as they worked through issues of the G20 summit.
So why do Americans hate Obama so much?
Mr Switzer said he was surprised Obama was more unpopular than George W. Bush and “even Nixon who was the only president to resign (over Watergate)”.
“But the reality is his policies have failed to kickstart the American economy,” he said.
The editor of American Review said the economy was important to Americans as was good financial management during times of recession.
No one likes leaders in power
With the exception of New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, every other leader of a western democracy has experienced a slide in the polls since becoming elected.
Mr Switzer said Britain’s PM David Cameron, French President Francois Hollande and Tony Abbott had all become less popular since attaining power.
Obama’s failure to tackle US economic woes
America’s economy remains sluggish despite Obama’s best efforts to fix it, according to Mr Switzer.
He said a failure to grow the economy made many Americans anxious with fears of another recession and that his “big spending interventionist policies had clearly failed”.
Universal health care also hadn’t sat well with many Americans with Mr Switzer saying it was as well received in the US as the carbon tax was here.
US failing to assert leadership during a crisis
While many Americans didn’t necessarily want to become involved in major wars, Obama had failed to show any strong leadership during the Ukraine crisis and his inertia over Syrian and the Middle East issues frustrated many, Mr Switzer said.
Opposition in congress
The Tea Party and Republicans remained strongly opposed to many of the president’s policies and he faced a constant battle trying to run the country with a hostile opposition.
Obama had raised expectations too high
When the President was elected he set about distancing himself from George W Bush.
Mr Switzer said Obama had raised expectations so high with his yes we can approach that many Americans were left disappointed when things went wrong.
Conservative news site Human Events writer John Hayward said he remained suspicious of these “best and worst presidents in history” rankings, “because they’re more of a lens for magnifying partisan passions than a dispassionate critique of performance.”
Americans were also divided, with some arguing polls were irrelevant.
Others remain adamant the president needs to sort the economy, and fast, and get on with the job of running the country.
This article was originally published at News.com.au