World Opinion on U.S. Election Leans Obama
By Jose Antonio Vargas
If the borderless Web has put the whole world "just a few clicks away," as Amira Al Hussaini of Voices Without Votes puts it, what kind of input should non-Americans have when it comes to next Tuesday's election?
Bragi Thor Antoniusson, a 23-year-old student in Iceland, thinks the answer is: at least some.
"We're not asking to have a vote, what we're asking is that Americans open their eyes and see that the world's opinion matters," Antoniusson told The Trail.
Antoniusson helped create the online survey site If the World Could Vote, where users click to vote by country. To prevent multiple votes and voting by bots, the site counts one vote per IP address (the identifying code for a computer's network). If you've clicked on either Sen. John McCain or Sen. Barack Obama to cast a vote using your personal or work computer, whichever country that computer may be in, the site only counts the vote once. There are ways to abuse this, of course -- users can vote from more than one computer, for example -- but, for the most part, it works. One click, one vote. "Some people may think the site is just silly, or just something to pass around with friends," Antoniusson said, "but it's still saying something."
And Antoniusson, an Obama supporter, was happy to report that as of Monday night, it's a digital landslide for the Democrat. Out of 475,000 votes cast from 200 countries, Obama drubs McCain, 87 percent to 13 percent. More than 40,000 votes-by-clicks were cast in Canada, about 20,000 came from Australia and Finland and some 4,000 from China. About 170,000 came from America.
The results of Antonoiusson's unscientific poll are in sync with findings from the most recent Gallup polls conducted in 70 countries. Gallup's world poll, which can be accessed on Foreign Policy's site, shows Obama leading McCain 66 percent to 15 in Japan, for example.
"For me, my vote for Obama goes back to his opposition to the Iraq war. I know it's not high on the list of what Americans want to talk about, but America's invasion of Iraq affected more than just America. There are about 40 other countries with troops in Iraq because America decided to go to war," Antoniusson continued. (Most of the troops from the coalition that assisted with the initial phase of the war have since departed).
Here in the U.S., Obama's online popularity has only grown in the past two years, judging by the record amount of money he's raised online and the number of his supporters on several social networking sites. The same goes for Obama's online pull in rest of the world, which has been paying close attention to the 22-month campaign on blogs, social networking sites and YouTube.
"It's been really incredible, watching how the world is reaching to the idea of a possible Obama presidency," said David Michaelis of the the video portal Link TV. A few months ago, Link TV launched a project called Dear American Voter, allowing people to send video messages to those members of the American public who visit his site. In a four-minute video titled "America is the Hope of the World," one South African project participant said, "American is as loved as much as it is hated ... prayed for as much as it is cursed." An Obama win, the video blogger said, would go a long way toward improving America's image in the world.
But win or lose, the next U.S. president -- and a growing population of Web-savvy Americans -- will be hearing more and more from non-Americans. That's the thing about the Internet: Everyone has a voice, whether or not we want to listen to it.
This is one in a series of online columns on our growing "clickocracy," in which we are one nation under Google, with e-mail and video for all. Please send suggestions, comments and tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted at 11:30 AM ET on Oct 28, 2008
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