In the global context, it's helpful to think of swing states not as those that could break for either Obama or Romney but rather as countries where support for the candidates is tepid and where roughly half or more of the population wouldn't vote for either of the presidential aspirants. You could say these silent majorities are undecided, but the president and his Republican challenger are unlikely to win them over any time soon.
Light Blue countries like China, Mexico, and Poland might also fit into this category. But so would several other nations where Obama is polling anywhere from the 20s to the 40s and Romney is stuck in the single digits or low teens. These include Ecuador and Peru in Latin America; Hong Kong, India, and Malaysia in Asia; Iraq, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, and Turkey in the Middle East; and Bulgaria, Georgia, Macedonia, Romania, and Slovakia in Eastern Europe.
Greece, which is currently at the center of the European debt crisis, might fall into this camp as well, since only 45 percent of Greek respondents told Pew that Obama should be reelected. In the same survey, only 18 percent of respondents from Egypt said Obama should be reelected and just 29 percent expressed confidence in Obama's leadership, a 13-point drop from 2009 (we don't know much about opinion in other Middle Eastern flashpoints such as Libya and Syria, but more than half of YouGov/Cambridge respondents in both countries said Romney's election would have no impact on their feelings toward the United States). As one professor in Cairo told Reuters, Obama "didn't deliver" but "he is much better than Romney."
In Russia, meanwhile, Obama is beating Romney by a margin of 27-12, according to the German Marshall Fund's Transatlantic Trends survey (a poll this week by Russia's Levada Center has Obama up 41 to 8). Russian President Vladimir Putin, for his part, has dismissed Romney's characterization of Russia as America's top geopolitical foe and described Obama as a "very honest man."
For its consistent and overwhelming opposition toward both major-party U.S. presidential candidates -- hostility that has only been inflamed by drone strikes and the Osama bin Laden raid -- Pakistan deserves a category of its own. A surprising result of the BBC's global opinion poll was that more Pakistanis supported Romney (14 percent) than Obama (11 percent). But the larger story is that the vast majority of Pakistanis didn't choose either candidate. UPI's survey arrived at a similar result, with 13 percent of Pakistani respondents backing Obama, 9 percent supporting Romney, and nearly 50 percent saying they didn't approve of either candidate or that there was no difference between them. This phenomenon isn't new in Pakistan, either. Seven percent of Pakistanis expressed confidence in Obama's leadership in Pew's 2012 survey, compared with 13 percent in 2009.
With headlines like "Poor choice for Americans" and "The US elections mean nothing for Pakistan," it's clear the Pakistani press agrees with public opinion. "The American President irrespective of party colours will do what they or the State Department, Pentagon or the CIA thinks is best for their country," Tughral Yamin recently observed in Pakistan's The News International. "We should concentrate on rebuilding our country in a manner that it is taken seriously by all incumbents of the White House in the times to come."
What are the broader lessons we can learn from all these statistics? According to UPI data, countries that enthusiastically support Obama tend to cite the candidates' competence, personality, and personal background as the main factors influencing their (theoretical) vote, while countries that are particularly down on the president or supportive of Romney tend to mention the candidates' policies toward their nations. More broadly, it appears that, with some exceptions, Israel is Romney country and Northern and Western Europe is Obama country, with a skeptical rest of the world in the middle. As for Pakistan? Perhaps they'll flock to Ron Paul.