The poll suggsts that Barack Obama is proving as popular abroad as he has at home [AFP]

The race to be the next president of the United States has captivated the imagination of not just a vast majority of American citizens, but of people worldwide, according to a new report commissioned by Al Jazeera.

And Barack Obama, who is expected to soon clinch the Democratic nomination, is proving as popular abroad as he has at home.

In depth

Read the full poll results here

In a survey of 22 countries, published on Tuesday, 80 per cent of people polled who said they were aware of the three main candidates - Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John McCain - said they were following the election "closely".

Clinton, the former first lady and early favourite for the Democratic nomination who is under increasing pressure to concede defeat, emerged as the most recognisable candidate with 92 per cent of respondents indicating they were "aware" of her.

But it was Obama who was the preferred of all three candidates, with more than half of those who said they were aware of the candidates saying they would most like to see him as the next president

Germany 'tuned in'

McCain was the least recognised - and least
popular - US candidate [GALLO/GETTY]
McCain, the all but certain Republican nominee, was both the least recognisable and least popular candidate.

Sixty-two per cent of respondents said they were aware of him, while only 15 per cent of people who recognised the three candidates said they would like to see him in the White House.

Nearly 23,000 "broad elites" and "opinion leaders" were interviewed by Ipsos for the survey on behalf of Al Jazeera.

Germany appears to be the most tuned in to affairs in the US, with a third of people aware of all the candidates also following the election "very closely".

More than 90 per cent of those interviewed in Brazil and India said they were following the race closely, while in China a quarter of respondents were watching very closely and a further 64 per cent "somewhat closely".

Al Jazeera's Rob Reynolds in Washington said the survey showed that people worldwide realise this is a pivotal moment in American politics and the transition form the Bush era.

Huge interest

In focus


In-depth coverage of the
US presidential election

The presidential primary contests have been among the most open races in years.

The struggle between Obama and Clinton, that began in January and concluded with votes in Montana and South Dakota on Tuesday, has prompted record voter turnout and huge crowds at rallies for both candidates.

The reality of the country's first new president for eight years and the possibility of either the first female or black American president being elected in November have also generated huge interest and media coverage worldwide.

In March Al Jazeera reported on a campaign by Palestinian students in Gaza to back Obama, such has been the reach of the 2008 presidential contest.

Source: Al Jazeera