Republican Mitt Romney significantly closed President Barack Obama’s lead with voters on foreign policy issues after the candidates’ first debate, according to a Pew Research Center poll released today.
Obama led Romney, 47 percent to 43 percent, on the question of who can make wiser decisions on foreign policy in the survey of 1,201 registered voters conducted Oct. 4-7. That compares with a 15-percentage-point advantage, 53 percent to 38 percent, that Obama had on the query in a Sept. 12-16 poll.
The latest poll was taken after the first Obama-Romney debate on Oct. 3. It doesn’t reflect the Oct. 16 rematch, in which Obama took a more aggressive approach defending his policies against Romney’s criticism.
Romney, who has pledged to name China as a currency manipulator on “day one” if he becomes president, leads in the poll over Obama, 49 percent to 40 percent, on dealing with China’s trade policies, even as economists say the designation would have little practical effect.
“You see his message of getting tougher on China resonating with voters,” said associate poll director Carroll Doherty.
A separate poll of 1,006 adults, taken Oct. 12-14, showed mixed reviews of the Obama administration’s handling of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack in Libya that left four Americans dead, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens. That poll found 38 percent of Americans disapprove and 35 percent approve, while 27 percent expressed no opinion.
Foreign policy will be the focus of the final Obama-Romney debate on Oct. 22 debate in Boca Raton, Florida. “It’ll be the issue next Monday night, but the economy and jobs are still the dominant issues” for voters, Doherty said.
As for which candidate can better deal with Iran’s nuclear program, the Oct. 4-7 poll was essentially tied, with Obama at 45 percent and Romney at 44 percent.
Voters were shifting toward a more hard-line view toward Iran, which may benefit Romney. By 56 percent to 35 percent, they favored taking a firm stand over avoiding a military conflict with Iran. In a January survey, 50 percent backed the tougher stance compared with 41 percent who didn’t.
Obama had the advantage over Romney, 47 percent to 42 percent, on handling the political upheaval in the Middle East known as the Arab Spring.
By 57 percent to 25 percent, Americans said that the Arab Spring, which led to new governments in countries including Libya and Egypt, wouldn’t lead to lasting improvements in the lives of residents of the affected nations. By 36 percent to 14 percent, they said the changes in leadership would be bad for the U.S., with 38 percent saying the upheavals would have little effect.
The Oct. 4-7 survey of registered voters had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.3 percentage points. The Oct. 12-14 survey had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.7 percentage points.