A plurality of Americans approved of President Obama’s handling of events in the Mideast, but by a wide margin Americans had a negative reaction to the way his Republican opponent Mitt Romney has reacted to the events, according to a Pew Research Center poll.
The new poll found that, of those Americans who had paid attention to the protests, riots and killing of Americans in recent days, 45% approved of Obama’s moves, while 36% disapproved. Judgments of Romney were far more negative, with only 26% approving and 48% disapproving.
Romney came under fire even from Republicans last week when he condemned Obama for what he said was apologizing to and sympathizing with “those who waged the attacks.” He based that on a statement from the U.S. Embassy in Cairo that did not apologize and was released during protests but before any attacks had been made.
After it became known that U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens had been killed in an attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, Romney continued to criticize Obama’s approach to foreign policy.
“It’s never too early for the United States government to condemn attacks on Americans and to defend our values,” Romney said in a news conference, adding that it’s “a terrible course for America to stand in apology for our values.”
Obama spoke first in the Rose Garden alongside Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, rebuking those who killed Stevens and three other Americans and vowing to bring their killers to justice. He also appeared at the State Department and received the bodies of the slain Americans at a ceremony outside Washington.
While largely adopting a statesman’s mien, Obama took pains to criticize Romney in an interview as firing rebukes before he had aimed.
The Pew poll found that 43% of Americans described themselves as closely following the events in the Mideast, 24% paid a “fair amount” of attention and 15% paid “not too much” attention. The percentage paying close attention was closely followed by the percentage paying attention to the presidential election (42%) and the country’s economy (38%) between Sept. 13-16.
More Americans paid close attention to the Americans’ deaths in Libya, and the surrounding protests, than many recent international stories, including the Arab Spring in Egypt (39%), airstrikes in Libya (37%) and political unrest in Syria (12%).
Pew’s survey was conducted between Sept. 13-16 among a sample of 1,001 adults. The margin of error among the total sample was, depending on the subgroup, plus or minus about 4 percentage points.