Poll: Romney’s remarks on Middle East unrest viewed negatively

Mitt Romney's criticism of President Obama's handling of the attacks on American outposts in the Middle East does not appear to have resonated with voters, according to a new survey released Monday.

While 26 percent of Americans approved of Romney's comments critical of the president's response to the attacks, which left four American foreign service officers dead, 48 percent of those surveyed disapproved and an additional 26 percent did not voice an opinion, according to a poll from the Pew Research Center.

Meanwhile, 45 percent of those polled said they approved of the president's handling of the situation, versus 36 percent who disapproved.

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Romney drew fire last week from Democrats, and some Republicans, who suggested the candidate should have waited before issuing a statement criticizing the Obama administration. Romney's campaign released comments suggesting that the White House was sympathetic to the anti-American protesters before the full extent of the attacks — including the death of U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens — was known, and it appeared to mix up the timeline of events.

But Romney defended the criticism at a news conference last week, and Republicans had hoped that the attack — combined with President Obama's comments that Egypt was not an ally, despite a congressional declaration otherwise — could cut the president's advantage on foreign policy.

"I also believe the administration was wrong to stand by a statement sympathizing with those who had breached our embassy in Egypt instead of condemning their actions," Romney said at a press conference last week. "It's never too early for the United States government to condemn attacks on Americans and defend our values."

But Romney's comments seemed only to have resonated with his Republican base, where nearly 6 in 10 approved of his remarks and only 11 percent said they thought Obama had handled the attacks well. Among Democrats, Obama held a 75 percent approval and nearly twice as many independents approved of Obama's handling relative to Romney's criticism.

The poll also revealed that the story was the most closely followed foreign news item of the year. Some 43 percent of those surveyed said they followed the story, a nearly identical percentage to the number of Americans saying they were paying close attention to the presidential election.

But of those who said they were following the uprisings "very closely," 46 percent said they approved of Obama's handling, versus 34 percent who said Romney's comments were appropriate.

The poll was conducted from Sept. 13-16 and has a 4-point margin of error.

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