Middle East Protest Response Assessed Through Partisan Eyes

September 19, 2012, 12:00 PM GMT+0

(Week of 9/15/2012) After Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney criticized President Obama’s handling of the protests in the Middle East and the killing of the American Ambassador to Libya last week, many expected the developments to have an adverse effect on the Romney campaign. But the latest Economist/YouGov Poll suggests that opinions of the Obama administration’s handling of the protests and Romney’s subsequent comments were, much like many other issues these days, seen through a partisan lens.

Nearly as many of those aware of the killing think that Romney would have handled the situation better than President Obama if he were President as think Romney would have done a worse job.

Opinion is divided on how the Obama administration handled the protests in the Arab world, with a slightly higher percentage of those who had heard of the death of Ambassador Chris Stevens approving of the administration’s response than disapproving (47%-43%).

Nearly half the country isn't sure whether it is always right or always wrong for a challenger to criticize a President during a foreign policy crisis. They say it depends. For many others, it depends on whether or not the President being criticized belongs to their own political party. 22%, mostly Republicans, say it’s always right for a challenger to criticize a President during a crisis. Another 22%, mostly Democrats, say it’s always wrong.

Perceptions of how the President handled the situation reflect the division in approval of President Obama’s job performance overall. Last week, immediately following the Democratic Convention that re-nominated him, President Obama’s approval rating shot up to 48%, the highest percentage in more than a year. This week’s poll finds President Obama maintaining his unusually high approval rating for another week. Of course, nearly half of Americans continue to disapprove of the President’s performance in office.