Poll: Obama has foreign policy advantage

President Obama walks on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington Sept. 14, 2012, heading to Andrews Air Force Base, Md., to attend the transfer of remains ceremony marking the return to the United States of the remains of the four Americans killed in Benghazi, Libya. AP Photo

Chart - International Crisis
CBS

(CBS News) In a CBS News/ New York Times poll conducted as the current Middle East turmoil erupted, President Obama has the advantage over Mitt Romney when it comes to who voters trust to handle an international crisis.

Sixty-five percent of likely voters are at least somewhat confident in Mr. Obama's ability to handle an international crisis, including four in 10 who have a lot of confidence. By comparison, 58 percent have confidence in Romney's ability to do so, including just one in four with a lot of confidence.

The poll was conducted Sept. 8-12, and most of the interviews were done in the days just before violent protests against the U.S. broke out in the Middle East.

On Sept. 11, protesters angered by an obscure Internet movie belittling Islam attacked U.S. diplomatic offices in Egypt and Libya. Early the next morning, the U.S. learned that U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed. By Friday, Muslims around the world were protesting for the fourth straight day.

When asked separately who would do a better job handling foreign policy, 49 percent chose Mr. Obama and 39 percent chose Romney.

Handling the economy

The economy remains the top concern of voters in this election, and likely voters are divided between the two candidates on this issue. Forty-seven percent of likely voters now think Mr. Obama would do a better job handling the economy and jobs, while 46 percent choose Romney. The candidates are about equal on handling taxes, and Romney (51 percent) leads Mr. Obama (43 percent) on handling the budget deficit.

The percentage of registered voters that think Mr. Obama's economic policies are improving the economy now has risen 10 points - from 17 percent in July to 27 percent today. Another 32 percent say his policies will improve the economy if given more time, while 38 percent say they will never improve it.

As for who will do more to help middle-class Americans, Mr. Obama has a 14 point lead over Romney. Most voters earning less than $100,000 a year choose Mr. Obama on this measure, while half of those earning more choose Romney.

Twenty-six percent of voters think the president's policies will favor the middle class, but just 8 percent say the same about Romney's policies. In fact, 53 percent think Mitt Romney's policies would favor the rich.

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    Sarah Dutton is the CBS News director of surveys.

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