Do Americans think Obama or Vladimir Putin is the stronger leader?

Russian President Vladimir Putin walks past President Obama as he arrives to pose for the family photo during the G20 summit on September 6, 2013 in Saint Petersburg. 

American voters are evenly divided over whether President Obama or Russian President Vladimir Putin is the stronger leader as the two face off over the ongoing crisis in Ukraine, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll out Wednesday.

That's not a great assessment for Obama, given that 80 percent of respondents say Putin is not honest and trustworthy, and just 48 percent believe he is mentally stable. On the other hand, 57 percent say he has strong leadership qualities.

Mr. Obama's approval rating on foreign policy matters is not in good shape, with just 39 percent approving and 55 percent disapproving of his performance. His overall job approval stands at 42 percent, up two percent since late January.

On Ukraine specifically, 41 percent of voters approve of how the president has handled the crisis and 47 percent disapprove. The numbers are comparable to a CBS News poll conducted at the end of March that found just 38 percent of Americans approve of the president's handling of the Ukraine crisis and 46 percent disapprove.

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Who is a stronger leader?

The low approval rating appears to be symptomatic of a larger concern that the president is not a tough enough leader when dealing with the rest of the world. Although nearly seven in 10 voters back the sanctions imposed by the U.S. and its European allies, just 45 percent of voters in the Quinnipiac poll say Mr. Obama's handling of Ukraine and Russia has been "about right." Thirty-six percent say he hasn't been tough enough.

Eight in 10 voters say they are "very" or "somewhat" concerned the conflict could lead to a larger conflict in the region, and more than half (56 percent) say it could lead to a renewal of the Cold War. Along those lines, just 54 percent of voters say the U.S. should not get overly involved in the crisis, but 39 percent say it is necessary to take a firm stand.

  • Rebecca Kaplan

    Rebecca Kaplan is a political reporter for