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Poll: Obama has foreign policy advantage

Chart - International Crisis

(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.


Evaluations of the economy have risen slightly since last month, but remain overwhelmingly negative. Just 31 percent of Americans rate the economy as good, and more than twice as many say it is in bad shape -- but views are more positive now than they were one or two years ago.

Similarly, the percentage that says the economy is improving has risen since last month, to about a third - where it was in April. Slightly more say it is staying the same (39 percent).

Six in 10 Americans are concerned about job loss in their household.

When asked a general question about life for the next generation of Americans, a third is optimistic that their future will be better, but more, 42 percent, expect a worse future for the next generation. Still, Americans are more optimistic now than they have been over the past couple of years.

Assessing the president and Congress

While 49 percent of voters say they are at least somewhat satisfied with the Obama presidency so far, only 18 percent are very satisfied. Half of all registered voters say they are disappointed, including nearly one in three who are very disappointed.

Fifty-one percent of Americans now say they approve of the job Mr. Obama is doing as president -- a slight increase from August -- while 42 percent disapprove.

In particular, more Americans now give Mr. Obama better ratings on handling the economy than did so in August. While most disapproved in August, Americans are now divided, with 45 percent who approve and 47 percent who disapprove. On his handling of foreign policy, 50 percent approve while 36 percent disapprove.

Just 16 percent of Americans approve of the job Congress is doing, the highest that has been in over a year. Another 74 percent disapprove.

Americans are more likely to blame the Republicans in Congress (44 percent) than Mr. Obama and the Democrats in Congress (29 percent) for difficulties reaching agreements and passing legislation.

More issues

When it comes to who would do a better job handling Medicare, Mr. Obama leads Romney, 50 percent to 43 percent. Mr. Obama also leads on the issue of health care (50 percent to 46 percent).

Three in four Americans, including more than half of Republicans, expect it will be necessary to make at least some changes to the Medicare system in order to keep it financially sound.

At the same time, 78 percent would like the Medicare system to continue as it is now, with the government providing seniors with health insurance. Fourteen percent think it should be changed to a system in which the government provides seniors with a fixed amount of money to purchase private health insurance.

Just 42 percent of Americans approve of the 2010 health care legislation, and a majority would like the law to be repealed at least in part or completely.

Americans' views on what should happen to the tax cuts passed in 2001 and 2003 have changed little in recent months. Most want them to continue for everyone or for those with incomes below $250,000.

Seven in 10 voters support efforts that would require voters to show photo identification in order to vote, agreeing that it is needed to prevent people who are not eligible to vote from voting. Just a quarter oppose those them, agreeing such efforts are designed to suppress voting by minority voters. There are large partisan differences: nearly all Republicans support this, as do 76 percent of independents, while Democrats are more divided.

More from the poll:

Poll: Obama leads Romney, 39 percent say country is worse off than four years ago
Michelle Obama, Ann Romney get positive ratings after conventions
Poll: More view Obama positively after convention

See next page for full poll results.

This poll was conducted by telephone from September 8-12, 2012 among 1,301 adults nationwide, including 1,170 registered voters. The sample size for likely voters is 1,162. Not all likely voters are assigned the same probability of voting. Phone numbers were dialed from samples of both standard land-line and cell phones. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample, the sample of registered voters, and the sample of likely voters could be plus or minus three percentage points. The error for subgroups may be higher. Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding. This poll release conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

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