Poll: Afghanistan, Iran, Middle East Top Voters’ Foreign Policy Concerns

By Patrick Goodenough | October 16, 2012 | 5:06am EDT

President Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney talk after their first campaign debate, in Denver on Oct. 3, 201. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)

(CNSNews.com) – With a final presidential debate focusing on foreign policy just days away, a new poll finds that almost half of registered voters do not think candidates are talking enough about international issues, with Republicans in particular holding that view.

The list of issues Americans would most like to hear about from President Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney in the Oct. 22 debate in Florida is topped by Afghanistan, the Middle East and Iran, according to the commissioning organization, the Better World Campaign. (Tuesday evening’s town meeting-format debate in New York is also expected to include some foreign policy questions.)

The poll was conducted from October 4-7 by Public Opinion Strategies, a Republican firm, and the Democratic Party-linked Hart Research Associates.

The Better World Campaign (BWC), a U.N. engagement advocacy group affiliated to the United Nations Foundation and United Nations Association of the USA, highlighted the finding that eight in 10 respondents said it was better for the U.S. to work with major allies and through international organizations than to act mainly on its own.

“The data shows Americans want a candidate who champions strong international cooperation and who will work collaboratively with international organizations like the United Nations,” said BWC executive director Peter Yeo.

Seventy-four percent of respondents said a candidate’s position on foreign policy is important in determining how to vote – a sizeable majority, although not as large as the 96 percent who rated a candidate’s position on the economy and jobs as an important determinant.

Forty-seven percent of respondents (53 percent Republicans, 40 percent Democrats, 49 percent independents) said the candidates have not spoken enough about foreign policy, while eight percent said they have talked too much about it. Thirty-nine percent said the foreign policy focus has been about right.

Asked what foreign policy questions they would most like to hear the candidates address in the debates, respondents listed:

--ending the war in Afghanistan and bringing the troops home

--the U.S. relationship with and support for Israel--addressing the Iranian nuclear threat

--strategies for the Middle East

--America’s “continuous involvement in wars”

--foreign aid

--dealing with terrorism

--economic involvement with and dependence on China

--national and border security

Some of the questions respondents said they wanted to ask the candidates were:

--“How do we maintain American strength without being an international bully?”

--“How to deal with a nuclear Iran and what their vision is for the draw-down of troops in Afghanistan?”

--“What happened at the Libyan Consulate [where U.S. ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed in an armed attack on September 11]?”

--“How are we going to continue our support of Israel and keep peace with the Muslim countries in the Middle East?”

Respondents also were asked to respond to a number of terms and phrases to describe desired approaches to U.S. foreign policy over the next five years.

Those scoring highest were:  international cooperation (70 percent); restoring American leadership abroad (69 percent); and an American century, with American leading the free world (62 percent).

At the bottom of the scale were: multilateralism (51 percent); isolationism (34 percent); and America going it alone (33 percent).

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