WASHINGTON - Foreign policy used to be a bright spot in Americans' dimming opinion of President Barack Obama. Not anymore. Associated Press-GfK polling found a spring and summer of discontent with the president's handling of world events.
Obama's consistently low marks across crises such as the fighting in Ukraine and the conflict between Israel and Hamas could benefit Republicans aiming to win control Congress in the fall.
"The problem is saying something and not doing anything — making grandiose threats and never following any of them up," said Dwight Miller, 71, a retiree and volunteer firefighter in Texas. Miller, who describes himself as a libertarian-leaning Republican, says Obama should either stay out of other nations' business or commit to going "all in."
The foreign conflicts that have consumed so much of Washington's attention lately are not rated as especially pressing by most Americans surveyed for the AP-GfK poll. It's unclear how their unhappiness with Obama's performance will affect the midterm elections in November.
Asked about world trouble spots:
—42 per cent say the conflict between Israel and Hamas is "very" or "extremely" important to them; 60 per cent disapprove of the way Obama has handled it.
—40 per cent consider the situation in Afghanistan highly important; 60 per cent disapprove of Obama's handling of it.
—38 per cent give high importance to the conflict in Ukraine; 57 per cent disapprove of what Obama has done about that.
—38 per cent find the situation in Iraq of pressing importance; 57 per cent disapprove of Obama's handling of it.
Opinion of Obama's foreign policy has slid nearly as low as his overall approval rating.
Just 43 per cent were OK with the president's handling of foreign relations in the new poll, while 40 per cent approved how he's doing his job overall. AP-GfK polls in March and May show a similar picture.
The late-March poll, which came after Russia seized upon an uprising in Ukraine to annex the Crimean Peninsula, marked a significant drop from January's 49 per cent foreign policy rating. In September 2012, shortly before Obama's re-election, it was 57 per cent.
Republicans line up more uniformly behind their party on foreign policy than Democrats do.
Asked whom they trust more to protect the country, 71 per cent of Republicans chose their party. Only 39 per cent of Democrats said their party most; about as many Democrats trusted both parties equally.
Sixty-three per cent of Republicans have more confidence in their party in an international crisis, while 44 per cent of Democrats put faith in their party alone. Most Democrats did prefer their party for managing the U.S. image abroad — 51 per cent said it would handle that better.
About half of independents don't trust either major party in a world crisis.
"I think they're both a little bit more aggressive than they need to be in using armies instead of going through the U.N.," said Cameron Wooley, 18, of Orlando, Florida, who's still deciding whom to support when she votes for the first time this year.
"Maybe if we didn't spend these massive chunks of our budget on the military we wouldn't have the other concerns we have because of money," Wooley said. An aspiring opera singer attending the University of North Florida in the fall, she would like to see some of that defence money handed over to the states to spend on things like education and roads.
Only about half of those polled see foreign relations as highly important right now, and concern about the United States' relationship with other countries hasn't increased despite recent news.
The AP-GfK Poll was conducted July 24-28, 2014, using KnowledgePanel, GfK's probability-based online panel designed to be representative of the U.S. population. It involved online interviews with 1,044 adults, and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points for all respondents. It is larger for subgroups.
Respondents were first selected randomly using phone or mail survey methods, and were later interviewed online. People selected for KnowledgePanel who didn't otherwise have access to the Internet were provided with the ability to access the Internet at no cost to them.
AP-GfK Poll: http://www.ap-gfkpoll.com
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