BALTIMORE (CBS BALTIMORE) — As next week’s foreign policy debate looms, there is growing pessimism among American voters on democracy in the Middle East.

Nearly six-in-ten Americans (57 percent) do not believe the changes in the Middle East will lead to lasting improvements for people living in the affected countries, up sharply from 43 percent in April 2011, according to a recent Pew Research Center study.

And a majority of Americans (54 percent) continue to say it is more important to have stable governments in the Middle East, even if there is less democracy in the region. Just 30 percent say democratic governments are more important, even if there is less stability.

The public has long favored tough measures to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, and 56 percent now say it is more important to take a firm stand against Iran’s nuclear program.

Meanwhile 35 percent say it is more important to avoid a military conflict. In January, 50 percent favored taking a firm stand against Iran and 41 percent said it was more important to avoid a confrontation.

The national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted Oct. 4-7, 2012 among 1,511 adults, including 1,201 registered voters, finds that Barack Obama and Mitt Romney run about even on most foreign policy issues.

On the question of who can do a better job making wise decisions about foreign policy, 47 percent of voters favor Obama and 43 percent Romney. This represents a substantial gain for Romney, who trailed Obama by 15 points on foreign policy issues in September. Romney gained on several domestic issues as well, including the deficit and jobs.

A separate survey finds that the public is divided over the Obama administration’s handling of last month’s terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya, which killed U.S. ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. The administration’s handling of the attack became a major point of contention in the Oct. 16 debate between Obama and Romney.


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