America Watched Embassy Riots — Unfortunately for Mitt Romney

Poll: Embassy riots were the most-followed foreign news this year, but Romney's response backfired.

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America paid closer attention to the riots at U.S. embassies across the Muslim World than any other foreign news story, a new poll finds.

[Protests Spread Over Ant-Islam Film]

A national survey by Pew Research Center forthe People & the Press found that more than 4 in 10 Americans followed the foreign embassy turmoil, and those who did thought President Obama's response was better than Romney's by a large margin. The poll also found that more people followed the embassy attacks closely than any other news story last week, including the election, the economy, and the Chicago teachers' strike.

Following news of unrest in Libya over a controversial anti-Muslim video, Romney released a statement criticizing the response by the U.S. embassy in Egypt, saying it was "disgraceful," seemed to "sympathize with those who waged the attacks" and was emblematic of a weak foreign policy strategy by Obama.

[Photos: Consulate Attacks Target Egypt, Libya]

After it became clear that U.S. diplomats had been killed in the attacks, Romney stood by his statement, which critics claimed used a national tragedy for political gain. Obama later told CBS News that Romney's comments showed "a tendency to shoot first and aim later."

Monday's survey indicates that America for the most part agreed with the president. Just one in four of those polled approved of Romney's comments on the situation, and 48 percent disapproved. Meanwhile, 45 percent approved of Obama's handling of the crisis. This perception held across all demographics besides party affiliation, which was the best predictor of how respondents viewed the presidential candidate's responses. The survey included 270 Republicans, 322 Democrats, and s309 Independents, who were much more approving of Obama's handling of the situation than Romney's.

Seth Cline is a reporter with U.S. News and World Report. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter.