WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republican challenger Mitt Romney has gained substantial ground on Democratic President Barack Obama on foreign policy issues but Obama still holds a narrow lead, a poll showed on Thursday.
Ahead of Monday's foreign policy debate between Obama and Romney, 47 percent of voters favor Obama and 43 percent back Romney when asked who could do a better job on foreign policy, according to the Pew Research Center for People and the Press.
"This represents a substantial gain for Romney, who trailed Obama by 15 points on foreign policy issues in September," Pew said.
The October 4-7 poll was carried out about three weeks after the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, in which the U.S. ambassador was killed. Romney has seized on the issue to accuse Obama of failed leadership.
The poll involved 1,511 adults, including 1,201 registered voters. It has a margin of error of 2.9 percent for adults and 3.3 percent for voters.
A separate October 12-14 survey on Libya found that 38 percent of adults disapprove of the administration's handling of the attack, while 35 percent approve. That poll involved 1,006 adults and had a margin of error of 3.7 percent.
As part of the earlier poll, Romney leads Obama 49 percent to 40 percent in dealing with China's trade policies. Among independent voters, Romney leads 50 percent to 34 percent.
Neither candidate had a clear advantage on the issues of Iran's nuclear program and political instability in countries like Egypt and Libya.
After the second campaign debate on Tuesday, a Reuters/Ipsos poll found that 48 percent of registered voters said Obama had performed better, while 33 percent favored Romney.
Obama's showing marked a rebound from a lackluster first debate.
The poll also showed rising U.S. pessimism about the Middle East. Fifty-seven percent of Americans do not believe changes spawned by Arab Spring protests mean lasting improvement for people in affected countries, up sharply from 43 percent in April 2011.
(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Jim Loney)
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