By Patricia Zengerle
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney was the loser in a political fight over U.S. reaction to attacks last week on American diplomatic compounds in Libya and Egypt, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll on Tuesday.
Four in 10 U.S. voters felt less favorably toward Romney after hearing about his criticism of President Barack Obama's handling of the attacks in which the U.S. ambassador to Libya was killed.
Only 26 percent of the registered voters polled felt worse about Obama after hearing about the Democrat's comments about the violence in the Middle East, the survey said.
"Romney probably did not do anything to shore up his foreign policy cred on this particular issue," Ipsos pollster Julia Clark said, but she noted that foreign policy was typically low on lists of the issues most important to American voters.
Romney took heavy criticism for issuing a statement accusing Obama of sympathizing with Islamists who waged the attacks on U.S. diplomatic compounds in Egypt and Libya.
For his part, Obama vowed to work with the Libyan government to bring to justice the killers of the ambassador and three other Americans.
The poll found that 37 percent of voters felt more favorable toward Obama after hearing about his remarks, versus 29 percent who felt favorable about Romney after hearing about his statement.
The flap last week started a tough period for Romney, who struggled to stabilize his reeling campaign after a secretly recorded video showed him belittling Obama's supporters, raising questions about his ability to come from behind and win the November 6 election.
The poll surveyed 792 registered voters.
The precision of the Reuters/Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll has a credibility interval of plus or minus 4.0 percentage points for all respondents.
(Editing by Alistair Bell and Eric Beech)