Fox News poll: Majority wants president to stand up for free speech

Two weeks after the killing of a U.S. ambassador in Libya -- an attack the Obama administration blamed in part on an online video mocking the prophet Muhammad -- a majority of likely voters thinks the first thing a president should do in such situations is stand up for free speech, and not criticize how Americans exercise their First Amendment rights.

A Fox News poll released Thursday finds 61 percent of voters think the president of the United States should “stand up for freedom of speech, even if it’s offensive,” while 22 percent say the president should “condemn offensive speech if it might provoke Islamic violence.”

The Obama administration now says the violence in Libya was a planned terrorist attack, after initially citing the controversial video in the aftermath of the attack.

In general, pluralities think the Obama administration has made the United States both less respected (39 percent) and less feared around the world (42 percent).

And while a 62-percent majority thinks the U.S. decision to overthrow Libyan leader Muammar al -Qaddafi was a good idea, this doesn’t translate into approval of President Obama’s policies toward the Muslim world.  Nearly three times as many voters think Obama’s policies toward the Muslim world are failing (29 percent) as succeeding (11 percent).  Fifty-five percent say it’s too soon to tell.

Some 39 percent of voters approve of the job Obama is doing on Libya, while 43 percent disapprove.  Another 17 percent are unsure.

Voters want the United States to “take the lead” rather than react when it comes to world events, and a 52-percent majority thinks Republican challenger Mitt Romney would be more likely than Obama to do that.

The Fox News poll is based on live telephone interviews on landlines and cell phones from September 24 to September 26 among 1,092 randomly-chosen likely voters nationwide.  Likely voters are registered voters who are considered most likely to vote in the November presidential election.  The poll is conducted under the joint direction of Anderson Robbins Research (D) and Shaw & Company Research (R).  For the total sample, it has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.  The poll is weighted by age and race; it is not weighted by party identification.