Poll Shows GOP Leading on Foreign Policy, Dems on Image

 / Updated 
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of Calif. passes the gavel to House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, who was re-elected as House Speaker of the 113th Congress, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of Calif. passes the gavel to House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, who was re-elected as House Speaker of the 113th Congress, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)Susan Walsh / ASSOCIATED PRESS

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The American public has a more positive image of Democrats' compassion and tolerance but tends to side with Republicans when it comes to dealing with foreign policy and terrorist threats, a new poll shows.

According to newly released Pew Research Survey, for the first time during the Obama administration, more people (48 percent) say the GOP would do a better job handling foreign policy than Democrats (35 percent), with a large shift in independents.

The new numbers come as Americans face new threats in the battle against ISIS. On Wednesday, federal authorities charged three men with attempt and conspiracy to provide material support to a terrorist organization. Two of the men were arrested in New York City, with flights booked to Istanbul.

When asked which party is better able to deal with the terrorist threat at home, a majority said Republicans (51 percent to 31 percent.) That's the largest GOP advantage since after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

While Republicans improved their foreign policy advantage, a majority say Democrats are more tolerant and less extreme. Sixty-two percent of adults surveyed said Republicans are not “tolerant and open to all groups of people,” with 59 percent saying Democrats are indeed tolerant. Half of the people in the survey said the GOP “is too extreme.”

Democrats also hold a large advantage when asked which party cares about the middle class. Sixty percent of people said Democrats were empathetic, while less than half (43 percent) said the same for Republicans.

Despite voters giving Republicans control of Congress last November, the public is split on who should solve America’s problems. Forty percent say President Obama should take the lead, and 38 percent suggest it should be Republican Congressional leaders.

On the issues of handling the economy, immigration, and abortion, neither party has a clear advantage.

After jumping in the wake of the midterm elections, President Obama’s approval rating remained in positive territory. Forty-eight percent approve of his job performance, with 46 percent not approving.

The president's numbers are much higher than that of congressional leadership, who are in a bitter fight over immigration policy and the funding of the Department of Homeland Security. Twenty-six percent approve of Republican leaders, while 36 percent say they approve of the job performance of Democratic leaders.

The Pew Research Center polled 1,504 adults from Feb. 18-22. The poll has a margin of error of +/- three percentage points.

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