Belfer-sponsored poll tests voters’ views on foreign policy ahead of debate

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Voters in the pivotal battleground states of Ohio and Florida show strong interest in global security issues, and want to hear the candidates’ views on defense, Iran and terrorism in the final presidential debate, according to a new poll conducted for Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.

While the poll confirms conventional wisdom about the economy as the number one issue, the survey finds that national security is a key issue for many voters in both states – almost as decisive a factor as the federal deficit and more important than taxes.

The poll shows voters have mixed views on U.S. global engagement and are split almost down the middle on isolationism.  Many are worried about the impact of the Arab Spring on U.S. interests.

The bipartisan survey tested opinion on foreign policy issues among 600 active voters in Ohio and 603 active voters in Florida. The survey was conducted for the Belfer Center by two of the nation’s leading pollsters, the Mellman Group, a Democratic polling firm, and Hill Research Consultants, a Republican firm, with assistance from GOP consultant Mike Murphy.

Echoing previous surveys, the findings show that many voters lack knowledge of some foreign policy issues – they are more familiar with Britain’s soccer star David Beckham than Prime Minister David Cameron. But  large numbers want more teaching on geography in schools, and say they favor more state and federal funding for teaching geography, language and world culture.