Throughout the year, Mitt Romney’s favorability ratings have been consistently under water; by double-digits, more Americans dislike than like the former Massachusetts governor. As time went on—and voters grew familiar with him and his record—the assumption was that this would improve. So far, however, it hasn’t. According to the latest poll from ABC News and the Washington Post, Romney has an unprecedently high unfavorability rating. Fifty percent of Americans have an unfavorable view of the presumptive Republican nominee, while 34 percent rate him positively. His favorability score is the lowest since ABC News and the Washington Post began polling in 1984, and his unpopularity is matched only by Newt Gingrich and Hillary Clinton circa 2008.
The big problem for Romney, as far as his popularity goes, is that Republicans are still “meh” about his candidacy. Only 62 percent of Republicans and 47 percent of conservatives view him favorably. Of course, this isn’t insurmountable. When the convention comes and the Republican institution rallies around the former governor, his popularity among conservatives and Republicans will almost certainly improve. But conservative distrust for Romney runs deep, and if he tries to shake the Etch A Sketch too much, he risks alienating these crucial supporters.
But this also puts him in a tight situation. Romney’s standing with moderates and independents is terrible. Fifty-two percent of independents and 48 percent of moderates see him unfavorably. More important, the same things that could endear him to conservatives—an enthusiastic party and an adherence to conservative rhetoric—could define him as unacceptably right-wing to the center, and drive his favorability to the ground. All presidential candidates have to balance their appeals to the middle with their commitment to partisans. Romney’s problem is that the Republican Party has moved so far to the right that this might be impossible.
President Obama, on the other hand, is in fairly good shape. Not only are Democrats unified in their support—86 percent of Democrats and 75 percent of liberals have a favorable view the president—but moderates and independents are supportive as well, with 61 percent and 50 percent support, respectively. What’s more, a recent Quinnipiac University poll shows Obama with leads over Romney in three critical swing states—Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
Overall, Obama’s favorability rating is 53 percent, and his job approval—according to the latest Gallup tracking poll—is 47 percent. Not that this is any reason to be complacent; at around this time in 1992, Bill Clinton was fairly unpopular, and George H.W. Bush looked like he would cruise to re-election, with a favorability rating of 52 percent.