The Washington Post

Poll: Romney rallies GOP, faces big popularity deficit for general election

Mitt Romney’s favorable numbers among Republicans have shot to a record high, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll conducted after Rick Santorum dropped out of the presidential contest a week ago.

But the presumptive GOP nominee suffers from a lowly regarded series of primaries and continues to trail President Obama badly when it comes to a straightforward assessment of popularity.

Most Americans express negative of views of the Republican primaries that appear to be wrapped up following Santorum’s exit, with “strongly unfavorable” impressions outnumbering intensely positive ones by a 3 to 1 ratio. And there are consequences: Among Republicans and independents who see the GOP primaries negatively, more than half hold unfavorable views of Romney.

The primaries did, however, serve their most immediate purpose, with Romney consolidating his position among the party’s conservative base, and picking up significant support from Republican men. Fully 69 percent of Republicans — including 80 percent of conservative Republicans — now hold favorable views of the former Massachusetts governor, both career highs.

So far Romney has done far better rallying Republican men than GOP women. Among Republicans, 77 percent of men hold favorable views — up 20 points in a month — compared with 59 percent of women. The task over the next six months, of course, is to broaden the appeal beyond the party. Here, Romney faces a sizable challenge. The number of Americans with unfavorable views of him continues to hover near an all-time-high set in late March, with favorable impressions mired around one in three, making him less popular than any recent major party nominee in available Post-ABC polling dating to 1984.

Meanwhile, Obama’s popularity has ticked up and matches a two-year high in periodic polls. Relative to Romney, Obama is buoyed by strong support among women: 58 percent of women hold favorable views of the president; 36 percent unfavorable ones. By contrast, Romney is deeply underwater there, with about twice as many women expressing unfavorable as favorable views (52 to 27 percent).

Obama and Romney have about equal favorable numbers among whites (43 and 42 percent, respectively), even as the president has somewhat higher negatives (52 vs. 43 percent). But there’s a gaping difference among all non-whites, 82 percent of whom have favorable opinions about Obama, compared with just 21 percent who hold positive impressions about the likely GOP nominee.

Among African Americans, 93 percent have favorable views of the president, compared with 10 percent of Romney. The gap is large, but narrower among Hispanics: 76 to 33 percent. A relatively large proportion of Hispanics — nearly three in 10 — have yet to form an opinion about Romney.

Romney’s popularity has also been steadily eroding among white women who identify as independents. Most — 56 percent — now have negative impressions of Romney, a more than 20-point increase from the start of the campaign. The trend for Obama is the reverse: These women are about evenly divided on the president (44 percent favorable, 46 percent unfavorable), after being about 2 to 1 negative in the fall.

This poll was conducted April 11 to 15 among a random national sample of 1,009 adults. The results have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

Full Post-ABC poll results

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