Romney has faced a week of battering over his role at Bain Capital, a private-equity firm he helped found and where he made his fortune. Gingrich and Perry initially jumped on Romney for his role there, with Perry at one point describing Bain and other such firms as “vultures.” A super PAC supporting Gingrich has run ads attacking Romney and put out an online documentary casting Bain and Romney in a harsh light, although the accuracy of the claims has been called into question.
Most potential primary voters see Romney’s work buying, restructuring and selling companies in a generally favorable light, but since mid-December, there has been an increase in unfavorable views. Among Republicans, 34 percent have negative impressions of Romney’s private-sector work, up from 20 percent just a month ago.
Still, far more regard Romney’s private-sector work as doing more to create rather than cut jobs. And the opportunity may be closing for Romney’s rivals to capitalize on another potential vulnerability: his support for health-care reform as governor of Massachusetts. A plurality says his work in the area is not a major factor in their vote, with about a 20-point drop in the number of very conservative potential voters saying the Massachusetts experience is a big reason to oppose his candidacy.
And Romney’s rivals have their own vulnerabilities.
More than half, 51 percent, view Gingrich’s work as a political consultant in an unfavorable light, up seven points in the month. The negative turn here has been particularly steep among staunch conservatives, with a 12-point rise in unfavorable impressions.
About half of all potential voters see Paul’s strident opposition to U.S. military interventions overseas as a major reason to oppose him, and exactly half of possible voters say that, if elected, he would probably pursue policies that are unacceptable to most Americans.
In Iowa and New Hampshire, Santorum won over large numbers of voters by making abortion a priority issue, but nationally, his blanket opposition to the procedure draws negative reviews. Nearly two-thirds of all Republicans and GOP-leaning independents express unfavorable views of his stand on the issue. And nearly a third consider his support for earmarks while in the Senate a big reason to oppose his candidacy, double the proportion who see that as a major reason to back him.
The poll was conducted Jan. 12 to 15; the margin of sampling error for Republicans and GOP-leaning independents is plus or minus 5.5 percentage points.
Polling manager Peyton M. Craighill and polling analyst Scott Clement contributed to this report.