What do Mitt Romney’s low poll numbers mean?

Mitt Romney currently has a problem. No, not the Republican nomination, he has that locked up. He has a general election problem. Namely, people don’t seem to like him. Romney is currently sitting on a historically unprecedented unfavorability rating. Here is his standing in Pollster’s “poll of polls“:

Romney  is viewed unfavorably by almost half the electorate. In many polls, that number tops 50% and in no recent polls does it drop below 40%. His net fav/unfav rating is minus 9. That does not bode well for Mitt. He appears to be the most unpopular Presidential nominee since 1976. In contrast, President Obama’s fav/unfav rating is a *positive* 7.5%, according to RealClearPolitics, a right-leaning site.

Now, some of Romney’s weakness is due to lingering Gingrich and Santorum supporters having a bad  impression of Romney. Romney’s weakness among conservatives and Republicans will be gone by the fall, especially after he picks a conservative running mate. Obviously, these people will not back Obama over Romney. But crucially, Romney is running very poorly among groups he cannot count on to come around by November.

In a recent ABC News-Washington Post pollRomney’s fav/unfav rating among the electorally crucial bloc of independent voters is 35-52 (that’s a negative rating of minus 17!)  and among moderates its a similar 35-48. That this many independents have already made up their minds (negatively) about Romney is a very bad sign for the Republicans. You can’t win the Presidency if this many independents view you unfavorably. Its just not possible.

Of course, the most relevant poll numbers  right now are President Obama’s job approval ratings. Unlike favorability ratings, which measure how well voters  like you as a person, job approval ratings show how much they approve of your time in office. (Obviously, Mitt Romney doesn’t have approval ratings because his job for the past 5 years has been running for President.) People will tend to focus on the President more than his challenger when they think about who to vote for.

The President’s approval rating is currently 48% approve to 46.5%  disapproving (positive 1.5%). This number will tend to harden as we get closer to the election. It’s not strong enough to guarantee re-election, but its also not weak enough to put him in a real danger zone. There remains a significant bloc of people who remain undecided about the President and who will consider him against his challenger in November. For these people, personal feelings about the candidates are crucial. If they are undecided about the President’s performance, but know that they like him personally and dislike his opponent, then they will swing toward the President in the election.

Romney’s numbers will rebound through the summer as he gains Republican supporters, so conservatives should not worry too  much about his overall favorability numbers right now. What they should worry about are  Romney’s numbers among independents. These numbers are bad and could sink him in November.

  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: