Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney may have outlasted his Republican presidential primary foes. But the brutal contest sure didn’t help him with general election voters.
As the Republican primaries and caucuses dragged on, Romney saw his standing plummet among Americans as a whole. Yet as summer approaches, things may have changed.
Now that Romney is in full general election mode, voters are taking a second look, and it’s showing up in the numbers: After the former governor’s personal ratings tanked in late January, he’s nearly back to even in the TPM Poll Average of all public polling, just as he and President Obama are taking aim at each other.
“It seems natural — he’s not taking the kind of negative hits that he was during the primary,” Doug Usher, managing partner for research at Purple Strategies who was one of Sen. John Kerry’s (D-MA) pollsters during his presidential run, told TPM in an email. “This is his [Romney’s] honeymoon period.”
Check out the trend below, showing Romney’s favorability going underwater in early part 2012, only to trend upward during the end of April and through May.
GOP pollster Whit Ayres of North Star Opinion Research confirmed to TPM that Romney’s ratings have moved up in his firm’s own polling as well. “It’s primarily a function of wrapping up the nomination, Republicans rallying around their nominee, other Republicans not beating up on him daily and independents disgusted with Obama’s record taking a renewed look at the alternative,” he said.
The real surprising number from this week came in the form of a poll from Gallup commissioned by USA Today, which showed Romney’s favorability at 50 percent, marking only the third time it’s been that high since the beginning of December. The shift was driven by independent voters in the survey, 48 percent of whom say they have a favorable view of the former governor against 43 percent who have an unfavorable view. Nearly one-fifth of Democrats said they had a positive take on Romney, which is high in light of other polling this cycle.
But others aren’t persuaded that Romney’s resurgence is due to any cross-party appeal.
“It’s really just Republicans unifying around him,” Tom Jensen, pollster for Democratic-leaning firm Public Policy Polling, told TPM in an email. “We find that his numbers with independents (30/55) are similarly atrocious to what they were two months ago (29/58). And he’s actually gotten even more unpopular with Democrats over the last couple months (from 20/71 to 12/81). I still think Romney’s an unusually weak and unpopular nominee, it’s just not as catastrophic for him as it was when Republicans were still skeptical about him too.”
Kyle is the Editor of TPM Media’s PollTracker. He graduated from Beloit College (WI) and began working in politics before getting an M.A. in magazine journalism from New York University, where he interned at TPM and the website of The New Yorker.