Mitt Romney’s Favorability Problem Continues

Mitt Romney continues to have serious problems getting people to like him.

A preview release from the new ABC News/Washington Post poll shows us that Mitt Romney is still having trouble connecting with the public:

Mitt Romney’s favorability ratings have stalled over the course of his campaign’s bumpy summer months, with his earlier improvements as he was wrapping up the Republican nomination in the spring appearing to flat-line, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

While 40 percent of voters now say they hold a favorable opinion of the former Massachusetts governor–virtually unchanged from May–those holding negative views of Romney ticked higher in the new poll, from 45 percent to 49 percent.

Meanwhile, President Obama remained in positive territory on that measure, with 53 percent of voters reporting they hold favorable opinions of the incumbent. Only 43 percent say they feel unfavorably towards him.

Polls have generally shown a tight contest despite Obama’s consistent edge on the question of personal popularity.

But a Post poll concluded just as Romney was clinching the nomination showed Romney appearing to gain ground on the president. His favorability ranking rose to a career best 41 percent, while for the first time he matched Obama among detractors, with 45 percent viewing each man unfavorably.

Romney’s failure to continue to gain on Obama since then may be a sign that his image has been damaged by summer stumbles, including new attention on Romney’s tax returns and an overseas trip that included well publicized gaffes.

This is an “All Adults” poll, which in some sense is rather useless just three months out from an election, but the poll report [PDF] also includes favorability numbers for Registered Voters and the numbers are better for Romney among that group. There, Obama’s numbers are 49% Favorable while Romney’s are 42% Favorable which, as this chart shows is both Obama’s low and Romney’s high since this question has been polled:

Ed Morrissey sees signs that Romney’s unfavorable numbers may be peaking and, while there are signs he might be correct there when you look at the Registered Voter numbers, the fact of the matter remains that there hasn’t been much movement in his Favorable number, which is just as important as what happens to the Unfavorable number. Just take a look at this chart from Pollster, which shows the average Romney’s Favorable/Unfavorable numbers going back to April 10th, the day Rick Santorum dropped out of the race:

The chart going back to January and the start of the primary season looks pretty much the same. The one thing you notice here is that, notwithstanding slight variations, Romney’s Favorable and Unfavorable numbers have been fairly steady since the start of the year and that his Unfavorable number has always been higher than his Favorable number. It becomes more interesting when you look at the chart going all the way back to May 2011 when the Republican race began in earnest:

Look what happened here. Romney’s favorability numbers were fairly identical for a large part of the primary season and then, around November of last year they started to separate as his Unfavorable numbers started to creep up. That, no doubt, is a reflection of the barrage of negative ads and negative commentary that was coming Romney’s way from his Republican opponents. That’s to be expected in a primary race, of course, everyone takes aim at the guy at the top of the race and, this time around, Romney had to deal not only with his opponents but also with the SuperPAC’s that supported them. It’s not at all unusual for a nominee to come out of the primary race with upside down favorability numbers.

Romney’s problem is that he’s spent the four months since the primary’s ended letting his opponent define him with negative ads about Bain Capital and other matters, and he’s played a risky game of dodge-the-question when it comes to his tax returns. While the hard numbers from the polls don’t indicate that he’s suffered significant damage in the favorability numbers, it does show that those numbers have essentially stayed where they were when the barrage of negative ads started. In other words, the Obama ads are reinforcing the perception the public had of Romney when the primaries ended.

To make it worse, the Romney campaign hasn’t done much of anything to make a positive case for their candidate. It’s true that they are somewhat hamstrung by the fact that they cannot spend any of the money that they’ve raised for the General Election before Romney is officially nominated by the Republican Party for President. Nonetheless, they surely have some primary money left, they must because they are running ads right now here in Virginia. Where’s the positive ads that we usually see from a candidate after they win the primaries? Where’s the press effort to reintroduce the candidate to the public like the one John McCain undertook in the summer of 2008? As many observers have noted, the time when the Presidential campaign essentially went on haitus until the conventions long past. The Obama campaign has been working hard to define Mitt Romney, and these numbers indicate that they are succeeding. The fact that there’s been little to no push back from Boston should be of concern to Romney supporters because it indicates that they aren’t exactly doing a great job right now.

There is still time for Romney to try to take control of this, of course. The announcement of his running mate and the run up to the convention are an opportunity to do just that if it’s done right. So far, the signs out of the campaign don’t seem to indicate that they have any kind of strategy in that regard, though, and that’s a problem for Romney.

Update: Talking Points Memo notes that Romney finds him in an historically unique position:

Romney’s 40 percent favorability mark represents the lowest midsummer personal popularity rating for a presumptive presidential nominee dating back to 1948. Perhaps Romney’s only solace is that former President George H.W. Bush nursed a comparable 41 percent favorability rating at a similar point in 1988. Bush, of course, went on to comfortably win the presidential election that year — although he wasn’t facing an incumbent.

Unfortunately for Romney, President Obama is not only the incumbent, he’s also a far better campaigner than Mike Dukakis was.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, Public Opinion Polls, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Did you ignore #RomneyShambles because it does not fit your personal narrative?

    It seems to coincide with the latest favorability hit.

  2. Latino_in_Boston says:

    He hasn’t done positive ads because there’s nothing to be positive about.

    His base has made sure that he can’t talk about his biggest accomplishment in MA, and he can’t offer any policies because they are basically Let’s do what Bush did but worse (with the Paul Ryan plan).

    The Dems have made sure he can’t talk about Bain. He can’t talk about his faith because his base is uncomfortable with it and he can’t really talk about this life because, well, he comes off as plutocrat. What is left?

    This is when you sit back and you think to yourself. Man, the GOP really had nothing if this is the best they could come up with. Under less serious economic circumstances Obama would be mopping the floor with this guy.

  3. sam says:

    “Wanna bet $10,000?”

    “I’m unemployed, too.”

    “These cookies look like they’re from Kmart.”

    “I condemn the shootings at the sheik temple.”

    What’s not to like?

    They could’ve named the Martian rover “Willard”.

  4. @john personna:

    There really hasn’t been any significant movement in the numbers since the overseas trip, though.

    The problem for Romney isn’t that his unfavorables are getting worse, it’s that they aren’t getting any better and time is running short.

  5. Cycloptichorn says:

    It’s important to point out that while Romney hasn’t been spending lots of money on positive ads, his allies (thanks Citizen’s United!) have been dropping lots of cash on negative ads about Obama. Probably as much as Obama has been spending.

  6. J-Dub says:

    Romney needs a game-changer for his Vice President!

  7. Tom Hilton says:

    Couple of weeks ago I was in Fresno and reading the local paper, in which there were two letters to the editor slamming the president. What struck me about these letters is that neither so much as mentioned Romney.

    I’ve done some poking around in newspapers from conservative areas (Orange County, Texas, Alabama, e.g.) and the pattern I’ve seen is that a) the majority of anti-Obama letters don’t mention Romney, b) the minority that do refer only to supposedly unfair attacks on him, and c) not one letter I’ve seen even attempts to make an affirmative case for the GOP nominee.

    This isn’t exactly a statistically significant sample, but based on what I’ve seen I have to conclude that even the people who plan on voting for Romney don’t much like the guy.

  8. Moosebreath says:

    Since Romney is incapable of making a claim against the President while is not false at its core, it is hardly surprising that his unfavorables are so high. The mystery is why Doug spends zero time on Romney’s falsehoods but numerous posts on alleged falsehoods of those attacking Romney, though that isn’t a great mystery, either.

  9. J-Dub says:

    It seems like a classic case of letting your opponent define you and/or your policies.

    Yesterday was a perfect example. Romney claims that the Obama campaign is distorting his tax plan yet he has given ***zero*** details of what deductions he plans to cut in order for his tax cuts to be paid for.

  10. Kylopod says:

    The problem for Romney isn’t that his unfavorables are getting worse, it’s that they aren’t getting any better and time is running short.

    That’s a key point. Clinton in 1992 emerged from the primaries with very low favorability ratings, but by convention time they’d moved up to the high 50s. I don’t see any sign of Romney achieving a similar feat.

  11. Idiot says:

    Getting accused of murder on national television doesn’t really help matters.

  12. john personna says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Romney certainly took that trip to define himself as a world leader. Epic fail. No win. Even if he believed that culture stuff, it was a classic example of what you keep inside. It did not broaden his appeal.

  13. David M says:


    It seems like a classic case of letting your opponent define you and/or your policies.

    Yesterday was a perfect example. Romney claims that the Obama campaign is distorting his tax plan yet he has given ***zero*** details of what deductions he plans to cut in order for his tax cuts to be paid for.

    To be fair to Romney, having a tax plan with numbers that add up isn’t in his best interest either. He has to hide what he plans to do if he wants to be elected, just as pretty much any GOP candidate does.

  14. john personna says:


    It might get to the point where a solid VP does not want to hitch himself to an anchor.

  15. Mike in VA says:

    I like that someone actually tried to draw a trendline through the polling data in the 2nd and 3rd plots… and now we’re all sitting around trying to rationalize this trend. You all can’t actually be serious.

    I’m currently employed in a chemistry lab. If I took similar data to my boss, extrapolated a similar trend, and then tried to explain it to him… I’d be laughed out of the building and fired by day’s end.

  16. Xerxes says:

    According to CBS/Quinnipiac though Mitt Romney’s favorability rating is actually higher in two swing states (Wisconsin and Colorado) than Obama’s. And furthermore, Romney is polling five points ahead of Obama in Colorado according to that poll.

    So, I guess it just depends on what polls you look at

  17. mattb says:


    So, I guess it just depends on what polls you look at

    If you believe their hype, Rassmussen’s State by State electoral college poll* is the one to watch.

    They are still listing Obama and Romney in a dead heat in Colorado and Obama ahead by four points in Wisconsin. If fact, charting they’re entire electoral map as-is continues to point to an Obama victory.**

    * – while one can go after Rasmussen on their national sampling, at the state level, they’ve proven to be quite accurate in predicting presidential outcomes.

    ** – granted, a lot of that polling is within the margin of error, but Rasmussen’s claim is to nail the margin of error. As such, based on this polling, the candidate ahead gets the state.

  18. PJ says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    There really hasn’t been any significant movement in the numbers since the overseas trip, though.

    The problem for Romney isn’t that his unfavorables are getting worse, it’s that they aren’t getting any better and time is running short.

    Don’t worry, the GOP has a solution for that, if the unfavorables aren’t getting better then they just need to make sure that those who don’t like Romney aren’t able to vote. And the GOP has decided that that’s much easier to do than to get voters to like Romney.

  19. Scott F. says:

    Ed Morrissey sees signs that Romney’s unfavorable numbers may be peaking

    Nope, Obama and Romney haven’t yet met in a debate and Romney will have to share more specifics on his policy preferences at some point. The unfavorables have further to climb.

  20. The Q says:

    Messrs Joyner and Mataconis, can we have an informal pool where each commenter pegs the day that Mitt will say something that destroys his chances of being elected Prez?

    This guy is a time bomb of malaprop just waiting to go off and it will cost him the race.

    Its congenital with him, foot into mouth disease.

    He hasn’t rebutted Obama because his handlers are petrified that he will say something off the cuff dumb,

    See the triumphant world tour as example A.

  21. Peacewood says:

    @Scott F.: I’ve been thinking for a while about Romney’s possible tactics in a debate, once the facts are brought out.

    Is it possible he could simply throw a barrage of “That’s not true”s at the moderator/Obama like he did on the Fox interview during the Republican primaries? He managed to walk away from the latter pretty unscathed… and it could be that the broader media is too fractured to be able to effectively rebut that tactic.

  22. al-Ameda says:

    This so reminiscent of Nixon – no one in his own party liked him, however all were united in wanting to defeat any Democrat. Romney has resented himself as a colossal phony and the polling reflects that.

    Romney is Nixon, except that Romney is supremely confident and he believes he is the smartest person in the room. He’s insufferable.

  23. jan says:

    It is troublesome that Romney lacks the charisma factor. as people instinctively are attracted to someone they feel comfortable with, and can share that proverbial beer with. Such ‘likability’ served Obama very well in getting elected in ’08.

    However, the country has now had a likable fellow, a ‘rock star’ politician, as president for almost 4 years, and he hasn’t gotten us out of any financial ditch — at least in the eyes of the majority. So, it will be revealing to see where people’s thinking take them in November 2012. Are they still going to be voting for that comfy type of person, hyping that he needs more time to change more? Or, the one with a disciplined business background, who is being pounded into the ground by his opponents as being too rich, not showing enough tax returns, painted as a virtual villain for a lot of silly reasons?

    IMO, given the level of discontent out there, it might simply override whatever favorability negatives Romney has, by having people look strickly at what he can bring to the country with regards to economic savvy and competence, in comparison to what Obama hasn’t been able to do.

  24. Latino_in_Boston says:


    I submit to you Jan, that if people reelect Obama because of the reasons you cite (lack of transparency, policies favoring the rich from Romney) it will not be “silly”.

  25. James in LA says:

    This correlates perfectly with Romney’s Pants On Fire index, supported by unedited video footage spanning the six years he has played at running for President in which he takes every known position imaginable.

    McCain hasn’t rushed to defend him, no floor speeches about those 23 years of tax returns, and they were so harmless they have us Sarah Palin. HUGE tell, that.

    One predicts Mitt is at the peak of his fame now.

  26. J-Dub says:

    Quotes like this from Romney don’t help: “We’re accused, by the way – in our party – of being the party of the rich, and it’s an awful moniker, because that’s just not true. We’re the party of people who want to get rich.”

    That pretty much alienates all police, firefighters, teachers, factory workers, civil servants, or anyone else that just gets up every day to go to work to make a decent life for their families with the hope that they don’t get screwed out of their pension, 401k, or health care benefits.

  27. Ron Beasley says:

    Mitt is a pompous plutocratic sociopath – that’s just who he is and can’t really do anything about it. People don’t like him or trust him.

  28. C. Clavin says:


    “…for almost 4 years, and he hasn’t gotten us out of any financial ditch…”

    Seriously? The last quarter of Bush the GDP contracted at -9%.
    In the first quarter of this year it was 2%.
    That’s an increase in GDP of 11%.
    The last month of the Bush presidency we shed 700,000 jobs.
    This past month we added 163,000 jobs.
    If your opinion is based on mis-information…then your opinion is mis-informed.
    Maybe you need to stop reading right wing propoganda and start paying attention to facts.
    Low information voters like you are a danger to society.

  29. J-Dub says:

    Maybe if he would pay his taxes than people wouldn’t hate him. Hell, Wesley Snipes paid more taxes than Romney Hood.

  30. C. Clavin says:

    @ Jan…

    “…it might simply override whatever favorability negatives Romney has, by having people look strickly at what he can bring to the country with regards to economic savvy and competence…”

    Two independent reviews of Romneys economic plan…by oraganizations Romeny has praised in the past…and granting him all the benefit of the doubt that he can do what he says…still called his economic plan a mathematical impossibility.
    Mathematical impossibility…this is what to Jan passes for economic savvy and competence.
    Like I said…low information voters are a danger to society.

  31. C. Clavin says:

    Jan wants the 47% of the nation that is too poor or sick or elderly to have to pay taxes…to pay more in taxes.
    Guys like Romney that probably pay no taxes most years…nah.
    Talk about a pathetic double standard.

  32. David M says:

    @C. Clavin: It takes a certain kind of economic savvy and competence to run a company like Bain. Romney didn’t end up a vulture capitalist by accident, it takes dedication to figure out how to make money while bankrupting companies.

  33. al-Ameda says:

    The public has in modern history elected a president who was not well-liked, who was socially awkward and without noticeable principles (at least none he wanted to call attention to) and that person was Richard Nixon. Nixon even told us that he had a secret plan to end the war in Vietnam – so secret that it took years plus he never disclosed it.

    Romney is Nixonian, only Romney is not without total confidence that he is smarter that anyone else, however he lacks Nixon’s street smart toughness.

  34. jukeboxgrad says:

    It takes a certain kind of economic savvy and competence to run a company like Bain.

    Another important requirement: you have to be able to screw lots of people while feeling no shame or remorse. Therefore it’s a perfect job for a sociopath like Mitt.

  35. jukeboxgrad says:


    According to CBS/Quinnipiac though Mitt Romney’s favorability rating is actually higher in two swing states (Wisconsin and Colorado) than Obama’s.

    This claim you made is true regarding CO and false regarding WI. Link.

    And furthermore, Romney is polling five points ahead of Obama in Colorado according to that poll.

    According to RCP this is the first time a poll has shown Mitt ahead in CO. So maybe you should wait for some other polls before you pop the cork.

  36. grumpy realist says:

    @al-Ameda: Nixon at least went to China. And started the EPA. I’d hate to see the shape the US is in after four years of Romney kowtowing to every single thing the Likudniks in Israel want and putting into play every single tax cut the Rightists want.

    Oh, and Jan? If you can tell me how Romney’s tax plan actually balances out without taking a lot of cash from the poor and giving it to the rich, I’d like to know. But I suppose that’s perfectly fine behavior in your world.

  37. Rob in CT says:

    The GOP line on taxes is basically “the rich pay too much.”

    How about Romney shows us how horribly burdened he’s been – as a job creator dontchaknow – over the past decade? It’s a teaching moment!


  38. anjin-san says:

    @ C. Clavin

    Romney needs a tax cut to help pay for his car elevator. Are you prepared to do your part?

  39. C. Clavin says:

    @ anjin-san…
    When you consider that Romney is a corporate welfare queen…we are all doing our parts already. But it’s not soshulizm when we are giving the money to people Republicans support. Only when we give money to those who need it. They are very christian-ist that way.

  40. jan says:

    This is why Obama should not be reelected:

    Obama recovery is worst in postwar history

    How does the Obama recovery compare to other recoveries from similar downturns across the decades?

    On that basis, the Obama recovery can only be graded as a tremendous failure — as it has produced the worst rate of economic growth of any recovery in the past 65 years.

    Over that span, we’ve had 10 previous recessions and 10 previous recoveries. According to the federal government’s own Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), average real (inflation-adjusted) GDP growth in the first three years after those recessions was 4.6%.

    During the Obama recovery (which began three years ago, in July 2009), average real GDP growth has been just 2.2% — less than half the historical norm. Of the past 11 recoveries, the Obama recovery has been the worst.

  41. C. Clavin says:

    You are aware this has been the worst recession since before the war, right???
    I k ow you are uncomfortable with facts.
    They tend to lean left.

  42. john personna says:


    So you’ve never actually heard that this was the worst recession since the Great Depression?

    I hope you weren’t one of those who squawked when it was described that way in 2009.

    That would make your misunderstanding kind of willful.

  43. anjin-san says:

    by having people look strickly at what he can bring to the country with regards to economic savvy and competence

    Yes, he brings so much to the table that his own campaign is pretending that he was never Governor of Mass…

  44. grumpy realist says:

    @jan: And how will electing Romney fix matters? The guy can’t even put out a tax plan that adds up mathematically!

    I realize that you think that cutting taxes, repealing the ACA, and invading Iran will somehow magically cause the US to reach Utopia. Points I’d like to make:

    If you cut taxes, you get less in to the government. The Laffer Curve concept has never worked out in reality.

    Given that the last round of tax cuts didn’t cause a great increase in employment, why should a new set of tax cuts do so?

    Repealing the ACA: Well, you’ve just trashed the part that was the biologics equivalent of the Hatch-Waxman Act. Which means most of the next generation of medicines will be more expensive. Hope you like that.

    Attacking Iran: where are we going to get the money?

  45. john personna says:

    Just to encapsulate it, the current GOP position is that Obama had 2 whole years before they started blocking every single thing he wanted to do. He should have fixed the worst recession in living memory in those 2 years. Before they started throwing up roadblocks.

  46. Tsar Nicholas says:

    Am I the only one who noticed that that’s a ABC/WaPo poll to which reference is made? Isn’t that sort of like asking a crip for his opinion about a blood?

    In any case, let’s go ahead and stipulate that Romney has all the charisma of a cardboard cutout of a mannequin. Does it matter?

    This is an incumbent election, not an open election. The economy is a disaster. In large part the demographic breakdown of the vote not only is a known quantity we actually can pinpoint it within a couple of percentage points.

    The way I see it the only unknown variables either relate directly to the economy (the votes of middle and working class white moderates and Independents) or directly to religion (the evangelical non-vote).

    I don’t know that Romney’s stilted and unlikeable demeanor will matter all that much, if at all.

  47. al-Ameda says:


    This is why Obama should not be reelected:
    Obama recovery is worst in postwar history

    Because you apparently did not get the news, I’m here to help you out.

    The 2008 collapse of the financial and housing market was the worst economic catastrophe since the Great Depression. A result of it was that about $14 Trillion in wealth and income was lost that has had a deleterious effect on aggregate demand since the collapse. Immediately after the collapse the economy experienced 9% negative growth (recession). Since the early months of recession, Obama has rung up quarters of approximately 2-3 percent growth, and unemployment has dropped from over 9% to 8%. Anemic growth to be sure, but not a recession as Republicans would have you believe.

    This is unlike the recessions of the past 30 years, which were not nearly as deep. The structural damage of this collapse (loss of wealth and income) was severe, and we’re not going to bounce back to 1999 or 2005 levels of unemployment anytime soon.

    There, you’re welcome.

  48. Mike says:

    @jan: Mitch McConnell: “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”

    Got that? Not fix the economy, not reduce unemployment, not repairing crumbling infrastructure, not implementing any policy that may prove to be good for the nation if it in any way reflects positively on Obama, but instead to make sure the recession continues and unemployment stays high so that President Obama might be defeated. How patriotic.

    Republicans: party before country.

  49. C. Clavin says:

    This will mean nothing to Jan, as it does not align with her delusions and thus must be ignored.
    None-the-less….here’s a pretty clear snap-shot of why things are slow.
    Government spending down…Construction flat.

  50. The Q says:

    Jan’s remarks, parroted by wingnuts everywhere regarding “this is the worse recovery etc.” reminds me of the old jewish joke about the grandma taking her little grandson to the beach.

    As little Johnny was playing near the surf, a huge wave comes crashing in and washes the little boy to sea.

    The grandmother frantically pleads with the Lord,” oh please god, bring my little grandson back, I will do whatever I can to be a better person and worship you more and pray more….just please, please bring my little Johnny back, I beg you….!!!

    Just then a wave washes up and out tumbles little Johnny…after crying and giving thanks to God and hugging the child, the grandmother looks up to the heavens and exclaims,

    “oh, he had a hat”…..

    And so like the woman that complains the foods bad and such small portions, the wingnuts can’t give Obama credit for reversing the dire economy from negative to positive growth, now they complain that the portions aren’t big enough….

    Is there no end to their clown act?