Romney's negatives hit new high, poll finds

A new poll shows Mitt Romney, who is locked in a prolonged GOP nomination fight, with lagging approval ratings, raising questions about his strength in a likely November match-up with President Obama.

Half of those surveyed hold unfavorable views of the GOP front-runner, a new Washington Post/ABC News poll released Wednesday finds.

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In the poll, 50 percent of all surveyed and 52 percent of registered voters held unfavorable opinions of Romney. Thirty-four percent hold positive views on Romney, the lowest for any leading presidential contender in Post/ABC polls dating back to 1984.

The poll also finds that Romney’s unfavorability tops Obama’s highest unfavorability rating in the poll's history.

Adding to Romney's challenge in a potential general-election fight, by comparison, Obama holds a 53 percent favorability rating and a 43 percent unfavorable mark, according to the survey.


Obama is also up with independents, 50 percent of whom hold favorable views to 46 percent unfavorable.

But Romney lags among that key group, with 35 percent of independents viewing him favorably to 52 percent unfavorable. 

Among voters who identify themselves as moderates, Obama holds a 61 percent to 34 percent positive edge, while Romney is seen unfavorably by more. Forty-eight percent of centrists have a negative view of Romney, to 35 percent favorable.

The poll also shows Obama rallying his base better than Romney. Romney is seen favorably by 62 percent of self-identified Republicans and 47 percent of conservatives, while Obama has 86 percent approval among Democrats and 75 percent among liberals.

Romney, the presumptive front-runner, has led in national polls and holds the edge in delegates, but has been unable to deliver a knockout punch to his GOP rivals. 

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, former Speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.) and Texas Rep. Ron Paul have all said they intend to contest the GOP race until the convention.  

Santorum and Gingrich have continued to hammer Romney on his record as governor of Massachusetts, working to position themselves as the conservative alternative to his candidacy and forcing Romney to the right to win over GOP primary voters.

Following last week's Illinois primary victory, Romney has benefited from a surge of endorsements from prominent GOP leaders eager to push the race to a close, amid worries Romney will be weakened by November. Romney has picked up the backing of House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush in the last week.

The Washington Post/ABC News poll was conducted from March 21 to March 25 and has a 4 percent margin of error.