A new Washington Post/ABC poll released Wednesday shows President Obama holding a 13-point favorability edge over presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who has the lowest personal popularity levels for a major-party challenger in such midsummer election-year polls dating back to the Reagan administration.
Fifty-three percent of voters say they have a favorable opinion of Mr. Obama, compared with 40 percent for Mr. Romney. Forty-nine percent hold negative views of Mr. Romney, compared with 43 percent for Mr. Obama. Mr. Romney has been underwater in 10 straight Post/ABC polls this year, and his favorability among independent voters stands at just 37 percent, compared with 53 percent for Mr. Obama.
Dating back to 1984 in ABC/Post and Post polls, every single presumptive nominee had positive favorability ratings — except for Mr. Romney. One 1984 poll was conducted by the Los Angeles Times, which showed Democrat Walter Mondale with a 53 percent favorability rating, compared with a 40 percent unfavorable one.
Andrea Saul, a spokeswoman for the Romney campaign, countered that people are still getting to know Mr. Romney and that voters still say they would be better off if he was elected.
“They trust him most on the economy and to turn things around,” she said on CNN’s “Starting Point.” “And that’s what people care most about, is getting a job, having more pay come back in their paycheck, and under this president, we’ve seen his policies just haven’t worked. Sure, he’s a nice guy, but that doesn’t mean that people are being able to meet their bills, get a job, and those are the things that Americans care most about.”
But do people have to like Mr. Romney to vote for him?
“Well, I think the more people learn about Mitt Romney, the more they are going to like him, and the more that they see that they can trust him to turn this economy around,” she said. “President Obama has not been able to get the job done, and that’s why middle-class Americans are suffering so much.”
Stephanie Cutter, deputy campaign manager for the Obama campaign, disagreed.
“People don’t trust” Mr. Romney, she said later on the program. “They now understand that this private-sector experience that he’s talking about was all about making profits for himself at any cost, at any consequence to anybody else, and they’re questioning whether that’s the type of experience they want of somebody running the country. And I think that they’re concluding no.”
Ms. Cutter, though, said she agreed with Ms. Saul that the favorability numbers are about voters getting to know Mr. Romney.
“They are getting to know Mitt Romney, and they’re not liking what they’re seeing,” she said.
The poll was conducted from Aug. 1 to 5 among 1,026 adults, and the margin of error is plus or minus 4 percentage points.