Less than four weeks before Mitt Romney formally becomes the GOP presidential nominee, a majority of Americans view him unfavorably, according to a new Pew Research Center poll released on Thursday.
The poll also shows Romney trailing President Obama by a 10-point margin, the largest deficit Romney has faced in Pew's polling since virtually clinching the GOP nomination this spring.
Obama leads Romney in the poll, 51 percent to 41 percent, with 2 percent preferring another candidate and 5 percent undecided. Obama's share of the vote is the largest he has recorded since a March Pew poll, while Romney finds himself at a new low-water mark, going all the way back to last October, when Pew began testing the two candidates head-to-head.
Each candidate wins about 90 percent of voters aligned with their respective parties. Among independent voters, the two candidates are virtually tied, with Romney at 45 percent and Obama at 43 percent.
Those results suggest the poll is made up of significantly more Democrats than Republicans; Michael Dimock, the assistant director of the Pew Research Center, confirmed to National Journal in an e-mail that 38 percent of the poll's registered voters were Democrats, while only 25 percent were Republicans.
That represents a particularly wide gap between the two parties. In the 2008 election, Democrats outnumbered Republicans by a margin of 7 percentage points. But in 2004, the electorate consisted of equal percentages of Democrats and Republicans.
Pew Research Center weights their polls to match demographic targets for race, gender, age, education, and region. They do not weight according to party identification. Many survey researchers discourage weighting polls according to party identification, considering it an attitude, more closely resembling vote preference than demographic difference.
Among a broader sample of all Americans, the poll shows a significant likability gap between the two candidates. A 51 percent majority of Americans have a favorable opinion of Obama, compared to 42 percent who view him unfavorably. Meanwhile, just 37 percent have a favorable opinion of Romney, while 52 percent have an unfavorable opinion.
In the report, Pew said that all major-party presidential candidates since 1988 were viewed more favorably at this point in their campaigns than Romney is today, and just three -- Michael Dukakis, George H.W. Bush (in 1992), and Bob Dole -- earned favorable ratings from fewer than 50 percent of Americans. But the report also notes that Obama's favorable ratings are lower than most candidates. And among undecided voters, both candidates rate low on favorability.
The Pew Research Center poll was conducted July 16-26, prior to Romney's trip to Europe and the Middle East. The poll surveyed 2,508 adults, for a margin of error of plus-or-minus 2.8 percentage points. For the subsample of 1,956 registered voters, the margin of error is plus-or-minus 3.2 percentage points.