The percentage of Americans who have a favorable opinion of Mitt Romney decreased over the past two weeks, and the number who hold an unfavorable opinion of the former Massachusetts governor has skyrocketed 15 percentage points over that time, according to a new ABC News/Washington Post poll released early Tuesday.
Just 31 percent of Americans have a favorable opinion of Romney, the poll shows. Almost half, 49 percent, have an unfavorable opinion, and 21 percent said they have no opinion. Romney now holds virtually the same favorable and unfavorable ratings as former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, whose numbers have also dropped over the past month -- suggesting that the ugly, protracted fight for the Republican presidential nomination is dragging down its two most prominent participants.
In the previous poll, conducted between Romney's then-apparent victory in Iowa and his rout in New Hampshire, 39 percent of Americans had a favorable opinion of him, and only 34 percent had an unfavorable opinion.
But since his New Hampshire victory, Romney has been savaged by his GOP opponents and outside groups on his personal income taxes and his role at Bain Capital, the Boston-based investment firm he helped found.
Romney's numbers have fallen off among key groups. A majority of independents, 51 percent, now have a unfavorable impression of Romney, compared with just 23 percent who have a favorable opinion. That is a sharp reversal from earlier this month, when 41 percent of independents had a favorable opinion of Romney, and only 34 percent had an unfavorable opinion.
Among Republicans, the percentages holding a favorable opinion of Romney has held fairly steady, dropping just 3 percentage points over that time, from 61 percent to 58 percent. But the percentage of Republicans who have an unfavorable opinion of Romney jumped from 18 percent earlier this month to 32 percent now.
Gingrich's overall favorable-to-unfavorable rating is 29 percent favorable, 51 percent unfavorable. Among independents, 22 percent have a favorable opinion of Gingrich, and 53 percent have an unfavorable opinion.
Meanwhile, as the fight for the GOP nomination drags on, President Obama's personal ratings have climbed: 53 percent of Americans now have a favorable impression of the president, while 43 percent have an unfavorable opinion of him. Last month, Americans were mixed, with 48 percent having a favorable opinion, and 49 percent having an unfavorable opinion.
The poll was conducted Jan. 18-22 by Media, Pa.-based firm Social Science Research Solutions. ABC News and The Washington Post have been commissioning weekly measures of the candidates' favorability during this campaign season.