Perry's negatives have risen sharply over the last three months. In the previous poll, conducted in late June through the first day of July (more than a month before Perry officially joined the race), 34 percent of likely primary voters had a favorable opinion of Perry, while 15 percent had an unfavorable opinion. Now, the percentage of likely primary voters holding a favorable opinion has ticked up to 36 percent, while the percentage having an unfavorable opinion of Perry has jumped to 43 percent.
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who announced Wednesday she would not seek the Republican nomination, earned three percent; the vast majority of interviews were conducted before her announcement. When the second choices of respondents choosing the unlikely candidate Giuliani or the non-candidate Palin are substituted for their original selections, Romney leads with 42 percent, compared to Cain at 13 percent, Paul at 11 percent, Huntsman at 8 percent and Paul at 6 percent.
Ten percent of voters said they were undecided, but that may be a poor reflection of the primary electorate's flexibility. Just 11 percent of likely voters say they have definitely made up their minds, while an additional 21 percent said they are leaning toward a candidate. A whopping 68 percent of likely voters said they were still trying to decide -- a sign that, while Romney leads, the state is by no means a lock for him.
Romney runs slightly stronger among women than men but still leads by wide margins among both genders. Romney also performs well across all education levels, while Perry only takes three percent among college graduates and two percent among those with post-graduate educations.
The vast majority, 65 percent, of likely voters expect Romney to win the state's primary, with every other candidate below 5 percent on that measure.
A majority also thinks Romney has the best chance to beat Obama in the general, where, among all likely 2012 voters, Romney leads Obama, 50 percent to 42 percent. That is a larger lead than the four-point advantage Romney enjoyed early in the summer.
While Romney would lead Obama by eight points, Obama would lead Paul, 47 percent to 43 percent, and Perry, 49 percent to 42 percent.
UNH surveyed 559 likely 2012 voters from Sept. 26-Oct. 6, for a margin of error of +/- 4.1 percent. There were 345 likely voters in the Republican primary; those results carry a margin of error of +/- 5.3 percent.