Romney's Image Becomes More Strongly Polarized by Party

Romney's Image Becomes More Strongly Polarized by Party

by Jeffrey M. Jones

Obama remains a more polarizing figure than Romney

PRINCETON, NJ -- Mitt Romney's Positive Intensity Score has increased among Republicans since he became the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, to +21 from +13 last month. At the same time, Democrats have become increasingly negative toward him.

Trend: Positive Intensity Scores of Mitt Romney, by Political Party

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These results are based on Gallup's April 12-15 update of presidential candidate Positive Intensity Scores, conducted just after Rick Santorum suspended his campaign, clearing the way for Romney to be the 2012 Republican nominee. The scores indicate the percentage of respondents with a strongly positive view of a candidate minus the percentage with a strongly negative view.

Romney's intensity scores had been flat among Republicans, at either +12 or +13 in three polls since December. This month's increase gives Romney his highest Positive Intensity Score to date among Republicans, including Gallup's tracking of the measure from March to November 2011.

Romney's scores among Democrats were stable from December to January but declined in March and again in April.

Gallup included Santorum in the survey to see whether Americans' feelings toward him would change as a result of his exiting the campaign. Like Romney's image, Santorum's improved, but to a lesser degree, among Republicans. His +18 Positive Intensity Score among Republicans also marks his best of the campaign, with his previous best +15 last month.

Unlike Romney's scores, Santorum's did not become more polarized by party this month, given a three-percentage-point improvement in his rating among Democrats. However, Democrats remain highly negative toward Santorum.

Trend: Positive Intensity Scores of Rick Santorum, by Political Party

Thus, Romney's movement from Republican presidential candidate to presumptive nominee has led to Republicans feeling significantly more strongly positive about him and Democrats seeing him more strongly negatively. Santorum's shift from candidate to former candidate did not have the same polarizing effect.

Obama Still Most Polarizing

President Barack Obama's image is essentially unchanged in the April 12-15 update, with a score of +36 among Democrats and -47 among Republicans.

Trend: Positive Intensity Scores for Barack Obama, by Political Party

Obama still generates a lot more intense feeling in both directions than does Romney. His +36 score among Democrats is 15 points better than Romney's corresponding +21 among Republicans, and Obama's -47 score among Republicans is much higher than Romney's -30 among Democrats.

There are several possible explanations for the difference in intensity between the likely 2012 election opponents. First, Americans may just be more familiar with Obama than they are with Romney. It is possible that as they become more familiar with Romney, they will develop stronger views of him. Second, Americans may have stronger reactions to Obama because of his role. As the incumbent president, Obama has been in the spotlight for the last three years, while Romney, as the challenger, has received far less media attention. Third, the differences in intensity could also reflect differences in the candidates' personalities. Obama's personality may yield more intense reactions -- in both directions -- than Romney's does.

Although Obama does generate a lot more intense feeling than Romney, once all Americans' views are taken into account, their overall Positive Intensity Scores are similar -- -3 for Romney and -4 for Obama. In other words, for Romney and Obama, Americans overall are slightly more likely to have a strongly negative view of each than a strongly positive view. Neither candidate's overall score has changed dramatically in recent months.

Trend: Positive Intensity Scores of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, Among All Americans

By comparison, Santorum's Positive Intensity Score among all Americans is -6. For full data on all candidates, see page 2.

Without taking intensity of feeling into account, both Romney and Obama are viewed more positively than negatively, on balance. In total, 50% of Americans familiar with Romney have a favorable opinion of him and 39% an unfavorable one. Obama's ratings, based on all Americans, are 52% favorable and 43% unfavorable.

Romney's total favorable scores are improved from March, when equal percentages of Americans familiar with him had a favorable (46%) or an unfavorable view (47%).

Implications

As the general election campaign gets underway, Americans are more positive than negative about Obama and Romney in general, but when intensity of feeling is taken into account, strong negative feelings about each outnumber strong positive feelings. At the same time, many more Americans currently have strong feelings about Obama than about Romney, though there has been a sharp increase in strong opinions about Romney by party since he became the presumptive Republican nominee.

It is not clear how the intensity of feeling about candidates will influence the election, since this is the first campaign in which Gallup has measured positive intensity. It is certainly possible for people holding strong views of one candidate or the other to be more motivated to vote, to officially register their support for or opposition to the candidate. So the candidates' scores could indicate their overall strength as well as whether voters are inclined to turn out to support them or to oppose their opponent.

In any case, at the outset of the general election campaign, Romney and Obama are on equal footing in their intensity scores among all Americans, so neither seems to be at a definite advantage or disadvantage at this point.

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Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted April 12-15, 2012, on the Gallup Daily tracking survey, with a random sample of 2,061 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

For results based on the total sample of 948 Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.

For results based on the total sample of 852 Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each sample includes a minimum quota of 400 cell phone respondents and 600 landline respondents per 1,000 national adults, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents by region. Landline telephone numbers are chosen at random among listed telephone numbers. Cell phone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.

Samples are weighted by gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, adults in the household, and phone status (cell phone only/landline only/both, cell phone mostly, and having an unlisted landline number). Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2011 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older non-institutionalized population living in U.S. telephone households. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting and sample design.

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

View methodology, full question results, and trend data.

For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit www.gallup.com.

Favorable Ratings and Positive Intensity Scores of Presidential Candidates, Among National Adults, April 12-15, 2012

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