Poll: Ugly campaign polarizing candidate’s favorability

Obama and Romney

By Dan Merica, CNN

Washington (CNN) – A new poll released Tuesday indicates that as the 2012 presidential race has grown uglier, the favorability ratings of President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have decreased.

In the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, 32% of respondents said their view of Obama was “very negative,” a number that is up six points since the same question was asked in April.

Romney suffered an equally large hit, with 24% of respondents indicating they had a “very negative” view of the former Massachusetts governor. Eighteen percent had the same response in April.

But the poll also indicates a polarization on both sides of the favorability spectrum, with more responding that they have a “very positive” view of both Romney and Obama.

Thirty-three percent of respondents indicated that they have a positive view of the president, while 13% had the same feelings about Romney. Both numbers are up three percent since April.

Also notable, 43% said they hold a less favorable opinion about Romney based on what they’ve heard about him in the last couple of weeks, compared to 28% who hold a more favorable view.

Similarly, 44% said they hold a less favorable opinion of Obama based on the information they gained from the campaign in recent weeks, compared to 27% who now see Obama in a more favorable light.

These numbers follow a heightened level of negative campaigning over the last few weeks. In what has seemed like a constant stream of negativity, each campaign, with help from their respective national committees, has used both television and web ads to question each candidate’s ability to be president.

One recent example of the negative back-and-forth: television and web ads are now being run featuring charges of campaign cronyism.

In a spot by the Republican National Committee last week, Republicans hit Obama for dirty politics — charging that the president is offering government subsidies to companies owned by campaign supporters.

The presumptive Republican nominee also got in on the cronyism charges.

“It is a tough time for America. If you are a campaign contributor to Obama, you stand to get millions in cash from the government. I think it’s wrong,” Romney said in an interview with Fox News. “I think it stinks to high heaven and I think the administration has to explain how it is they would consider giving money to campaign contributors’ businesses.”

In light of the negative ads, CNN’s most recent Poll of Polls finds the presidential race is in a dead heat. The poll shows that 47% of registered voters say they’d vote for Obama if the November election were held today, with 43% saying they’d cast a ballot for Romney.

This is slightly different than horserace numbers in the recent NBC/WSJ poll, which reports that Obama holds an advantage over Romney by six percentage point — 49% to 43%- among registered voters.

The NBC/WSJ poll was conducted of 1,000 registered voters (including 300 by cell phone) from July 18-22, and it has an overall margin of error of plus-minus 3.1 percentage points