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Romney’s ‘47%’ remarks overserved but damaging, poll finds

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2012 9:37 a.m. CDT

WASHINGTON (MCT) — Many voters think news organizations have given too much attention to Mitt Romney’s surreptitiously recorded remarks about the “47 percent,” a new national opinion survey found.

At the same time, the new poll by the independent Pew Research Center confirms what politicians in both parties have said: Most voters had a negative reaction to what the Republican presidential candidate had to say at his private fundraising event.

Two out of three voters knew that Romney was the source of comments that 47 percent of the population is dependent on government and pays no federal income taxes, according to the poll. The question was open-ended: Respondents were asked if they happened to know who had made the remarks.

Most of those who correctly identified the GOP candidate also said they had a negative reaction to his remarks (55 percent). Democrats and those with lower family incomes (under $30,000 a year) were overwhelmingly negative. A majority of independent voters (55 percent) also reacted negatively. Most Republicans (54 percent) had a positive reaction, according to the survey, released Monday by the independent polling organization.

The poll was conducted between Sept. 27 and Sept. 30, a period that coincided with swing-state airing of an Obama attack ad on Romney’s remarks. It employs Romney’s recorded voice as the soundtrack, while black-and-white still pictures of individuals — meant to symbolize those he was speaking about — flash by on the TV screen.

Though the poll makes clear that Romney’s words have sunk in, it also found that a plurality of registered voters believe the news media have gone overboard in covering the story. Nearly half of those who knew Romney made the remarks — 49 percent — thought that his words had been given too much coverage. Another 28 percent thought the media had got it about right, while 13 percent said Romney’s words had received too little coverage.

All told, the fallout from the remark resembled the impact of negative ads: Voters often recoil at them, but they tend to absorb their message nonetheless.

An unrelated finding in the poll may well reflect the intensely negative tone of this year’s presidential contest. Less than half of the U.S. electorate (46 percent) gave Obama a grade of “A” or “B” for his efforts in convincing them to vote for him; four years ago, that figure was sharply higher (65 percent graded him with an “A” or “B”).

Romney got even lower marks, with only 31 percent of voters grading him “A” or “B.” His efforts to persuade voters were more in line with grades that were awarded in 2008 to the campaign of Republican nominee John McCain (34 percent) and in 1996 to GOP nominee Bob Dole (29 percent).

The Pew poll also found that Democratic voters are giving Obama higher marks (78 percent gave him an “A” or “B”) than Republicans are grading Romney (62 percent gave him an “A” or “B”).

The poll’s margin of error was 3.7 percentage points, with higher error margins for smaller subsets of respondents, such as registered voters.

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