So how has Team Obama’s blitz of negative personal attacks against Mitt Romney fared? According to a three-month poll series on personal qualities by Gallup, the campaign strategy and $120 million ad outlay since May have definitely damaged likeability … for Obama. His likeability edge has dropped by nine points over that period, and he’s still nine points below Romney on the economy — and worse on the budget:
As the two-week period of back-to-back presidential nominating conventions gets underway next Monday, an Aug. 20-22 USA Today/Gallup poll underscores the strengths and weaknesses of each of the two candidates at this point in the campaign. Barack Obama retains a significant edge over Mitt Romney on personal dimensions, particularly in terms of his “likability,” while Americans still believe Romney is better able to handle the economy. …
Gallup has measured the “likability” gap between Obama and Romney three times since May, and Obama’s edge has narrowed during that time.
Additionally, Romney has gained on Obama in being perceived as “a strong and decisive leader,” reducing Obama’s lead on this dimension from 17 points when it was included in Gallup Daily tracking in May to five points today.
Obama still leads Romney on most of the personal-quality questions, but those leads have shrunk during the summer. Most importantly, on the two issues of most import to voters — as found by Gallup in July — Romney has significant leads over Obama. On the economy, voters trust Romney more than Obama by a nine-point margin, 52/43. On the federal budget deficit, Romney leads by 15 points, 54/39. Those two issues came in first and third in July, with the second-place issue of corruption not polled for today’s release.
Obama does have significant leads on other issues and qualities, such as “decisive leadership,” although as Gallup notes above that has dropped 12 points during the negative-ad blitz, too. Obama leads on foreign policy, energy, and Medicare by double digits, but only the latter will be an issue for voters in this election, mainly due to the addition of Paul Ryan. The 12-point lead there looks fragile in light of other polling, which Allahpundit noted last night. And except for “Is likable” (54%) and “Cares about the needs of people like you” (52%), Obama scores only in the 40s on the qualities questions against Romney.
Don’t underestimate the power of likeability, but don’t overestimate it, either. Despite having almost four months to demonize and disqualify Romney, Obama has only undercut voter perception of the only strengths he had coming into the general election without doing any significant damage at all to his opponent. With the funding advantage reversed for the general election, Obama now has to reap the whirlwind of the negativity he unleashed.