TAMPA, Fla. — On opening day of the storm-shortened Republican National Convention, large numbers of voters say that they are fed up with the negativity of the presidential race and equally blame President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.
Forty-four percent of Americans say President Obama has attacked Republican challenger Romney unfairly, and 40 percent say Romney has attacked Obama unfairly, according to the Gallup Poll.
This is an increase in the public's mood of disssatisfaction from July, when 38 percent said Obama had been unfair and 36 percent felt that way about Romney. The change is probably due to the vast amounts of negative TV ads and other types of ongoing attacks from both sides. Voters have noticed, and many don't like what they've been seeing.
Another indication of voter revulsion against attack ads came in a focus group of moderate swing voters convened Sunday in Tampa by Republican pollster Frank Luntz. Luntz showed the group of 23 men and women a series of TV ads that have run in the current presidential cycle. And the participants expressed disgust at some of the negative approaches, especially an ad in which an actor who looked like Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, who is Mitt Romney's vice-presidential running mate, is shown throwing a wheelchair-bound elderly woman over a cliff. The ad was designed to attack Ryan over his budget plan, which would overhaul the Medicare program on which many seniors rely. The focus-group participants expressed outrage at the ad, calling it "horrible" and "terrible."
All this raises questions about whether many Americans will be so turned off when election day rolls around that they won't actually cast their ballots.
Among independents, Obama came off worse than Romney. The Galllup Poll found that 46 percent feel that Obama has been unfair and 38 per cent feel that way about Romney.
More Republicans than Democrats feel that their candidate has been maligned. Seventy-one percent of Republicans say Obama has been out of bounds in attacking Romney, and 60 percent of Democrats say Romney has been beyond the pale in attacking Obama.
The party conventions are traditionally a time for sharp criticism of the opposite party and its leaders, and that's what is expected both at the GOP gathering in Tampa this week and at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte next week. This is likely to disgust voters even more.
GOP leaders announced over the weekend that they were cancelling and postponing most of their convention activities Monday out of respect and sympathy for Florida residents who are expected to be in or near the path of Tropical Storm Isaac.
Ken Walsh covers the White House and politics for U.S. News. He writes the daily blog, "Ken Walsh's Washington," for usnews.com and is the author of "The Presidency" column for the U.S. News Weekly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Facebook and Twitter.