A Washington Post/ABC News poll released Tuesday indicates none of the four major candidates -- former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, Texas Congressman Ron Paul and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich -- enjoys a favorability rating higher than 40 percent among independent voters.
The extended primary battle appears to be hurting the party, the Post and ABC said.
Paul performed the best among independent voters with a 38 percent favorability rating compared with an unfavorability rating of 35 percent. Romney, the front-runner, scored a 32 percent favorability rating and a worrying 48 percent on the unfavorable side. Santorum's favorability rating stood at 30 percent while Gingrich showed the worst, with a favorability rating of just 21 percent, the poll showed.
Meanwhile, sentiment among GOP voters is muted at best, with only 60 percent of self-identified Republicans saying they view Romney in a positive light. Thirty percent of GOP voters do not like the so-called Massachusetts moderate.
Santorum performed well among Republicans (58 percent positive to 23 percent negative), while Gingrich and Paul are underwater in their own party (42 percent favorable to 44 percent unfavorable for Gingrich, and 38 percent favorable to 44 percent unfavorable for Paul).
The internecine debates were cited by the Post as the reason why party leaders are trying to close ranks around Romney before his prospects are damaged any further, with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia calling on the party rank and file to get behind Romney forthwith so he can begin his courtship of independents as soon as possible.
The poll queried 1,014 adults from Wednesday through Sunday and had a error rate of 3.5 percentage points.