(CNN) - Republicans evaluating the field of potential GOP presidential nominees are increasingly negative about the current slate of candidates, according to a new poll from the Pew Research Center.
Fifty-two percent of Republican and Republican-leaning registered voters said the GOP field was "fair or poor," an eight percentage-point increase since the question was asked in early January.
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Likewise, the number of Republicans who had positive feelings about the candidates dropped. Forty-six percent rated the current field of four candidates "excellent or good," a drop from the 51% who had that response in January. The GOP field has undergone substantial change since then, with former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman and Texas Gov. Rick Perry dropping out of the contest.
Monday's poll from Pew, which was conducted in partnership with the Washington Post, is the first time since this election cycle the negative response from voters outweighed the positive. Pew began asking the question in May 2011.
When the same question was asked at this point in the nominating cycle in 2008, 68% of Republican and Republican-leaning voters rated the GOP field as "excellent or good."
The Pew poll also gauged voters' perceptions of how well candidates understood the problems of average Americans. Among Republicans, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich fared almost identically, with 61% saying Romney understood problems "very or fairly well" and 60% saying the same for Gingrich.
But among all voters, President Barack Obama had a higher rating for understanding voters' problems. Fifty-five percent of Republicans, Democrats and independents said he understood average Americans' problems "very or fairly well," compared to 39% for Romney and 36% for Gingrich.
The Pew Research Center poll was taken by phone Jan. 26-29. For the satisfaction portion, 341 Republican and Republican-leaning voters were polled and the sampling error was plus or minus 6.5 percentage points. For the understanding measurement, 1,006 adults were surveyed and the sampling error was plus or minus 4 percentage points.