(CNN) – One day before the four Republican White House hopefuls battle for delegates in the ten states holding Super Tuesday primaries and caucuses, a new survey indicates that the fight for the GOP presidential nomination is hurting the party's image.
According to an NBC/Wall Street Journal national poll, four in ten adults say the primary process has left them with a less favorable impression of the GOP, with just over one in ten saying the primaries and caucuses have given them a more favorable view of the party.
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The survey, released Monday, also indicates that nearly 70% of people questioned used a negative comment when asked to use a word or phrase to describe the race for the nomination. That included six in ten independent voters and more than half of Republicans questioned.
Among the words or phrases used to describe the GOP: "Unenthusiastic," "discouraged," "lesser of two evils," "painful," "disappointed," "poor choices," "concerned," "underwhelmed," "uninspiring" and "depressed."
The poll indicates that the negative campaigning over the past couple of months has hurt the favorable ratings of the GOP candidates, including frontrunner Mitt Romney. According to the survey, the former Massachusetts governor has a favorable rating of 28%, with 39% seeing him in an unfavorable light. Among crucial independent voters, Romney's favorable rating is 22%, with 38% seeing him in a negative way. Romney's image right now is worse than any other recent candidate who went on to win his party's presidential nomination, according to NBC/WSJ polling.
But they survey does indicate that Romney is way ahead of his rivals for the nomination, with 38% of Republicans saying they supporting him for the nomination, his highest mark in NBC surveys. Former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania is at 32%, with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Rep. Ron Paul of Texas each at 13%.
In hypothetical general election matchups, President Barack Obama has 50% to 44% advantage over Romney, and tops Romney by seven points among independent voters, and by 18 points among women. According to the survey, Obama leads Paul 50% to 42%, and beats Santorum 53% to 39% and leads Gingrich 54% to 37%.
The NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll was conducted between February 29 and March 2, with 800 adults nationwide, including 400 likely Republican primary voters, questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
– CNN Political Editor Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.