Barack Obama now holds an eight-point lead over Mitt Romney in a hypothetical general election matchup, and he has gained significant ground among independent voters. A month ago, 40% of independents said they would back Obama over Romney – today, 51% say so. The percentage of independents on Team Romney has slipped from 50% to 42% in the last month.

Over the course of the campaign, Romney’s image among independent voters has suffered substantially. Most notably, the number of independents who believe he is honest and trustworthy has fallen from 53% to 41%, while the number who say he is not has risen from 32% to 45%.

Romney has also lost ground among independents on the question of his qualifications for office. In November, a 58% majority of independents said that Romney was well-qualified to be president — just 31% said he was not qualified. Today, just under half (48%) of independents say he is well qualified while 41% say he is not qualified.

Despite these trends, Romney runs slightly better among independents in a hypothetical general election matchup with Barack Obama than the other leading GOP candidates. Independent voters favor Barack Obama over Rick Santorum by a 54% to 40% margin, and favor Obama over Gingrich by a wide margin — 58% to 34%. Read More

Russell Heimlich  is a former web developer at Pew Research Center.