By Patricia Zengerle
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's dismissal of almost half the U.S. electorate in a secretly recorded video has hurt his image, although it may not determine how people vote on November 6.
A Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Wednesday showed that more than two in five registered voters, or 43 percent, viewed Romney less favorably after an excerpt of the video was shown to them online.
In the video, Romney portrayed Democratic President Barack Obama's supporters - which he said was 47 percent of the electorate - as people who live off government handouts and do not "care for their lives."
Nearly six in ten, or 59 percent, in the poll said they felt Romney unfairly dismissed almost half of Americans as victims in his remarks made to donors in May at a private event at a luxury home in Florida.
"This isn't great for Romney," said Ipsos pollster Julia Clark, who called the video an image problem for the Republican.
"This type of issue, a gaffe or an indiscreet remark by a candidate, has an effect on a candidate's image, but it is not the kind of thing that decides how people vote on Election Day," she said.
A Reuters/Ipsos tracking poll taken over the previous four days showed Obama ahead of the former private equity executive by 5 points among likely voters on Wednesday, up slightly from a 4-point lead on Tuesday. If elections were held today, Obama would win 48 percent of the vote to Romney's 43 percent, the poll showed.
There was some good news for Romney. Forty-one percent of the respondents to the poll about the video clip felt the former Massachusetts governor was making an important point about the U.S. government.
And 26 percent said his remarks made them feel more favorable about Romney, with less than seven weeks to go before the election.
More than a quarter of those who viewed the tape - 27 percent - said they felt Romney was being unfairly attacked for a private statement to his own supporters. But 73 percent disagreed, saying all his comments should be subject to public scrutiny because he is a presidential candidate.
Romney targeted 47 percent of voters in his comments, but a large majority in the poll - 67 percent - said they identified more with the people he was talking about than with the wealthy donors he was addressing.
Thirty three percent of respondents identified more with Romney's audience at the $50,000 per person fundraising dinner.
The poll surveyed 1,197 likely voters about their voting intentions from September 15-19. There were 869 registered voters polled about the video.
The precision of the Reuters/Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll has a credibility interval of 3.2 percentage points for likely voters, and 3.8 points for the registered voters who answered the video questions.
(Editing by Alistair Bell and Mary Milliken; desking by Christopher Wilson)