03/20/2012 10:59 am ET Updated Mar 20, 2012

Mitt Romney Dog Treatment 'Inhumane,' Most Voters Say In New Poll

WASHINGTON -- Most voters think it's "inhumane" to put the family dog in a kennel on the car roof for a long trip as former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney once did, according to a new poll from the Democratic-leaning firm Public Policy Polling.

Sixty-eight percent of 900 registered voters polled said they think that in general, it is inhumane to put the family dog on top of the car, compared with 14 percent who said it's humane and 18 percent who weren't sure.

While most voters think putting a dog on the car roof is inhumane, it's not the type of behavior that seems able to sway their votes. Told by pollsters that Romney had done so, 55 percent said it didn't affect which candidate they would support, while 35 percent of respondents said it made them less likely to support Romney and 7 percent said it made them more likely to support him.

But Romney's dog problem may give a few of his fans pause. Among only the people who said they were already Romney supporters, 17 percent said the Seamus story made them less likely to vote for him, while 75 percent said it didn't make a difference.

In 1983, Romney drove his family to Canada with their pet Irish Setter, Seamus, in a crate fastened to the roof of their station wagon. At one point, Seamus suffered a bout of diarrhea; Romney coolly pulled into a gas station, hosed off the dog and the car, and resumed the 12-hour trip.

Dog lovers have protested against Romney for the Seamus incident ever since the Boston Globe first reported the story in 2007. But since last week, the campaign of former Sen. Rick Santorum, Romney's chief rival for the GOP presidential nomination, has promoted the story in a big way. A Santorum spokeswoman put it this way on Monday: "If you can't be nice to your dog, who are you going to be nice to?"

When respondents were asked, before hearing about Seamus, what they thought of Romney's treatment of dogs as compared with President Barack Obama's, Romney came up short. Obama garnered a 44 percent favorable rating and just 14 percent unfavorable rating for his treatment of dogs. Meanwhile, 29 percent of respondents said they had an unfavorable opinion of Romney's treatment of dogs, compared with 20 percent who had a favorable opinion. (Voters are apparently unaware of or unswayed by Romney's support of Responsible Dog Ownership Month in Massachusetts in 2006.)

That said, most voters surveyed in the PPP poll didn't have much to say about which candidate would be a better leader for canines. Forty-two percent said they were "not sure" whether Romney or Obama would be a better president for dogs. Thirty-seven percent said Obama would be better, while 21 percent chose Romney.