John G. Geer finds surprise! that partisanship greatly influences the answer:
[A]mong all Republicans, just 5% judged the negativity aimed the Tea Partiers to be “fair.” Yet consider that 60 percent of “strong” Democrats did view the attacks on the Tea Party as fair.
On the flip side:
The same story holds when judging negativity aimed at Democrats. Among “strong” Republicans, 72% deemed such attacks [aimed at Democrats] as “fair” and only 1% as unfair. Among “strong” Democrats, 50% deemed such as attacks as “unfair” and 6% as “fair.”
His bottom line:
The gaps presented here underscore why it is so hard to forge a consensus in the news media or in the public on whether any attack is fair or unfair. That judgment is so bounded up by partisanship that an objective, unbiased assessment is near impossible. In many ways this reminder is an obvious one. But in an increasingly partisan press, it is worth being reminded about the obvious. And in anticipation of what will surely be a highly negative campaign in 2012, it may well pay to have additional reminders as the battle for the Republican nomination starts to heat up in just a few months and with the general election soon to follow.