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According to this:

Windows 8: Performance Benchmarks
All in all our benchmarks suggest that performance does take a hit when upgrading to Windows 8. The multi-tasking performance degradation is a particular blow to Windows 8, but one which the faster boot times do soften somewhat. That AMD was able to maintain or improve performance with its Windows 8 drivers is promising however, so let's hope Nvidia is able to do the same with future driver updates.

I'm wondering if that has any relevance across the board. (i.e. is it because AMD win7 drivers are sub-par, rather than a problem with Nvidia's win8 drivers?)

I have rarely seen global performance enhancements in windows/driver updates. That's why the driver release documentation always say "up to xx% performance gain in YYYY", and there is no guarantee that all games out there would not perform slightly worse than the earlier driver.