Mitt Romney Finally Scores Some Likeability Points

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.

Earlier this morning I posted a chart from John Sides showing that people didn’t perceive Mitt Romney as any more moderate after Wednesday’s debate than before. That was interesting, but sort of limited. What I was really curious about was how perceptions of Romney as a person changed. Did he seem more or less honest? More or less energetic? More or less plutocratic? Etc.

Well, John must have been reading my mind, because a few minutes ago he put up a post showing exactly that. Here are the before and after responses among independents for six specific character traits:

This is, obviously, pretty powerful stuff. It doesn’t tell us whether these changes were mostly due to the debate performances themselves or to the media coverage afterward, but it certainly shows that perceptions of Romney and Obama shifted fairly dramatically. What’s more, as John points out, Romney even gained in people’s perceptions of his honesty. The fact that he tossed out so many specific numbers and plans, and tossed them out with confidence and vigor, apparently made people decide that he must be telling the truth.

You can draw your own conclusions from this. On the honesty front, there are two obvious lessons you could take away:

  1. Obama did a lousy job of making Romney’s deceptions clear. He needs to double down on calling Romney a liar next week.
  2. Attacking Romney’s honesty just doesn’t work. No matter how gratifying it might be for us to hear him call Romney a liar, that’s not the key to winning the next debate.

My heart says #1 is right, but my head says #2 is right. Viewers just tune out when debates turn into a battle of numbers. The key to success lies elsewhere.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest