The other day my wife and I were discussing how one particular candidate would never be elected President. Our premise was public perception of this candidate’s personality was so negative the candidate could never garner a majority of the country’s votes. Of course public perception of any candidate is probably wrong, but it appears to be important to voters none the less. Take Ronald Reagan for example. I think his public perception was of a kindly grandfather type who, even if he had to tell you “no”, he did it in a way that made you feel he was doing it to help you…sorta a grampa knows best approach. If you disagree, that’s fine, it’s my perception and I’m sticking to it. Which is really the problem. People stick to their perceptions despite lots of evidence (and candidate spin) to the contrary. That’s why I was really interested in this article from the Associated Press, via WTHR. The article reports the results of a poll on the public’s perceptions of candidates and how those perceptions may change over time. I’m not that interested in the change over time part, but, in summary, here is the public perception as it stands right now.
Hillary Clinton – People often cite the words “female” and “feminist” when asked about her. She is viewed as “strong, decisive and experienced but is not seen as likable, honest or refreshing.”
“The most volunteered description of Clinton was her gender and the thought that she’s a feminist. Close behind were feelings that she is dishonest and not likable-voiced mostly by Republicans-followed by strength and mention of her husband, former President Clinton. “
Barak Obama – “Inexperience” is the word most use to describe him. However, most view “him as refreshing, compassionate and attractive. ”
“People mention inexperience most often, followed by those saying he is inspiring and favors change, and by people citing his race. Some said he is Muslim, an Internet-fed rumor that Obama’s campaign has labored to dispel. “
Mitt Romney – The word most used to describe him is “Morman”.
“Nearly half of those polled could not say anything when asked to describe McCain’s chief rival, Mitt Romney, including more than a third of Republicans-surprisingly large numbers this late in a campaign on which the former Massachusetts governor has spent $40 million of his own money to get his name and message before the voters. ”
“Among those familiar with Romney, most cited was his Mormon faith and a sense he is not authentic, including many who said he changes his mind on issues-a frequent charge leveled by his opponents.
John McCain – “Military service” and “old” are the two most cited terms regarding McCain. However, he is “widely seen as experienced, strong, honest and decisive”.
Mike Huckabee – Is “best known for his religion. The ordained Baptist minister discusses his faith frequently while campaigning”.
So what do you think? I think the results of the poll are pretty much in line with my perceptions of the candidates.