Negative talk about Mitt Romney hit its highest level of the campaign, 52 percent, in the days following the leaking of a controversial video of Romney at a private fundraiser, according to National Journal’s latest Conversation Nation poll. That’s twice as high as the 26 percent of positive conversations about the Republican presidential nominee.
Meanwhile, favorable word of mouth about President Obama rose to a new high for the second consecutive week, with 47 percent of conversation about him mostly positive. Only 35 percent in the poll, conducted with the Keller Fay survey research firm, was negative.
These results represent a consistent trend beginning in mid-August, before the start of convention season, during which Romney’s negative word of mouth has risen dramatically while positive word of mouth has fallen. Over the same period, the president has benefited from an opposite, though milder, trend in talk about him.
The latest word-of-mouth results, for the week ending Sept. 23, mirror polling trends showing Obama’s numbers rising nationally and in key battleground states since the leaked Romney video erupted onto the political scene on Sept. 17. Polls this week of Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania showed Obama opening up wide leads over Romney.
The video shows Romney at a closed-door fundraiser describing 47 percent of the country as people who support Obama, don’t pay income taxes, see themselves as victims, and think they are entitled to government handouts.
The Obama campaign has released two TV ads playing off those comments. Romney, who called his remarks inelegant but has not retracted them, has taken to saying he would be a president for the 100 percent. In a new TV ad, Romney talks straight to the camera about workers “living paycheck to paycheck” and how he would help them by strengthening the economy.
Likely driven by the leaked video, total talk about Romney drew even with talk about Obama this week for one of the first times in the race. But the increased buzz around Romney coincided with his worst word of mouth of the campaign.
The word-of-mouth trends were the same down-ticket, with positive talk about Vice President Joe Biden surpassing negative talk for the first time since mid-August, when there was enough talk about Biden to start measuring sentiments about him. Biden’s word of mouth has consistently improved since then, when there was four times as much negative talk about him as positive.
At the same time, word of mouth about Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., continues to get worse. Last week, 59 percent of conversations about the vice presidential challenger were negative, while only 32 percent were positive.
Breaking down word of mouth among subgroups also yielded good news for the president. Talk about Obama within his own party is significantly more positive than talk about Romney among Republicans. More significantly in terms of the general election, among independents, 27 percent of conversations about Romney were positive, compared with 35 percent positive for Obama.
National Journal and Keller Fay Group, a survey research firm, have partnered to track Americans’ online and face-to-face conversations about the 2012 presidential race. Each week Keller Fay’s TalkTrack® research service interviews a nationally representative online sample of approximately 615 Americans ages 18 to 69 to determine which candidates and issues people are talking about and the nature of those conversations. Ed Keller and Brad Fay are coauthors of The Face-to-Face Book: Why Real Relationships Rule in a Digital Marketplace.