Positive talk about President Obama soared in the week after the Democratic convention to its highest level since National Journal's Conversation Nation poll began last spring, while negative talk about Mitt Romney spiked in the wake of his much-criticized response to anti-American violence and protests in the Middle East.
Obama now enjoys a 7-point edge in positive versus negative word of mouth, according to the weekly poll conducted with the Keller Fay market research firm. Negative word of mouth about Romney last week, meanwhile, was 14 points higher than positive talk about him.
Forty-five percent of conversations about Obama were positive last week, a 3-point increase over the previous week and the highest level since Conversation Nation began tracking talk about the president this spring. Positive talk about the president hit a nadir of 31 percent in mid-August, but has steadily risen through both conventions and beyond.
Negative talk about the president increased 2 percentage points last week to 38 percent, bringing it back to its pre-convention level.
The new poll was conducted before a Politico story about internal clashes in the Romney campaign and the surfacing of a secretly recorded video of Romney calling 47 percent of the country dependent "victims" who would never take responsibility for their lives. It came as Romney was dealing with negative reaction to his tactics during a week of unrest and tragedy in the Middle East.
Though an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found that support for the president’s foreign policy fell 5 points after a deadly attack on U.S. diplomats in Libya and anti-American protests across the Middle East, Romney’s response to the crisis seems to have done him more damage. Negative word of mouth about the Republican challenger jumped 7 points last week to 45 percent, while positive talk dipped a single point to 31 percent.
But, notably, the quality of word of mouth among independents was similar for both candidates. For that group, about 40 percent of talk about both Romney and Obama was negative, and about 30 percent was positive.
Overall talk of any kind about the president hovered near its post-convention high for much of last week, when 50 percent of Americans were talking about him, then fell below 45 percent over the weekend. The volume of talk about Obama remains significantly higher than talk about Romney, which hit a high of 43 percent of Americans talking about him the day after the Republican National Convention but has hovered between about 30 and 35 percent since then.
Word of mouth about both GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan and Vice President Joe Biden is more negative than positive. The negative-positive split for Biden was 46-40 last week, and for Ryan it was 49-35.
Since Conversation Nation began tracking talk about the running mates in mid-August, the quality of word of mouth about Biden has steadily improved. At the time, Biden had just told an audience in Virginia, which included many African Americans, that Romney's and Ryan's policies toward Wall Street would “put y’all back in chains,” and nearly two-thirds of talk about him was negative while less than a fifth was positive. Talk about Ryan has not shown any obvious trends since mid-August.
In battleground states, more Americans were talking about all four major-ticket candidates than in other states.
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 18-69, 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.