Despite all the buzz surrounding the close presidential contest, fewer Americans are talking about the candidates now than during the historic 2008 campaign, according to tracking of face-to-face conversations being done by National Journal and Keller Fay Group.
On Sunday, nine days before Election Day, 52 percent of Americans were talking about President Obama. Nine days before his 2008 election, 64 percent of Americans were talking about Obama. Meanwhile, 39 percent of Americans were talking about Mitt Romney on Sunday, compared with 53 percent of Americans talking about John McCain nine days before the 2008 election.
On only two days in October did the level of talk about Obama exceed the level of talk about him on the same dates in 2008—Oct. 6 and Oct. 19. The same held true for Romney. On only two days in October did the level of talk about him exceed the level for McCain on the same dates in 2008—Oct. 6 and Oct. 18. In both election cycles, Obama has consistently drawn more word of mouth than his Republican rivals.
Hurricane Sandy appears to have also shifted Americans’ attention away from the elections. Overall talk about the national election peaked on Thursday, with 44 percent of Americans talking about it. But by Sunday, the day before the hurricane hit the East Coast, only 24 percent of Americans were talking about the election.
Still, over the four weeks ending on Sunday, the election was tied with the president and his job performance for the subject most-talked-about on a daily basis. On an average day, 31 percent of Americans were talking bout both topics, edging out energy and gas costs and personal financial concerns.
The quality of word of mouth about Romney has improved significantly since the eve of the first debate, when 52 percent of talk about him was negative and 23 percent positive. At one point, positive talk about him outpaced negative talk. But negative talk about Romney has been trending back up, and it exceeded positive Romney talk for the second weak in a row in the week that ended Sunday. Positive talk about Romney dropped 3 percentage points during that week, to 32 percent.
The president has regained a wide advantage in the quality of word of mouth discussion about him this week. Positive talk about him shot up 11 points to 48 percent and negative talk is down 4 points, to 31 percent.
These word-of-mouth trends in favor of Obama are more pronounced than national polling, which showed more enduring gains for Romney in the wake of the presidential debates.
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.