In the week following Rep. Todd Akin’s controversial rape comments, talk about issues important to women spiked to their highest levels since Conversation Nation, a joint project of National Journal and the survey research firm Keller Fay Group, began tracking such conversations in late May.
Akin, a Republican running for the Senate in Missouri, expressed his belief that “legitimate rape” rarely results in pregnancy. The comments sparked a firestorm, with widespread calls from Republican leaders for Akin to withdraw from the race.
On Aug. 19, the day Akin made his comments, Conversation Nation, which uses a three-day rolling average, found that 5.9 percent of American adults were talking about issues important to women. Talk about women’s issues steadily rose over the course of the week, peaking at 16.9 percent on Aug. 25.
In the presidential race, President Obama rebounded from a 13-point spike in negative talk about him the previous week with a six-point increase in positive talk about the president and a corresponding six-point drop in negative talk about him. Overall, 37 percent of Americans engaged in positive talk about Obama and 39 percent engaged in negative talk about him last week.
Overall talk about Romney rose in the days leading up to the Republican National Convention, with about 36 percent of Americans talking about Romney in the days leading up to the RNC. Romney continues to close the gap between himself and Obama in terms of overall number of Americans talking about him.
But in terms of the quality of talk about Romney, the momentum he enjoyed over the previous week has reversed itself. The last Conversation Nation poll found more positive talk about Romney, 36 percent, than negative talk, 34 percent, for the first time in months. The latest poll, though, shows negative talk about Romney at 36 percent and positive talk about him down to 32 percent.
Romney is likely to see positive talk about him rebound coming out of this week’s convention.
This week’s and next week’s conventions mark the official kickoff of the general election, and the presidential campaign is looming ever larger in Americans’ conversations. In June, about 11 percent of Americans were talking about the national election on a given day. By last week, the level of talk had more than doubled to about 25 percent.
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.