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Romney's Suprising Post/ABC Numbers

Topics: 2008 , The 2008 Race

I am little surprised that this finding reported in today's Washington Post, from the latest Post/ABC News poll, is not getting more attention:

Although [Mitt] Romney is not as well known nationally as many of the other leading candidates, he has made a poor first impression on the public. Fifty-four percent said they would definitely not vote for him; 7 percent said they definitely would back him.

The ABC News write-up includes this additional detail. The 54 percent that would definitely not support Romney includes "a third of Republicans - a particularly broad level of rejection within his own party."

A third of Republicans? Yes, the presidential campaign is off to its earliest start ever, and yes, according to the same ABC/Post poll, the 66% following the presidential campaign "very closely" or "somewhat closely" is higher now than it was in September 2003 (56%) or October 1999 (61%), but that sort of reaction still seems surprisingly high. Especially since, a bit later in the survey, only 14% say they know a "great deal" or a "good amount" about Romney's positions on specific issues, 15% say they know some and more than half (51%) say they know "little or nothing."

As both articles point out, opposition to Romney is greater than much better known figures, such as Hillary Clinton (45%) and John McCain (47%).

Two other polls out in the last week showed Romney with negative ratings that were slightly (though not significantly) higher than his positives: Gallup (23% favorable, 24% unfavorable - via Polling Report) and CBS News (10% favorable, 16% unfavorable). Still, the negative percentages on those surveys clearly fall far short of the 54% definitely not support number on the ABC/Post poll.

Romney was the subject of much negative coverage recently focusing the his claims to be a "lifelong hunter," including a recent attack by Republican candidate Mike Huckabee. But I am still puzzled by the huge "definitely not support" result in the Post/ABC survey. Anyone have a better theory?

UPDATE: The recent Time/SRBI survey asked a similar question that produced some very different results. Details here.

 

Comments
Eric Rosenburg:

I'm surprised that the national polls aren't including Tom Tancredo. It's clear that the Republican party (and Democrat party) are afraid of him. They'd rather keep pounding names like Romney, Giuliani, McCain, Clinton, Obama and Edwards. The funny thing is, in all the polls where Tancredo is listed, he's well in the running.

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1) That isn't that far from the percentage of Americans who recently said they would not vote for a Mormon for president (over 40% if I recall).
2) The attacks against him as "not a real conservative" are resonating with the Republican base.

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whillice:

The funny thing about the "Not a real conservative" argument? Who's making it? Cui bono? Seeing as McCain and Giuliani have the same problems with this label. . . .and since Brownback and Huckabee aren't surging in the polls. . .

Romney has a real problem with the Republican base, especially the Religious Right. They instantly mistrust him because of his religion (and the fact that many Evangelical churches view Mormonism as a cult or heretical). Couple this with the fact that they see him as flip flopping on the issues they demand the most orthodoxy on (abortion, gay rights), plus the flap over hunting. . . .it's guns, God, and gays all over again.

Romney is like a beautiful young African American girl at a high school dance filled with white racists. She's standing around wondering why no one wants to dance with her: no matter how pretty she is objectively, she's just not culturally accepted and not trusted. Given time, fear may subside to acceptance, but that time is not yet. Maybe by January. In Iowa.

Compare this to Mo Udall, also a Mormon, who was only a few votes away from being the Democratic nominee for President in 1976.

I think Tancredo may not be popping in the polls is because people likely to support him may be the exact people who are unlikely to answer a public opinion poll on the phone. His support base is more likely closer to 5% (within the MOE for most polls), so it's more likely a methodological problem that may be unresolvable.

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The majority of Romney's positions covered by the press are immediately revealed to have been contradicted by him in earlier statements. If you hear a story about a Romney position, you are more likely than not to immediately hear evidence that he flip flopped on it, and sometimes on more than one occasion. It is impossible for anyone to build positive momentum while carving themselves into such a self-destructive media narrative.

We are fortunate to live in the first Presidential election cycle where the Internet has become an essential leg of fact checking; in any previous cycle, and McCain and Romney would likely be leading in the polls, with a media narrative of "McCain successfully courting values voters to broaden his base", and "Romney being true to his conservative Mormon roots".

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Anonymous:

Romney is a mormon. No further explanation for the percentage of republicans who won't support him is necessary. A significant percentage of republican support, particularly in the south, are evangelical republicans who take their christianity quite seriously and do not like anyone who claims there is an additional book besides the old and new testaments. The idea of mormonism offends them so why would they vote for a mormon? They don't want mormonism spreading in this country. This is why Romney cannot get elected. If the GOP nominates him, a solid part of their own base won't come out for them in the general. They will vote for a protestant democrat over a mormon republican.

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Watcher:

Romney plays into a bunch of stereotypes. Lots of people start off skeptical of Mormons, partly on religious grounds and partly because they're perceived as cultish. That objection rises when they they're out of Osmond Family Central Casting like this one.

Even if he wasn't a Mormon, both he and Edwards are a little too handsome for their own good. That was a problem for Reagan too, but it was considerably tempered by his age. Romney, in particular, looks a little bit like the Mormon temples in Washington and San Diego: like he was squirted out of an injection molding factory somewhere.

Then, for the coup de grace, there is the cheesy lying and flip-flopping. First he was for abortion rights, and now he's not. First he was for gay rights, and now he's not. And he was a lifelong hunter, except that he's never had a hunting license and he carries himself like someone who'd sooner pick up a dead rat than a weapon.

Romney got himself introduced to the public, alright. Problem is, not a whole lot of people liked what they saw. I think he's deader than a doornail. And that big slug of money? I'd lay dollars to donuts that, a) It came from the Mormon money network, and b) Even if it didn't, there's no way Romney could convince anyone that it didn't.

My question is this: What are the rules on what a candidate can do with the surplus when he drops out?

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whillice:

Watcher,

Romney doesn't need the money, even if he could keep it. If elected, he'd be the wealthiest president ever, with a net worth of somewhere around a half a billion dollars.

What he'd probably do is roll it over into a PAC or some such organization to promote other candidates he likes or keep growing grass roots support for another run later.
==

I think it's funny that in 2008 the Republican primary has dictated something the Constitution expressly forbids (a religious test for federal office), when Mormonism wasn't a problem for Romney's father in 1968 or Mo Udall in 1976. Of course, Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, ran for president in 1844. . .and was subsequently murdered. Have we moved so far backwards as a country?

Considering how misunderstood Mormonism is (http://www.galluppoll.com/content/default.aspx?ci=26758 ) and that Americans are more likely to be uncomfortable with a Mormon than an African American or woman as a candidate (http://www.galluppoll.com/content/?ci=26857&pg=1 ), it's amazing Romney is even sometimes breaking into double digits. These numbers have to be underreported, because of social desirability issues: people know the "correct" answer in a poll is to support any qualified candidate, but more people feel more comfortable saying candidates who are too old (McCain), thrice-divorced (Giuliani) or Mormon (Romney) are unelectable.

Contrast that with a Feb 13 Newsweek poll asking the question that may cut down on the social desirabilty: "Do you think America is ready to elect a Mormon president or not?" 34% said yes. 48% said no. Don't know, 18 %. There's your 1/3 of all Republicans who won't support Romney. Of course, you'd have to develop a very complex methodology to test that hypothesis, but if Pew wants to give me a grant, I'll do it. . . .

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Watcher:

I wasn't suggesting that Romney would keep it. I know that the guy is richer than all the rest of them combined. What I was wondering is whether he could just hand over the money to the nominee, thereby facilitating an end run around contribution limits by those who maxed out to Romney and maxed out to the nominee.

As for a religious test, the constitution forbids it in a de jure sense but it's impossible for tell people they can't shy away from a Mormon for that reason.

I think the worry about a Mormon candidate would come from a number of angles. Evangelicals and "core" Catholics regard Mormonism as both a heresy and a cult. Secularists view the Mormons as cultish and authoritarian to the point of being robotic, and Romney's whole personna certainly plays into the stereotype.

Then there is the Mormon doctrine of continuing revelation, which has facilitated theological shifts of stunning sweep and convenience, such as the about-face on polygamy in 1890 and the admission of blacks to their priesthood in the 1970s.

Romney's 180-degree shifts on gay rights and abortion smack of classic Mormon celestial "revelations" that, oddly enough, arrived just in time to fulfill an immediate strategic, temporal purpose. And, by the way, I think his father's having been knocked out of the '68 presidential race for having mused that he might have been "brainwashed" on Vietnam played right into that stereotype of Mormons as robots.

With the proviso that it's a more wide-open race, I think Romney II is dead. His whole approach has struck every discordant note when it comes to Mormon involvement in national politics. And, by the way, anyone who looks closely at voting patterns in Utah and Idaho would have good reason to look askance at the influence of the Mormon church on its rather less-than-independent flock.

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Tom Lineweaver:

In Massachusetts, he is seen as mean spirited, a schemer/flipflopper, who talks out over the heads of the local citizenry to his base somewhere else. He is a party organization animal ; no personal vibe with the ordinary voter - in fact, you might say that in his everyday comings and goings he almost gives off a distain for ordinary voters.
You've heard of "all hat and no cattle". He's "all money and no fans".

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Chris Petersen:

It is unfortunate that the same people who support the separation of religion and state, use religion as the only reason to not vote for someone who could effectively run the country. Our country was founded by men who believed in and received personal revelation from God. If a man's personal direction is for good, and needs to ask God for help in maintaining that path, there shouldn't be anything but repsect for the man in keeping his principles high and wanting God to be a part of that process. The LDS church maintains that we believe in letting others worship who and how they please and specific religions are not discussed in a negative manner of any kind. We don't say, 'well this person is this or that and can't lead a city, state or country because his beliefs are different than ours'. But it appears that a lot of people are doing that with Mitt Romney, just because he belongs to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Our country was founded on freedom of religion, but some people have lost that feeling. In todays environment where we need God in our lives so much, too many are turning away from him and are turning away from the founding fathers desires for this country. Mitt is a good man, and deserves to judged and voted for or against based on his abilities, not his religion.

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