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Word Association


The new Pew Research Center survey that we linked to yesterday includes a fascinating set of "word associations" that voters make with the Democratic and Republican candidates. To follow up on my discussion earlier in the week about the worth of primary polls, these early assessments can tell us more about the evolving perceptions of the Democratic candidates than the trial heat preferences.

The campaigns are now focusing on the early states, to be sure, but the national news coverage reflects the messages that they are striving to communicate. The Pew summary and the graphic reproduced below provide an intriguing indicator of what voters are hearing:

pew%20word%20association.gif

See the full Pew report for a more complete summary of the data. I am struck by the remarkable the degree to which Democrats see Clinton as "tough" and "smart," but give Obama points for "energetic" and "optimistic."

Note the way this data dovetails with the apparent strategies of the two campaigns: This week Obama releases a new ad that embraces hope, optimism and bipartisanship. Meanwhile, Clinton releases a health care plan reflecting her "smart, pragmatic" side and, as Andrew Sullivan reminds us, "calls Cheney ‘Darth Vader.'"

The Washington Post's Jon Cohen has more here.

 

Comments
Kedron:

Hi Mark,
The breakdown that I'd like to see on the word association questions (and I don't know if Pew has this data) is between voters who are closely vs. not following the race right now. It would give insight as to how much the Clinton/Giuliani strength is mere name ID, vs. an evaluation by likely voters who are highly informed and paying attention (I expect not many are, honestly, except here in Iowa). It would also predict a likely trend direction in the candidate strengths as voters see more of the candidates/engage more.

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