Mitt Romney Finally Scores Some Likeability Points

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Earlier this morning I posted a chart from John Sides showing that people didn’t perceive Mitt Romney as any more moderate after Wednesday’s debate than before. That was interesting, but sort of limited. What I was really curious about was how perceptions of Romney as a person changed. Did he seem more or less honest? More or less energetic? More or less plutocratic? Etc.

Well, John must have been reading my mind, because a few minutes ago he put up a post showing exactly that. Here are the before and after responses among independents for six specific character traits:

This is, obviously, pretty powerful stuff. It doesn’t tell us whether these changes were mostly due to the debate performances themselves or to the media coverage afterward, but it certainly shows that perceptions of Romney and Obama shifted fairly dramatically. What’s more, as John points out, Romney even gained in people’s perceptions of his honesty. The fact that he tossed out so many specific numbers and plans, and tossed them out with confidence and vigor, apparently made people decide that he must be telling the truth.

You can draw your own conclusions from this. On the honesty front, there are two obvious lessons you could take away:

  1. Obama did a lousy job of making Romney’s deceptions clear. He needs to double down on calling Romney a liar next week.
  2. Attacking Romney’s honesty just doesn’t work. No matter how gratifying it might be for us to hear him call Romney a liar, that’s not the key to winning the next debate.

My heart says #1 is right, but my head says #2 is right. Viewers just tune out when debates turn into a battle of numbers. The key to success lies elsewhere.

HERE ARE THE FACTS:

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ONE MORE QUICK THING:

Our fall fundraising drive is off to a rough start, and we very much need to raise $250,000 in the next couple of weeks. If you value the journalism you get from Mother Jones, please help us do it with a donation today.

As we wrote over the summer, traffic has been down at Mother Jones and a lot of sites with many people thinking news is less important now that Donald Trump is no longer president. But if you're reading this, you're not one of those people, and we're hoping we can rally support from folks like you who really get why our reporting matters right now. And that's how it's always worked: For 45 years now, a relatively small group of readers (compared to everyone we reach) who pitch in from time to time has allowed Mother Jones to do the type of journalism the moment demands and keep it free for everyone else.

Please pitch in with a donation during our fall fundraising drive if you can. We can't afford to come up short, and there's still a long way to go by November 5.

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