TOPICS > Politics

Voter Opinion of Mitt Romney on Issues of Likability, Credibility and Faith

August 30, 2012 at 12:00 AM EDT
Jeffrey Brown and Pew Research Center's Andy Kohut talk on the Republican National Convention floor about Mitt Romney's necessary challenge to make himself more likable, empathetic and credible -- since he lags behind President Obama in those measures -- as well as how voters' views of his religion affect his poll numbers.
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GWEN IFILL: So, what do voters think about Mitt Romney? 

Andy Kohut of the Pew Research Center has some answers. 

Jeff is on the floor with Andy right now.

JEFFREY BROWN: So, Andy, start with the personal qualities.  What do you see in the numbers? 

ANDREW KOHUT, Pew Research Center:  Well, he’s got a very big problem.  He’s got a 35 percent favorable rating in last weekend’s Washington Post poll. 

No candidate for president has ever won the presidency with something under 50 percent. He has got to make some real progress in the way people see him.

JEFFREY BROWN: Well, what are they talking about when they talk about personal qualities? 

ANDREW KOHUT: We see three dimensions of issues.

First of all, likability — he’s got a likability problem. He has got a credibility problem. And he’s got an empathy problem, all related, but all distinct.

JEFFREY BROWN: Likability, empathy and credibility.

ANDREW KOHUT: Yes.

And likability — when we ask people who’s a more likable person, Obama by 20 points. And when it comes to his credibility, people wonder whether he’s honest and trustworthy and whether he’s consistent in his positions on issues.

JEFFREY BROWN: Now, have these numbers moved around much or have they stayed pretty stable? 

ANDREW KOHUT: They have been pretty negative.

And on empathy, he’s not seen as a president who — or as a candidate who understands people like them and cares about ordinary people. And these are the attitudes that really have to change in order for people to get comfortable with Mitt Romney the person.

JEFFREY BROWN: Another issue that’s been talked about a lot here is how much — particularly tonight — how much will he address his faith, his being a Mormon?  What do the numbers tell us about how important any of that is to people? 

ANDREW KOHUT: Now, unlike his personal image, this is turning out not to be a major issue for American voters.

When we ask people what do they want to hear about with respect to Mitt Romney, only 16 percent say they want to hear more about his religion. Most people said, let’s hear about his record when he was governor of Massachusetts or let’s hear about what he did at Bain or other things. And we find most people saying that they’re comfortable with his religion and among those who know that he’s a Mormon.

JEFFREY BROWN: Now, can you break that down? Because there’s still a lot of misunderstanding about the religion. So, do you break that down to Catholics, to evangelicals in terms of support and understanding? 

ANDREW KOHUT: Well, sure.

White evangelical Protestants and Catholics are less positive, less accepting of his — of that aspect of him than mainline Protestants are. But those white evangelical Protestants, the big important religious base of the Republican Party, they’re as much supportive of Mitt Romney as they were of John McCain.

Now, those who say they’re uncomfortable with his Mormonism — and there’s some significant number — are a little less enthusiastic, but they still say they are going to vote for him.

JEFFREY BROWN: So, as someone who looks at these numbers, can you extrapolate from that?  And the question should he talk about it more or should — or not make a big deal about it? 

ANDREW KOHUT: It seems to me, not make a big deal out of it.

He’s got to make a big deal about some of these things about how empathetic he is and whether he’s being honest and trustworthy. All of the things that were said about him in the primary campaign have stuck. He didn’t have this bad a personal image before he ran against his Republican rivals. And he’s now carrying the burden of his successful presidential campaign.   

JEFFREY BROWN: All right, Andy Kohut, thanks, as always.

ANDREW KOHUT: You’re welcome.