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Romney's Debate Performance Swings Polls In His Favor

Oct 8, 2012
Originally published on October 8, 2012 10:10 pm

In the five days since Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney was declared by many the winner of the first presidential debate, political watchers have waited to see if polls would shift in response to his performance. And, they did.

Not only has the Gallup tracking poll tightened to a tie — 47-47 — but the Pew poll, which last month found President Obama with a strong lead among likely voters — 51-43 — has also seen a huge swing. In the latest poll, Romney now leads 49-45.

"He had a 46 percentage point margin of victory in the debate; by a 66 percent to 20 percent margin, he was declared the winner by the people that we questioned," Andy Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center, tells All Things Considered host Robert Siegel. "According to Gallup, that's one of the biggest debate wins ever."

Kohut says the debate had "a very positive impact" on Romney's image.

"His favorable rating, for the first time in this campaign, hit the 50 percent mark," he says. "He came across as the candidate of new ideas over Obama by a seven-point margin, and he was seen, unlike a month ago, as apt to be as strong a leader as Obama. So he fixed his image very well in this debate victory."

Obama also lost some of his popularity among women. In September, just 42 percent viewed Romney favorably, while 60 percent had positive impressions of Obama. Now, 51 percent see Obama favorably; 48 percent see Romney favorably.

Romney now finds himself doing well in some issue areas where he had problems among women.

"Romney made gains on health care, taxes, foreign policy, the role of government," Kohut says. "He now ties Obama on those issues and he trailed by rather respectable margins a month ago. It's sort of an across-the-board win. And the climate of opinion is strongly Romney compared to a month ago when it was strongly Obama."

Kohut noted that these polling numbers were gathered after the debate and amid new data released Friday, which show the unemployment rate fell to 7.8 percent last month.

But Romney's jump in the polls comes with some mixed reviews. As many as 62 percent of voters agree with the statement: "Romney is promising more than he can deliver." And among swing voters, 75 percent say that people seem to be saying, "I don't believe he can do what he says, but I like what he says just the same."

"Yes, and many of them say, 'It's hard to know what he stands for,' " Kohut says. "But on the other hand, a 54 percent majority of them say, 'We don't think Obama knows how to fix the economy.' And that's really what's going on here. People have mixed views of both of these candidates, and the candidate who is able to strike the right chords in any given moment will tap into the reservations people have about the other candidate and seem better by comparison."

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.

And first, a big swing in a major poll on the presidential race. Since last Wednesday when Mitt Romney was widely seen as the winner of the first presidential debate, we've been waiting to see if the polls would move in response to his performance and now they have.

Not only has the Gallup tracking poll tightened to a tie, 47-47, but the Pew poll which last month found President Obama with a strong lead among likely voters, 51 to 43, has seen a huge swing. In the latest Pew poll, Romney now leads 49 to 45.

Joining us is Andrew Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center, good to see you again, Andrew.

ANDREW KOHUT: Happy to be here, Robert.

SIEGEL: Mitt Romney seems to have improved his portions dramatically in the poll. Why? What did people tell you?

KOHUT: Well, he had a 46 percentage point margin of victory in the debate. By a 66 percent to 20 percent margin, he was declared the winner by the people that we questioned. According to Gallup, that's one of the biggest debate wins ever, and it had a very positive impact on his image. His favorable rating for the first time in this campaign hit the 50-percent mark. He came across as the candidate of new ideas over Obama by a seven-point margin. And he was seen, unlike a month ago, as apt to be a strong a leader as Obama. So he fixed his image fairly well in this debate victory.

SIEGEL: You were polling from the day after the debate, so Thursday, Friday, Saturday?

KOHUT: And Sunday.

SIEGEL: And Sunday. Does that include also reactions to the new unemployment figures that came out on Friday?

KOHUT: Most of the interviews, the overwhelming percentage of these interviews, were taken after the announcement of the unemployment rate falling to 7.8 percent. Nonetheless, it was Romney who made progress in being seen as the candidate best able to improve the job situation, 49 to 41 percent a month ago. It was about even between the two candidates.

SIEGEL: Here's one big change that your poll found, women. You found that in September, just 42 percent viewed Romney favorably, while 60 percent had positive impressions of President Obama. Today, 51 percent see Obama favorably; 48 percent see Romney favorably, but no big change there. Are there any particular issues that are now working well for Romney with women voters that weren't working so well before?

KOHUT: Almost all of them. Romney made gains on health care, taxes, foreign policy, the role of government. He now ties Obama on those issues and he trailed by a rather respectable margins a month ago. It's sort of an across-the-board win. And the climate of opinion is strongly Romney compared to a month ago when it was strongly Obama.

SIEGEL: But you also found that 62 percent of voters agree with the statement: Romney is promising more than he can deliver. And among swing voters, 75 percent say that people seem to be saying, I don't believe he can do what he says, but I like what he says just the same.

KOHUT: Yes. And many of them say, it's hard to know what he stands for. A majority of them say that. But on the other hand, a 54-percent majority of them say, we don't think Obama knows how to fix the economy. And that's really what's going on here. People have mixed views of both of these candidates. And the candidate who is able to strike the right chords in any given moment will tap into the reservations people have about the other candidate and seem better by comparison.

SIEGEL: I've heard Republicans say all year, it's going to be like 1980 come a debate just like Ronald Reagan, Romney will move to the front and that will be the end of it. Is there anything comparable between this year and back then?

KOHUT: Well, the lack of comparability is we're not at the end of the campaign. Reagan scored his big victory with only 10 days to go. We have three and a half weeks to go. So by that definition alone, it's quite different.

SIEGEL: And this bump following the poll is a lot bigger than, say, John Kerry won after winning his first debate with President Bush.

KOHUT: Yes, and it wasn't as thorough a drubbing as Obama took here. I think a lot of this is not only feelings that Romney did well, but feelings that Obama did poorly.

SIEGEL: Andrew Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center. Andy, thanks a lot.

KOHUT: You're welcome, Robert. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.