No, The GOP Is Not "Winning The Battle Over Paul Ryan"

Aaron Blake of the Washington Post’s The Fix blog:

Say what you want about Paul Ryan’s politics; even Democrats in Congress struggle to find a negative word to say about him. At least, that’s what Republicans have been arguing for the last two weeks. And when it comes to the American public, it appears to be true.

Blake goes on to report the results of a Pew/WaPo poll that asked people what one word comes to mind when they think of Paul Ryan.  Blake does not report that 40% could offer no word whatsoever.  Among those that could offer a word, positive words were more prominent than negative words.  So Blake concludes:

In other words, it seems clear that many people have processed positive GOP messages about his intellect and his life story. More than anything, though, it shows that Democratic attacks have yet to really sink in.

There are two problems with this analysis.  First, in order for the GOP to be “winning,” you need to show change over time.  Maybe people’s “one word” about Paul Ryan would have been similarly positive a month ago or two months ago.  In which case, “the battle” hasn’t changed a thing.

Second, and most important: attitudes toward Paul Ryan have grown less favorable over time.  Here are 5 months of data from YouGov surveys:

The percent unfavorable has grown from 28% to 44%.  In the most recent poll, the percent favorable was 37%.  As I pointed out in my earlier post on Ryan, opinions among independents were a bit more unfavorable than favorable (21% fav – 26% unfav).  The same is still true.

I don’t think Paul Ryan is necessarily going to help or hurt Romney’s chances in November.  Vice-presidential nominees typically don’t matter much at the ballot box.

But it’s certainly not the case that the Republican Party is “winning” the battle to define him for the public.


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Authors

John Sides

Professor Sides studies political behavior in American and comparative politics. His current research focuses on political campaigns, the effects of factual information on public opinion, citizenship laws and national identity, and measurement equivalence. His work has appeared in the American Political Science Review, American Journal of Political Science, American Politics Research, British Journal of Political Science, Journal of Politics, Political Communication, Political Studies, Presidential Studies Quarterly, and Legislative Studies Quarterly. He helped found and contributes to The Monkey Cage, a political science blog.