Personality Contest For President

May 17, 2012, 4:00 PM GMT+0

(Week of 5/12/2012) Presumptive Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney continues to trail incumbent President Barack Obama on many character-related measures in the current Economist/YouGov poll, but that personality gap may be narrowing overall as Romney establishes himself with voters. Meanwhile, Obama is trading some soft perceptions (honest and sincere, not arrogant or hypocritical) in exchange for growth in some harder-edged perceptions (effective, bold).

Certainly Obama is more likeable than Romney to Americans. Overall, 58% like Obama (32% like Obama a lot), better than the 46% who like Romney (only 11% like Romney a lot). Romney has not succeeded in closing that likeability gap with Obama much in the past months.

On other character-related measures, however, Romney’s current scores are competitive and more relative to impressions of Obama. Perhaps Romney’s most surprising advantage over Obama on a character measure is relative to impressions of which candidate can claim experience, with 34% rating Romney experienced, just 21% Obama. Romney also hold large leads over Obama on being religious, with 44% rating Romney religious (just 14% Obama), and on being patriotic, with 35% rating Romney patriotic (just 29% Obama).

Since January, Obama has improved his character-related scores on being bold (with 31% rating Obama bold, just 17% Romney) and effective (with 25% rating Obama effective, just 20% Romney). Obama has lost ground since January when Americans are asked whether positive or negative characteristics such being arrogant, hypocritical or (on the positive side of the ledger) sincere or religious describe Obama.

Obama may be gaining in the public’s eye when it comes to “Presidential” characteristics of boldness and effectiveness, but possibly at the expense of looking less sincere and more arrogant or hypocritical.

Neither candidate scores well on any character measure at this time except intelligence (and in Romney’s care, being religious).

Economist/YouGov poll archives can be found here

Photo source: Press Association