Reputation Audit: Rand Paul

April 10, 2014, 3:47 PM GMT+0

Rand Paul is popular among independents, and he is viewed as more honest than many politicians

First-term Kentucky Senator Rand Paul has been “thinking about” running for President in 2016, and is talking about it with his family. The latest Economist/YouGov Poll finds that while most Americans – and even many Republicans – are not yet sold on the prospect of a Paul campagn, Republicans like him better than New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and he scores high with Americans overall in directness, even though most overall are not yet convinced he is qualified for the White House.

As many Americans have unfavorable as favorable opinions of Paul. Republicans, however, are clearly positive. Both of those ratings are better than the assessments Americans and Republicans held of Christie last week.

While Christie’s assessments appear to have improved somewhat this week, when the Economist/YouGov Poll conducted a reputation audit of the New Jersey Governor, more than one in four Republicans continue to view the New Jersey Governor unfavorably. Republicans like at least one other possible candidate more than they like either Christie or Paul: 66% of Republicans have a favorable opinion of former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, while only 14% are unfavorable.

Still, when asked in general whether they like Paul as a person – just 5% of Republicans say they dislike him. Among the public overall, one in five don’t like Paul as a person.

As might be predicted, Democrats don’t like Paul (though 16% are favorable); but independents are positive (41% of independents are favorable towards Paul; 34% are not), suggesting that Paul –and not Christie – may now stand a better chance of capturing at least some independent voters. And while Jeb Bush is better known (and viewed more positively) among Republicans, Paul scores better with independents than Bush.

Paul’s strength may be his outspokenness. Most politicians, including President Barack Obama and Chris Christie, are often seen as pandering – saying what they think people want to hear and not what they truly believe. Not Paul. Nearly twice as many Americans say his statements do reflect what he really believes as think the opposite.

Among Republicans, 60% says Paul speaks what he really believes, and just 15% think he says what people want to hear. When it comes to his values, 59% of Republicans say he shares the values most Americans try to live by; only 12% disagree. On both of these questions, Americans overall divide closely. And just 19% of the public overall thinks Paul has less honesty than most in public life. Even fewer Republicans – 9% -- think this.

That outspokenness – and Paul’s libertarian beliefs – form a major part of the verbal image Americans have of Paul. When asked to describe Paul with a word, those with a favorable opinion cite his libertarian philosophy, his honesty and his conservativeness (one word that appeared hardly at all in last week’s assessment of Christie). Many call Paul “patriotic,” too. 50% of the public overall and the same percentage of Republicans describe Paul as a conservative when asked his ideology (far more than the percentage who viewed Christie that way in last week’s poll).

However, those characteristics also have a negative side: those with an unfavorable view of Paul call him libertarian – but they also say he is “annoying,” “extremist” and even – for some – “crazy.”

Paul’s current weaknesses have to do with perceptions of his qualifications for the job he may want in 2016. Only one in four say they would be confident in the way Paul would handle an international crisis. While more Republicans (44%) say they are confident in Paul’s ability on this, one in four are not. And there are similar concerns about his overall qualifications. Americans are more likely to think Paul is not qualified for the job than to think he is. One in four Republicans agree.

So, as Rand Paul thinks about running for the White House in 2016, what do Americans – and Republicans – want? Should Paul run? This poll suggests that even though Paul may win straw polls at conservative conventions (as his did at CPAC last month), Americans are not yet sold on his candidacy. Neither are most Republicans. Overall, just one in four want Paul to run in 2016 – including just over one in three Republicans. And while Paul generally is well-liked by Republicans, he still has to convince more than one in four of them (along with his family and the country as a whole) that they should favor his candidacy.

Image: Getty

Full results can be found here.

Economist/YouGov poll archives can be found here.

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