New Washington Post/ABC poll out today, showing President Obama leading Romney by 51%-44% overall, and… 64%-26% for who is more “friendly and likable.”
If you think that latter stat belongs in the category of “silly fluff,” think again. Go through the last several elections, forget politics, and just ask yourself, who came across as more friendly and likable?
- 2008: Obama v McCain
- 2004: Bush v Kerry
- 2000: Bush v Gore
- 1996: Clinton v Dole
- 1992: Clinton v Bush
- 1988: Bush v Dukakis
- 1984: Reagan v Mondale
- 1980: Reagan v Carter
- 1976: Carter v Ford
- 1972: McGovern v Nixon
Go ahead and venture your own opinion, but if you want mine… I’ve offered it above by putting the more friendly and likable candidate (IMHO) first. And guess what? In the last 9 elections, the more friendly and likable one was also the winner. You need to go back to 1972 to find a winner, Nixon, who (again, IMHO) was less friendly and likable than the opponent.
Now, granted, it might be that people decide which candidate they like better on the basis of policy and substantive grounds, and THEN decide they “like” that person more. But I doubt it. I think this is just another version of the “who would you rather have a beer with” question.
Why might there be a connection between likability and winning? Well, my hunch is that it comes down to the swing voters. Voters who are part of the base — Democratic or Republican — already have strong opinions on issues of a partisan nature. Those in the middle, however, tend to have more flexible opinions, and (it’s my hunch) that the tipping point for them one way or another will be a question of who they like, who they trust, etc.
The proof is in the pudding, and we’ll see when the election is actually held, but… my guess is that if President Obama is still viewed as more friendly and likable, he’ll be the winner.