At a time when Americans are saying a candidate’s behavior on the campaign trail will be an important factor in how they cast their ballots in November, likely voters believe President Obama has conducted his re-election campaign in a more civil manner than Governor Mitt Romney, according to a new public opinion poll by Weber Shandwick and Powell Tate with KRC Research.
A majority of likely voters, 55 percent – 42 percent, considers President Obama’s campaign tone to be civil, while a plurality, 49 percent – 45 percent, perceives Governor Romney’s tone as uncivil. The civility gap is potentially significant because nearly half of likely voters polled, 48 percent, say the candidate’s civility will be a “very important” factor in how they vote.
The gap was much less pronounced for the Vice Presidential candidates. Vice President Biden was seen as civil by a margin of 49 percent to 43 percent while likely voters were evenly split in their assessment of Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan, with 46 percent saying he was civil and the same number saying he had been uncivil.
With the presidential candidates preparing for the first of three debates on Wednesday, the findings reveal that the American people will be paying close attention not only to what the candidates say but how they act when they meet at the University of Denver. Fifty-seven percent of likely voters say that any incivility demonstrated on the debate stage will affect their votes. The sentiment was shared equally by self-described Democrats (54 percent), Republicans (55 percent) and Independents (58 percent).
Governor Romney has to aggressively underscore his policy differences with President Obama without engaging in attacks that will seem uncivil and alienate voters. Style and tone matter, and if he walks that tightrope well, he can bridge the civility gap and lessen, or even erase, what appears to be an impediment to his election among voters.
KRC Research CEO
As have previous Weber Shandwick/Powell Tate polls on Civility in America, the new survey found two-thirds (66 percent) of likely voters saying incivility was a major problem in society with 85 percent also saying political campaigns are uncivil. By a margin of almost 2 to1 (62 percent to 32 percent), likely voters said incivility has always been part of the political process but more than three-quarters (78 percent) said incivility in politics is worse now than it has ever been.
In a head-to-head matchup on voting intentions, the poll had President Obama leading Governor Romney among likely voters by 48 percent to 43 percent.
About the Survey
The 2012 national online survey of 1,053 adults, age 18 and older, was conducted by KRC Research between September 14th and September 16th. Data were weighted to align with the U.S. population distribution. This survey includes 959 likely voters, 305 Republicans, 347 Democrats and 400 Independents, party affiliations that are in line with voter registration estimates. The margin of error at the 95% level of confidence for the total sample is +/-3.0%.
About Powell Tate
Powell Tate is a leading strategic communications and bipartisan public affairs firm. Located in Washington, D.C., the firm specializes in public affairs; public education; reputation and crisis management; media relations; creative and interactive services; and research and advertising. The firm is a division of Weber Shandwick.
About KRC Research
KRC Research is a full-service market research firm that specializes in the kind of research needed for effective communications—communications that reach, engage and persuade. A unit of the Interpublic Group of Companies (NYSE: IPG), KRC Research offers the quality and custom service of a small firm along with the reach of a global organization. For over 30 years, KRC Research has worked on behalf of corporations, governments, not-for-profits and the communications firms that represent them. Staffed with market research professionals from the worlds of political campaigns, consumer marketing, journalism and academia, we are flexible, practical, creative, knowledgeable and fast, combining sophisticated research tools with real-world communications experience. For more information, visit www.krcresearch.com.