5 Things the Polls Tell Us about Paul Ryan

by John Sides on August 29, 2012 · 10 comments

in Campaigns and elections

On the eve of Ryan’s speech at the Republican National Convention, here is a recap of several key findings:

  1. When he was picked, a large fraction of Americans did not know who Paul Ryan was, or at least could not evaluate him.  Among those that could, unfavorable views were more prevalent than favorable views.  This was true among undecided and independent voters as well.
  2. Among the politicians discussed as possible vice-presidential picks, Ryan stands out as being relatively less popular, given Americans’ familiarity with him.   Bobby Jindal, Chris Christie, and Marco Rubio were all about equally well-known to Americans, but somewhat more popular than Ryan.
  3. If the goal of picking Ryan was to mobilize the conservative base of the Republican Party, then picking Ryan was pretty much unnecessary.
  4. A large number of people do not know Ryan’s plan for Medicare.  But among those who do, most oppose it.
  5. Since he was picked, Ryan has become somewhat less popular.  As more Americans have developed an opinion about him, those with unfavorable opinions have increased faster than those with favorable opinions.  Gallup’s data show that opinions are slightly more favorable than the YouGov data in the linked post, but they also show that those with unfavorable opinions have increased faster in the past few weeks — up 19 points — than have favorable opinions (up 13 points).

{ 10 comments }

Cornelius Christian August 29, 2012 at 6:55 pm

I do not understand why Paul Ryan was picked, other than to appease Romney’s corporate funders. If Rubio had been picked, then Romney may stand a chance of gaining the Hispanic vote – particularly in Florida. Plus Rubio is young, good looking and charismatic.

At present, it seems like Romney has alienated many bases: blacks, Hispanics, women, and labour. I fail to see his strategy.

Honeyboy Wilson August 30, 2012 at 12:34 pm

Since Romney really needs to win Florida, Ohio, or Virginia to have a chance, it is hard to believe that someone from one of those states, like Rubio, wasn’t picked.

Casey Klofstad August 30, 2012 at 3:10 pm

CC and HW:

Polling data show that nominating Rubio would probably not have helped Romney capture the Latino vote in Florida:

http://www.latinodecisions.com/blog/2012/07/30/nominating-marco-rubio-likely-not-a-game-changer-for-romney-in-florida-2/

Bob August 30, 2012 at 3:21 pm

Thanks for this. I nonetheless think that people may have responded differently once Rubio had been selected. People often change their views after-the-fact; my parents, for instance, are from India and if you ask them, they would claim they want the best person for the job.

Yet if the politician running is of South Asian heritage, then that is a game-changer in their minds. There is a discrepancy between what they say and what they do.

Alex Weiner August 29, 2012 at 10:21 pm

I know this is only tangentially related to your post, but I suspect that Romney picked Ryan because better strategic choices such as Condoleezza Rice and Chris Christie turned him down

PBR August 30, 2012 at 1:11 am

Also tangentially related: Nielson finds that only about 22 million people (or, about 10% of the voting-age population) were watching the first day of the convention. I don’t know exactly how these percentages have changed over time, but my impression has been that far fewer people are watching today relative to the past. So it’s unclear to me how much the convention will help the electorate to get to know Paul Ryan. If not now, then when? The debates, maybe?

Shana August 30, 2012 at 8:40 am

There is a great post on viewership of the conventions over at Mischiefs of Faction by Jon Ladd: http://mischiefsoffaction.blogspot.com/

Acilius August 30, 2012 at 10:10 am

I don’t see how anyone other than a close personal associate of Mr Romney could have come upon any real facts about how he chose Mr Ryan. All anyone else can do is speculate.

That said, the selection doesn’t seem that strange to me. Mr Romney said repeatedly during the primary campaign that he supported Mr Ryan’s budget plan. That plan is unpopular nationally, and his continued identification with it could possibly cost Mr Romney a very close election. However, he seems to be stuck with the Ryan Plan. When Newt Gingrich expressed reservations about the plan, powerful elements within the Republican Party made it clear that they supported it and were prepared to make life uncomfortable for a candidate who did not. As someone who has suffered from charges of flip-flopping, Mr Romney is therefore in no position to withdraw his support for the Ryan Plan.

If I were in Mr Romney’s position, I would likely have chosen Mr Ryan as my running mate because of this situation. First, Mr Ryan is in a better position than anyone else to sell the Ryan Plan. Second, even if he fails to make the plan palatable, his presence on the ticket will enable the Romney campaign to present attacks on the plan as personal attacks on Mr Ryan. Third, if President Obama is reelected, Mr Romney’s running mate will take a share of the blame for the Republican defeat. Were Mr Ryan not on the ticket, he might very well avoid such blame and emerge as a viable candidate for president in 2016. If I were in Mr Romney’s shoes, I would find that prospect intolerable. I would see the Ryan Plan as an albatross around my neck and would want to make damn sure the bastard who put it there didn’t get away with screwing me out of the presidency.

Scott Monje August 30, 2012 at 10:36 am

This may be a tad too Machiavellian, but could Romney have put Ryan on the ticket as the only way to move quietly and slowly away from the Ryan Plan without being attacked by Ryan and friends?

Acilius August 30, 2012 at 10:39 am

Could be…

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