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How much will Obama’s unlikeability be a factor in 2012

posted at 1:23 pm on May 13, 2012 by

My apologies to readers for reacting for a second day to a column by The Daily Beast’s Michael Tomasky, but sometimes that’s just how the winds of political opinionating blow.

In his Sunday musing, Tomasky returns to the scene of the crime he focused on in Saturday, the crime being the 1965 hazing of a fellow prep school student by current presumptive GOP Mitt Romney. In today’s column, Tomasky concedes that “very few votes are going to be cast on the basis of what Mitt Romney did or didn’t do to John Lauber … so that, per se, isn’t Romney’s problem. But this is: The story lands as another brick on pile of evidence amassing that he’s just a disagreeable human being.”

Tomasky engages in some seat-of-the-pants scholarship to plumb the question of when a “clearly less likeable candidate beat the clearly more likeable one for the White House.” He tells us that he “put the question to Gallup, which didn’t have historical numbers at hand.” Suffice it to say, he concludes, it’s been “a long time.”

Gallup may not have had an answer to Tomasky’s rather arcane question, but the organization has plenty of data on the comparative likeability of the two candidates. Its May 8 survey finds Barack Obama ahead of Romney 60% to 31%, a very comfortable 29% margin. Other polls similarly show the president with a commanding lead in the area of likeability, especially among women. All other factors being equal (which of course all factors are not), if the election were held today, Obama would easily win a second term.

I would like to add another piece of speculative “research” to the mix, and that is Obama’s overall unlikeability rating. I appreciate that 3 out of 5 respondents reported that they like Obama as a person, but to what extent do the remaining 40% dislike the man and how will this factor into the fall election?

This, too, is a datum that Gallup won’t have readily available, so, like Tomasky, my observations herein are based on “noodling around on my own.” I began by creating a baseline for comparison. I did a Google search for the key word strings “George W. Bush stupid” and “George W. Bush dishonest (as in Bush lied, thousands died),” those being the most salients traits of the previous president as identified by his detractors . The first search returned 24 million web pages, the second 2 million.

I then did the same with Barack Obama and the character traits most often ascribed to him by those for whom his ineluctable charms are highly eluctable. The string “Barack Obama petty” returned 10.5 million hits. The variants with “sarcastic” and “ego” each returned 10 million hits, “arrogant” 5.7 million, “polarizing” 3 million, “thin-skinned” 1 million. When you add the totals, you find that Barack Obama turns the stomachs of voters nearly 1 and two thirds times as frequently as did George W. Bush, who few would argue is one of the most hated presidents in history.

As to how any of this will impact the fall election, I don’t have any more of a clue than Tomasky has in his own columnistic flight of fancy, which is based purely on wishful thinking. As he himself notes in a moment of sad reflection:

Barack Obama’s biggest problem … is that despite all the many areas in which Americans rate him higher than Romney, the one on which they give Romney the edge happens to be pretty important: handling the economy.

It is going to be that, and not some ascientific exercise in personal popularity, that will determine which contender for the presidency is left standing on Nov. 7.

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Except the economic metrics will continue to be gamed by BHO’s admin, agencies, and the MSM, only more so after about August or so.

The elections will hinge on how many people choose to be willingly fooled.

Difficultas_Est_Imperium on May 13, 2012 at 1:47 PM

I didn’t like bho when he was running last time and the not like him has gone to the moon! It is his views and cratering our Republic I saw last time and his views proved to be true!

BTW before someone starts, L doesn’t like bho cause of the shade of the skin, this won’t fly! Didn’t last time and won’t this time!

letget on May 13, 2012 at 1:50 PM

From what dark place that isn’t a hat are these idiotic pollsters pulling these numbers?

I can’t stand the man-boy-child-megafailure even as a person. He’s worn out every flip-flop around so that you can’t believe a freakin’ thing he says, so how could you tell what his “person” is anyway? I’m pretty certain he has no reflection in a mirror.

stukinIL4now on May 13, 2012 at 3:26 PM

The thing to remember with Tomasky is he would have argued you to the death up until now that Al Gore and John Kerry were more likeable than George W. Bush during the 2000 and 2004 elections. And if you caught him now, at a moment when he’s forgotten the premise behind his Daily Beast column du jour, he’d still argue that Al and John were the lives of the party compared to W.

But he needs to preach to the secular flock why Obama is going to get re-elected, and the ‘likeability’ talking point seems to be the one that’s gone out to the pundits this weekend, so Michael has no now admit the guy he’s hated since before the 2000 election was liked by Americans more than the two Democratic challengers.

jon1979 on May 13, 2012 at 3:36 PM