Which convention drew independents?

Nielsen has researched the television audiences for the two major parties and discovers a surprising attraction for independent voters to the Republicans.   Their numbers show that uncommitted voters had a higher percentage of engagement with John McCain than Barack Obama.  Those trends hold up with committed voters, too:

Voters not yet committed to either candidate were 12% more engaged by TV coverage of the GOP convention than the Democratic convention, according to an analysis released Monday by Nielsen IAG. …

John McCain’s acceptance speech on September 4 drew the most attentive audience of uncommitted viewers, Nielsen reported.  Telecasts of Barack Obama’s and Sarah Palin’s acceptance speeches on August 28 and September 3, respectively, tied in second place as the second most engaging telecasts among uncommitted viewers.

Overall, viewers were more engaged by the telecasts of the RNC vs. the DNC.  Registered voters were 10% more engaged by the RNC than the DNC, while likely voters were 12% more engaged in RNC viewing.

Engagement numbers come from interviewing representative samples in order to determine how much each recalls of the various speeches.  Not surprisingly, the most engaging moments of both conventions were the speeches of the nominees, including Sarah Palin but apparently not Joe Biden.  Also not surprisingly, Obama’s speech won among younger voters — but that’s apparently it.

Given the historic nature of both conventions, this seems rather surprising.  The raw viewer numbers were remarkably close, although McCain edged Obama by a thin margin.  The lack of engagement may have a couple of origins.  Just in terms of sequence, the Republicans had the last word and may have some advantage.  However, Obama gave a remarkably banal speech, especially considering the setting which his campaign created for it.  It did little to engage independents, instead focusing on the usual laundry list of government programs that doctrinaire liberals have advanced for decades. As I predicted at the time, independents didn’t hear anything new.

The Democrats had an opportunity to forge new alliances with the center.  Instead, Obama chose to focus on shoring up his base and gave McCain an opening.