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Tue October 18, 2011
It's All Politics

What Word Comes To Mind When You Think Of The GOP Candidates?

Originally published on Tue October 18, 2011 4:17 pm

How to explain Herman Cain's ascent among Republican presidential candidates?

Perhaps a partial reason is that he so far evokes more positive than negative responses among Republicans and GOP leaning independents in a Pew Research Center/Washington Post survey than two other highly touted candidates in the race, Mitt Romney and Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

Not only did the Pew Research Center/Washington Post survey find that Cain elicited more positive feedback than those two rivals; it also suggests that it was his single-minded marketing of his tax-reform plan that captured the minds of voters.

An excerpt from the Pew/Washington Post report:

When Americans are asked to describe Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain in a single word, they most frequently offer a series of numbers: "9-9-9." Cain's tax proposal is mentioned more often than his background as a businessman.

For Mitt Romney, the most frequently used single word is his religion – "Mormon." And the most frequently offered word for Rick Perry is his home state – "Texas."

But here's where it gets perplexing. Notice how Cain was mostly described by his tax policy. That's nothing short of remarkable, especially given how the first word that came to mind for Romney of those surveyed was his religion while the one word most often summoned up for Perry was his state.

What's that about? Why wouldn't the first word people conjured up for Cain be "black," especially when"Mormon" was the first word most people came up with to describe Romney?

How is religion the first word most often mentioned by who were surveyed and Cain's race, which is certainly more obvious on Cain than Mormonism is on Romney, the first word mentioned by only a relatively few people, four to be precise?

Indeed, among Republicans, the most frequently offered word for Cain actually was "business," the first word offered by the most people — 25 — then "9-9-9", offered by 24. It's definitely not one you might have expected going into the survey.

More straightforward is the way Cain elicits more positives than negatives compared with either Romney or Perry. You would expect that to be the case for someone who is polling as well as Cain is compared with the other two candidates. Another excerpt from the Pew/Washington Post report:

About as many use positive words (12%) as negative words (14%) to describe Cain. For Romney, 21% use negative words while 11% use positive ones. And for Perry, 25% use negative descriptors compared with just 6% who use positive ones.

Even among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, more use negative words than positive words to describe Perry (19% vs. 9%). For Romney, about as many Republicans use positive descriptors as negative ones (18% vs. 15%). Among the three GOP candidates, Cain is the only one who draws many more positive one-word reactions than negative reactions among Republicans (22% vs. 5%).

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