Who Were the Best Speakers—In Either Convention?  

Who's winning, who's losing, and why.
Sept. 7 2012 6:00 PM

Our Ranking of the Top Speakers—From Both Conventions

The Slate/SurveyMonkey snap poll looks at which marquee speakers made the most of their time behind the mic

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President Obama speaks at the Democratic National Convention on Thursday in Charlotte, N.C.

Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images.

Read the rest of Slate’s coverage of the Democratic National Convention.

Katy Waldman Katy Waldman

Katy Waldman is a Slate staff writer. 

Barack Obama’s acceptance speech Thursday at the Democratic National Convention didn’t have any fireworks. But viewers were clearly persuaded by the new, slightly battle-worn Obama: Last night our Slate/SurveyMonkey snap poll registered its most decisive results yet. When we asked, “Did President Barack Obama’s speech make you more or less likely to vote for Barack Obama and Joe Biden in the upcoming election,” a record 45.4 percent noted they were “much more likely” to vote for 4 four more years. Combined with the 13.1 percent who chose “slightly more likely,” that pushes the number of Americans encouraged by Obama’s words to 58.5 percent—two points higher than Bill Clinton’s score from Wednesday. Just over more than 17 percent remained undecided, and around 24 percent reported that the president’s speech had pushed them away from the Democratic ticket. (Information on respondents is available here. More information about SurveyMonkey Audience is here.)

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As the last pieces of confetti are vacuumed from the floor of Time Warner Arena in Charlotte, N.C., conversation will turn to what (if any) boost the convention gave Democrats. Our results indicate that the DNC left 45.1 percent of viewers far more likely to support Obama and Biden in November and 12.7 percent slightly more likely. Another 15.7 percent was unmoved by the proceedings, and around 26 percent were repelled. These numbers represent a victory over the Republicans, who in Tampa inspired only 33.9 percent of respondents to cast their ballots for Romney and Ryan. A nearly identical number, 32.8 percent,  felt alienated by the proceedings.

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Over the past two weeks, a parade of speakers have come forward to try to win us over. Teleprompters were fired up (and sometimes ignored)  as a mesmerizing rain of truths and half-truths were heard by anyone willing to listen. So who said it best? Which of the marquee speakers moved the needle furthest? To calculate our convention speaker rankings, we totaled the number of positive responses to each address, adding together the survey takers who were either “much more likely” or “slightly more likely” to support the ticket after hearing the pols talk. Here’s what we found:

The POTUSObama led the pack with the aforementioned 58.5 percent enthusiasm rating.

Next came the Cicero of the South, Bill Clinton, with 56.8 percent.

Completing the Democratic sweep, Michelle Obama won 49.4 percent of respondents to her husband’s side.

Among Republicans, Mitt Romney persuaded 43.4 percent of survey takers to support his candidacy.

Paul Ryan charmed 42.5 percent with a gutsy blend of fact and fiction.

Ann Romney loved women and snagged 41.1 percent of viewers.

GOP keynote speaker Chris Christie came in last, motivating only 40.6 percent of respondents to his party’s ticket. 

But there was still one more question to be asked: “Who do you believe delivered the better speech—Bill Clinton or Barack Obama?” It wasn’t close. Nearly 45 percent chose Bubba, while 24.8 percent opted for Barack and 30.4 percent sat on the fence. Say what you will, but there’s still nothing like a Bill Clinton speech.

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