Romney Seen Increasingly as "Rich", Not "Mormon"

The Slatest
Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Aug. 30 2012 10:28 AM

Word Association: Voters See Romney Increasingly as "Rich", Not "Mormon"

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Mitt Romney shares a laugh with his grandchildren while watching the Republican National Convention on television in their hotel room in Tampa on Wednesday

Photo by Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images.

I say "Mitt Romney" and you say, _______? Apparently, for an increasing number of Americans, the answer is either "honest," "businessman," or "rich." 

A new report from Pew takes a look at the results of a trio of word association surveys conducted last fall, in March 2012, and just before this week's convention. The results indicate a changing portrait of the newly-minted Republican presidential nominee, who was once defined largely by his particular brand of religion and is now known more for his bank account and professional resume, according to the results.

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If you want evidence that the GOP has hustled to get its party faithful behind a candidate that took a heavy beating in the primaries, look at the dramatic leap in positive words volunteered by respondents to describe the former governor between March and now. This spring, only 28 percent of self-identified Republicans offered positive words for the candidate. That share is now up to 63 percent.

The results also suggest that Romney's refusal to discuss his religion until late in the campaign may have opened up some space for other associations to form. Back in the fall of 2011, the top word volunteered by the 1,000 participants surveyed was "Mormon" by a wide margin. Compared to the 60 who offered it up back then, Romney's religion is no longer on the tip of the tongue of as many voters: 18 said "Mormon" in March, and only 8 said it in August of 2012.

Of course, given the somewhat small sample size of respondents offering the same words, we may not want to draw sweeping conclusions about voters' awareness of Romney's religion. Several polls, for instance, have suggested that about 60 percent of the public is aware of Romney's religion, and that most of those people say they are either comfortable with or indifferent toward his beliefs.

While the apparent move of Romney's religion to the mental back seat of the American mind might be a welcome development for the campaign, the survey also has its share of bad news for the White House hopeful. Most words chosen by participants were either negative or neutral. "Liar" and "out-of-touch" made their way onto the list of top responses, just below "OK," "leader" and "Republican." In all, 42 percent of offered responses in August were negative, while 30 percent were neutral and 28 percent positive.

You can check out the full results here.

Abby Ohlheiser is a Slate contributor.