December 14, 2011

Top One-Word Reactions to GOP Frontrunners

Among Republicans, More Positives for Gingrich than Romney

When Americans are asked what comes to mind when they hear Newt Gingrich’s name, no single word stands out. Some refer to the Republican frontrunner’s intellect and conservatism.Others see him as “old school” or even as an “idiot.” Most frequently, they offer a quick negative assessment of Gingrich’s White House bid: “no” or “no way.”

On the other hand, the most common word offered about Mitt Romney is “Mormon.” This also was the most frequently used word to describe Romney the last time this question was asked in October. Other top answers include a rejection of his candidacy – variations on “no” or “no way” – and references to criticism of the former Massachusetts governor as a “flip-flopper.”

The latest survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press and The Washington Post, conducted Dec. 8-11 among 1,008 adults, finds that more people offer negative than positive one-word assessments of both candidates. About four-in-ten (43%) offer no impression of Romney, while 33% offer no impression of Gingrich.

Among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, roughly equal numbers offer negative assessments of Romney (20%) and Gingrich (19%), but more offer positive assessments of Gingrich than of Romney (23% and 15%, respectively). More than a third of this group offers no word about Romney (37%); 27% offer no opinion about Gingrich.

A separate Pew Research Center survey released this week shows Gingrich with a substantial lead over Romney among Republican and GOP-leaning registered voters. (See “Gingrich Leads, But Likely GOP Primary Voters Have Not Ruled Out Romney” released Dec. 13.)

The most common responses from Republicans and GOP-leaners about Gingrich refer to his intelligence and knowledge, as well as his conservatism and his experience.

The top responses about Romney are more mixed. Just as with the public as a whole, the most frequent response refers to his religion.  Others refer to him as “good” or a “good man,” simply say “no,” or say “flip-flop.”