September 25, 2008

The Candidates: In a Word

Table

In the latest survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press (a national survey of 2,509 voters interviewed Sept. 9-14) registered voters were asked what one word best describes their impression of the candidates for president and vice president.

Responses were tallied to show which words were most commonly associated with the candidates. (Figures shown are actual numbers of respondents not percentages.)

For Barack Obama, far more voters mentioned “inexperienced” than any other word. The second most frequently mentioned word was “change.” The single word most commonly used to describe John McCain was “old.” The second most used describer of McCain was “patriot” or “patriotic.”

Throughout the year, the top word associated with the two presidential candidates has remained unchanged. When this question was asked in February and April in Pew Research Center surveys the top words associated with Obama and McCain were also “inexperienced” and “old” respectively.

To illustrate registered voters impressions of all the candidates (including Sarah Palin and Joe Biden) responses were entered into Wordle, a website that generates “word clouds” from text provided by the user. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text. Therefore, the largest word on McCain’s cloud is “old” while the largest word for Obama’s is “inexperienced.” Other descriptive words are sized based on the frequency with which they were mentioned in regard to each of the four candidates.

What ONE WORD best describes your impression of…

John McCain

Word Cloud

Barack Obama

Word Cloud

Sarah Palin

Word Cloud

Joe Biden

Word Cloud

For the complete list of one word descriptions, see the topline questionnaire at people-press.org (questions 10, 11, 12 and 13).