Numbers, Facts and Trends Shaping Your World

RNC Highlights: Romney Shares Top Billing With Eastwood

Fewer Watch Convention Coverage than in 2008


The public paid far less attention to this year’s Republican convention than it did to the GOP convention four years ago. Just 37% say they watched all or some of the Republican convention, down from 56% in 2008.

And while there has been a modest increase in the percentage saying they view Mitt Romney more favorably in the wake of the convention, his acceptance speech was not the highlight of the event: As many of those who watched at least a little convention coverage cited Clint Eastwood’s speech as the convention highlight (20%) as named Romney’s speech (17%). One-in-five say there was no convention highlight, about the same percentage as four years ago.

The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted Aug. 31-Sept. 3 among 1,008 adults, finds that even among Republicans Romney’s speech was not the standout event of the convention. A quarter of Republican convention-watchers (25%) said Romney’s speech was the highlight, 19% named Eastwood’s performance, 15% named Paul Ryan’s speech and 13% cited Ann Romney’s address.

More independents who watched convention coverage cited Eastwood’s speech than Romney’s speech as the convention highlight (26% vs. 17%), while a plurality of Democrats (40%) said there was no convention highlight.

Four years ago, GOP nominee John McCain’s acceptance speech also was not the convention’s signature event. Fully half (50%) named GOP vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s speech as the highlight of that convention, while 17% cited McCain’s speech, which is identical to the percentage citing Romney’s speech in the current survey.

Views of Romney: Before and After

Currently, 25% say their opinion of Romney has become more favorable in the past few days, up from 18% during the week before the GOP convention (Aug. 23-26). There has been a comparable decline in the percentage saying their views have become less favorable (from 26% to 20%). Still, a plurality says their opinion of Romney has not changed recently (44% today, 46% before the convention).

There was a similar change in views of McCain after the 2008 Republican convention: 35% said they felt more favorably toward the GOP nominee, up from 28% before the convention.

As was the case with McCain, most of the change in Romney’s image has come among Republicans: In the

current survey, 53% say their view of Romney has become more favorable, up from 43% a week ago. Independents also have a slightly better view of Romney than did so before the convention (21% more favorable after, up from 15%).

The overall ratings of Romney’s convention speech also are similar to those for McCain in 2008. Overall, 52% say Romney’s speech was excellent (21%) or good (32%); 34% say it was only fair (21%) or poor (13%). Four years ago, 52% also gave McCain’s convention speech positive ratings while 32% viewed it negatively.

Fewer Watch Coverage than in 2008

Only about four-in-ten Americans (37%) say they watched even some coverage of the Republican convention: 17% say they watched all or most of it, while 21% watched some of it. Most watched just a little of the coverage (21%) or none of it (40%). In 2008, 56% watched at least some coverage of the Republican convention; just 21% watched no coverage, only about half the percentage as say that today.

There is far less interest in the GOP convention this year than in the 2008 Republican convention among Republicans, Democrats and independents. Four years ago, 69% of Republicans watched at least some convention coverage; 56% watched at least some coverage of the events in Tampa last week. Nearly half of Democrats (49%) watched at least some GOP convention coverage in 2008, but just 28% watched at least some of this year’s convention. Interest among independents in the Republican convention also has fallen sharply, from 52% in 2008 to 34% in the current survey.

More generally, 29% of Americans say they are following news about the presidential campaign very closely, which is virtually unchanged from last week.

Current interest in the presidential campaign is on par with interest in two other news stories – the economy and Hurricane Isaac. A third (33%) followed news about the economy very closely, 31% tracked news about the hurricane very closely, while 29% paid very close attention to the presidential campaign.

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