More People See Eastwood As Highlight Of RNC Than Romney

According to a new poll from the Pew Center For People And The Press, Clint Eastwood’s odd, headline grabbing performance is considered more of a highlight of the Republican Convention than the nominee’s speech, or that of his running mate:

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%)

Of course, this isn’t the first time that a nominee’s speech was overshadowed, it happened to the last Republican nominee:

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.

As in other polls, we see an uptick in Romney’s likability in this poll, which I suppose is good news for the Romney people. However, this poll gets back to what I was discussing on Friday. Having Clint Eastwood at the convention was probably guaranteed to overshadow Romney to some extent, but at least they could’ve ensured that what Eastwood was going to see would’ve be in line with the theme of the night, and what Romney would be touching on in his speech. Instead, they let him go out there and do a stream of consciousness improv thing that left many people scratching their heads even if they did find it entertaining.

FILED UNDER: 2012 Election, Entertainment, Public Opinion Polls, US Politics, , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. I’ve heard the poor guys are going to have empty chair parties or something. No self-awareness of the madness.

    For a more academic review, see (below) from Scientific American.

    Imaginary Presidents and Imaginary Gods: The Real “Empty Chair” Effect

  2. Fiona says:

    No big surprise. Romney gave a nothing speech. Eastwood generated controversy that extended well beyond the convention. That’s what people are going to talk about and remember.

  3. Nikki says:

    At least Palin was on the ticket 4 years ago.

  4. michael reynolds says:

    The American people may not know politics, but by God they know entertainment.

  5. al-Ameda says:

    Clint Eastwood is an iconic cultural figure, so it’s no surprise that many looked forward to and anticipated his performance. I think Republicans were hoping that Clint could provide them with a “Reaganesque” sound bite that Romney could use in the campaign’s home stretch.

    Romney’s appearance, on the other hand, came with completely different expectations. He could not possibly compete with Eastwood in terms of anticipation and excitement – we know who he is, a good family guy, a successful businessman, and a politician who has no firm conviction other than to get to win an election.

    Thatc said, I believe that Democrats dodged a bullet when Eastwood bombed. Eastwood’s performance was not good television, and yet it sucked the energy away from Romney’s appearance. An hour after Romney wrapped up, all that people were talking about was Eastwood.

  6. rudderpedals says:

    Ha ha! Convention viewers got rickrolled.

  7. Tsar Nicholas says:

    I was going to stop reading when I saw the words “Pew Center,” but just for shits and giggles I decided to continue on. But then I actually stopped when I saw the following reference: “. . . . among 1,008 adults . . . .”

    FYI, “adults” aren’t going to be voting in this year’s election. Voters will. Polls of “adults,” as opposed to likely voters, are worth about the same amount as a IOU note is worth in a brothel.

  8. An Interested Party says:

    So now the Pew Center is part of the great liberal conspiracy as well…is there any organization to the left of Fox News that isn’t part of the great liberal conspiracy? Here’s one thing to know about real adults…they don’t play the victim and assign blame for just about everything that is wrong in the world to some imagined conspiracy hatched by their political enemies…