Poll: Romney “Bullying” Story Not Relevant To Election

As I suspected, last week’s kerfuffle over a report that Mitt Romney had bullied a student while in High School nearly 50 years ago, isn’t exactly registering with the voters:

A nearly 50-year-old bullying allegation against Mitt Romney doesn’t faze many voters, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Most Americans see the incident — recounted by some of Romney’s high school classmates in a Washington Post story — as not serious, and almost all, 90 percent, say it is not an issue that will affect voting.

Moreover, three-quarters of those polled say it is simply not fair to bring up things political candidates did when they were in high school.

Majorities across party lines also say the episode does not provide relevant information about Romney’s personal character. The percentage saying it does peaks at 42 percent among Democrats who have a gay friend or family member. The recipient of Romney’s bullying is thought to have been gay.

Also, among those who see the incident as serious, two-thirds say it provides important information about his character. Even so, most of these people say it is unlikely to be a major factor in their presidential choice.

Once again, the American people prove themselves to be wiser than the punditocracy.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, Public Opinion Polls, Quick Takes, US Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds 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.

Comments

  1. anjin-san says:

    Is that Doug Neidermeyer in the middle photo?

  2. al-Ameda says:

    Finally, we have a measure of those who are independent.

    Most Americans see the incident — recounted by some of Romney’s high school classmates in a Washington Post story — as not serious, and almost all, 90 percent, say it is not an issue that will affect voting.

    it’s 10 percent.

  3. @al-Ameda:

    So, your definition of “independent” consists of “people who consider an irrelevant story from 50 years in the past to be something that will affect their vote?”

    All due respect, but that’s about the most inane definition of any word I’ve ever seen, although I realize this all just partisan spin on your part.

  4. al-Ameda says:

    @Doug Mataconis:
    Doug, it was humor, not a dispatch from the Evil Partisan Empire.

  5. In which case, I apologize if my snark detector is on the fritz

  6. jukeboxgrad says:

    As far as I can tell, the poll did not ask people if they had already heard, or what they heard. So for many people, probably all they knew was the information conveyed by the question. And that information was slanted.

    Mitt and his friends tackled Lauber and pinned him on the floor. Mitt repeatedly cut Lauber’s hair with scissors while he cried and screamed for help. How many respondents were familiar with these basic facts? I bet not too many. And that’s not “bullied.” It’s assault. This is the question that was asked:

    Is the report that Romney bullied another student in high school a major reason for you to (support) that candidate, a major reason for you to (oppose) that candidate, or not a major factor in your vote?

    What would he results be if the word “bullied” was replaced with “assaulted?” I think most people would not accept “bullied” as a fair description of this event if the kid on the floor was theirs.

    What the question also hides is that Lauber was presumed to be gay, and this was apparently at least partly what motivated the attack.

    What the question also hides is that Mitt responded to the story by laughing about it. The problem is his behavior now, not just what he did in 1965.

    So there’s plenty of room for this story to still hurt Mitt, notwithstanding this poll.

  7. jukeboxgrad says:

    Another problem: “in high school” tends to obfuscate this relevant fact: he was 18. What we expect from someone who’s 18 is quite different than what we expect from someone, say, 15.

  8. My understanding of modern cognitive science is that none of us can say what influences our decisions. We suffer biases.

    Certainly campaigns are up on the science, and know what words, issues, and associations color our perceptions despite ourselves.

  9. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    “Once again, the American people prove themselves to be wiser than the punditocracy.”

    It’s still not a very high bar to jump over.

  10. jukeboxgrad says:

    Oh yeah, one more thing about that survey which is important: the words “major factor” and “major reason.” That’s a high hurdle. There are probably plenty of people who would be influenced by a certain fact, even though they wouldn’t call that fact “a major reason.” Consider this question text, from a Pew poll regarding prejudice:

    … would you be more likely or less likely to support a candidate for president who [INSERT ITEM], or wouldn’t this matter to you?

    This is a more sensitive way of asking the question. This question would probably reveal that there are plenty of people who are “less likely” to vote for a bully, even though they wouldn’t call this “a major factor.”

    When it comes to polling, the way the question is asked makes all the difference in the world.