Voters say election more negative than 2008
November 15th, 2012
03:20 PM ET
10 years ago

Voters say election more negative than 2008

(CNN) – A majority of voters in last week's election say the months-long contest between President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney was more negative than four years ago, and less focused on issues, according to a poll released Thursday.

The survey, from the Pew Research Center, indicated 68% of 2012 voters thought the there was more negative campaigning than usual, compared to 54% who said the same thing following the 2008 battle between Obama and Sen. John McCain.

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Similarly, a majority of voters – 51% - thought the 2012 race had less discussion of issues than usual. Thirty-four percent had that sentiment in 2008.

Obama and Romney fared almost identically when voters were asked to assign a grade to each candidate. Obama came away with a C+ average, while the GOP nominee stood at a C.

Other players in the 2012 contest were graded in the same fashion. The press had a grade of C-, while the pollsters, campaign consultants and voters all walked away with a C+.

Despite those lukewarm responses to the campaign, a large majority of voters – 70% - said they were either very or fairly satisfied with their choice of presidential candidates. Twenty-eight percent said they were not satisfied.

An even greater percentage, 87%, said that they had learned enough about both Obama and Romney to make a choice by Election Day. Eleven percent said they still hadn't learned enough about each candidate to make an informed choice before casting their ballots.

What helped voters make up their minds? Sixty-six percent said the three presidential debates (and one vice presidential debate) were helpful in making their selection. Conversely, 72% said campaign commercials were not helpful in making their minds up on a candidate.

The Pew Research Center poll was conducted by telephone from 1,206 voters between November 8-11. The sampling error was plus or minus 3.4 percentage points.

Filed under: 2012 • Mitt Romney • President Obama
soundoff (17 Responses)
  1. v_mag

    That is not just a perception. With the Citizens United decision, there were billions of dollars spent on negative advertising. The 2012 election was by far the most expensive and negative in history. But it is heartening to note that raw money did not win the day, which gives me some slight hope that there will be meaningful campaign reform in the future.

    November 15, 2012 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  2. DENNA

    Maybe now the Republicans will understand lying/negative campaigning may not be the way to go. I got so sick of Romney/Ryan commercials that I started muting them. Even if he had changed his message I would have completely missed it because I could no longer stand his lying voice. GOP keep that in mind for 2014. TELL THE TRUTH.

    November 15, 2012 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  3. Enough is Enough

    Of course it was it had to be, Obama's record is horrible he could not run on it he could only attack his opponent.

    November 15, 2012 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  4. Wire Palladin, S.F.

    Self deport, 47 per cent, foreigner, not one of us, anti worker, moo hers, attacks on veterans benefits, attacks on: teachers, police, firemen, first responders, and nurses, going after the uninsured, is only winning message for Fox foreign media and crazy right wing nuts.

    November 15, 2012 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  5. DENNA

    @ – Enough is Enough – Of course it was it had to be, Obama's record is horrible he could not run on it he could only attack his opponent.
    Are you serious? President Obama gave as good as he got in the election process. John Kerry allowed himself to be swift-boated, President Obama was in no mood to allow the GOP to define him without a fight. Admit it, the Democrats beat the GOP at their own game, but with much more flair because they stuck to the truth. President Obama did not run on his record. America already know what his record was and STILL they preferred him to Rawmoney/'Lie to me Ryan. While the GOP wasn't looking, America changed for the better. Bravo! 🙂

    November 15, 2012 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  6. Rudy NYC

    Conservatives tried to excite their base with anger. Lliberals continued to excite their base with the Hope of Change. Is it any wonder that most conservatives felt that Pres. Obama was divisive, and most liberals viewed conservatives as hate mongers?

    November 15, 2012 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  7. ghostriter

    More negative? I dunno. I don't recall hearing any reports of folks saying they wouldn't vote for a black man this time around. No republican rallies that had a feel of a kl@n meeting.

    There were a ton of ads, though. But what do you expect? Romney wasn't gonna win by say the president did a good job till now, but I can do better. Republicans had to vilify Obama. They had to make him out to be the worse person in the history of people. It was either that or give the people details on your plans and numbers that show they work. I guess it was easier for Romney to just attack.

    November 15, 2012 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  8. Guest

    Yes, the LIEberal campaign and it's administration is shameless to say the least. Similiar to many undeveloped nations, the dems believe whatever is put in front of them on tv, social media, etc. Remember – Romney was responsible for a womans death! Can the dems get any lower. They should be embarrassed to stand before American citizens.

    November 15, 2012 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  9. Rudy NYC

    Enough is Enough wrote:

    Of course it was it had to be, Obama's record is horrible he could not run on it he could only attack his opponent.
    Interesting. THAT is a rather accurate and concise description of the whole Romney campaign. I do not recall any record that Mitt Romney ran on: not Bain, not Governer, not anything but "Trust Me." Besides, what's fair is fair. A man should be allowed to defend himself and swing back when someone is throwing punches at him, which is what Romney and the right wing did for years.

    November 15, 2012 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  10. The Real Tom Paine

    After this election, I can honestly say I am suffering from political fatigue. Both sides staged a never-ending assault on the voters of the country, with hardly an uplifting idea or concept from either side. No one is blameless in this, yet neither side is stopping. Even the few comments that have been posted are filled with the same lines, as if they are starting the play up again after the audience has left the building, and the actors are oblivious to the fact that people are tuning them out. I can never remember an election that has been filled with more demonizing, from the national to the local level, than this one. Its discouraging, to say the least.

    November 15, 2012 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  11. Facts don't Lie

    people on the right seem to have forgotten that the negativity started in the primaries even before Obama amd Romney squared off. Remember how Mitt attacked Gingrich, Perry and Satorum...remember the 15 minute movie Gingrich had shown about "The day Mitt Romney came to town"? Rick Perry was the first to call Romney a "vulture capitalist", Gingrich called him a liar. And all the GOP contenders had their fair share of attacking Obama from C-Pac to the RNC in Tampa before he could defend himelf. And people say Obama could only attack his opponent? Give me a break!

    November 15, 2012 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  12. Name

    Really, go back to the pre-2000 vote and ask the gop about nasty, and they were the kings of this stuff, the dems finally caught on in 2011, and spent a large part of the year pointing out the faults of all the. Gop contenders and well they couldn't have hoped for a better canidate then Romney, the guy was spent more time walking on his hands because his feet were firmly placed in his mouth. All this was this time was fire with fire, and who starts the first one. That's why all the 2016 talk now, its so funny to watch. The only thing about fire is it still burns so they will both have to be more careful next time round. The republicans had a viable canidate and snuffed him out, that was John Huntsman. Although I don't think anyone will real character can survive the tides that pull them by the gop machine. Better luck next time knuckleheads!

    November 15, 2012 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  13. DENNA

    @Guest: The Republicans completely abandoned truth during their convention and kept it up. It was like throwing down the guantlet to the fact checkers, daring them to point out the lies. For some reason they thought that millions of dollars and lies would win the day. They really did not take into account the fact that if they standing in front of a microphone, we could all hear them. LOL It would have been more cost effective if the Romney backers had shared their millions with the hated 47% rather on depending on negative campaigning. 😉

    November 15, 2012 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  14. Expat American

    The second best part of the campaign, without a doubt, was when Romney pleaded with the President to take his negative campaign back to Chicago...before kneeling down and kissing the soles of the shoes of Rove, the Koch Brothers and Adelson behind closed gold plated doors.

    However, the best part of the campaign had to be Romney's son threatening to take a swing the President. What a laughable, pitiful, spineless coward, just like his father!!!

    November 15, 2012 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  15. DENNA

    The best part of election night, besides the awesome win by the President, was watching Karl Rove try to spin his way around the truth. I thought the little dwarf would explode with anxiety. LOL after all the outright lies, the public chose Barack Obama again. We know a quality candidate when we see it. Paul Ryan was no fool -he ran for his old seat just in case. So now he's employed and Rawmoney is still living off his investments. A pity the 47% can't do the same.

    November 15, 2012 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  16. Facts don't Lie

    if you want to say Obama ran a negative campaign be my guest......but he didn't use falsehoods to attack Romney as was done to him. When Candy corrected Romney about what the president had actually said the far right went nuts "HOW DARE SHE" But I bet anything had she said "Mr. President, Gov Romney is correct you NEVER said those words" she would have been a hero and had a statue erected of her in front of the RNC headquarters

    November 15, 2012 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  17. v_mag

    Here is a potential strategy that could work for the Republicans next time. Instead of spending those billions on attack ads, they should use all that money to buy off Latino and women voters. That's where they lost the election, so that's where the money needs to go.

    Besides, we all know what they're about. They don't need to campaign. We know they want more welfare for the rich and less of everything for working folks.

    They could just try mailing envelopes of cash to voters with a note saying, "Please remember us on election day." It wouldn't necessarily be buying votes, since the voters could take the money and still vote any way they wanted to. They could confine this to "battleground states" only, since my vote in Texas doesn't count for anything in the presidential race.

    (I hope I haven't really given them this idea. They are the kind of nuts who might take me seriously.)

    November 15, 2012 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |