|Barna Survey: Americans Think Obama is the Smartest and Most Honest Major Candidate|
October 4, 2011
In past presidential election studies the Barna Group has confirmed that people are significantly affected by the party identification of a candidate and by his stands on one or more critical issues. In addition, there are several character or competency qualities that voters often evaluate when selecting their preferred candidate. In a new nationwide survey conducted by the Barna Group, four such attributes were evaluated in relation to President Obama and two of the leading Republican candidates: Governors Perry and Romney.
Three Out of Four for Obama
The public awarded Mr. Obama the best scores for three of the four attributes tested. The exception was leadership ability, on which Mr. Romney came out on top and Mr. Perry was tied with Mr. Obama. In addition, the results showed that Mr. Romney polled better than Mr. Perry on each of the four attributes, though the margins were small.
Looking at each of the factors evaluated, Mr. Obama received the highest scores for perceived honesty. Overall, 24% rated him as being "excellent" in this regard and another 24% said he was "good." That compares to Mr. Romney's ratings of 9% excellent and 27% good, and Mr. Perry's scores of 6% excellent and 25% good.
Mr. Obama's intelligence was rated "excellent" by 39%, and "good" by 29%. That topped the ratings received by Mr. Romney (17% excellent, 40% good) and Mr. Perry (14% excellent, 28% good).
A much closer competition concerned the perceived philosophy of government embraced by each man. Mr. Obama had the highest ratings (19% excellent, 26% good), followed by Mr. Romney (9% and 30%, respectively) and Mr. Perry (7% and 25%, respectively). In the aggregate, Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney had essentially identical mean scores due to the larger proportion of people who rated Mr. Obama's philosophy of government as "not too good" or "poor" (which were the bottom two choices on the five-point scale).
On the matter of leadership ability, Mr. Obama had the highest "top box" score (17% "excellent") along with an additional 25% awarding a "good" rating – a total of 42% who gave him an above average score. However, while only 10% said Mr. Romney's leadership abilities were excellent, another 36% described them as good, giving him a combined 46% above average rating. Twelve percent gave Mr. Perry the highest rating, followed by 29% who said his leadership abilities were good, for a score that was statistically even with that of the incumbent.
Evangelicals and Skeptics Beg to Differ
Among evangelicals the candidate with the top score was Mr. Perry in all four categories – leadership (30% excellent versus 9% for each of his two peers); honesty (26% excellent, compared to 18% for Mr. Obama and 9% for Mr. Romney); intelligence (42% excellent rating, dwarfing the 26% given to Mr. Obama and 20% to Mr. Romney); and philosophy of government 25% excellent, 15% for Mr. Obama, 6% for Mr. Romney). Note that on all four attributes, evangelicals rated Mr. Romney last (although his scores tied him with Mr. Obama regarding leadership ability).
In contrast, among skeptics Mr. Obama was the top-rated individual on all four attributes – and, in three cases, by some of the widest margins awarded by any religious segment. The most competitive evaluation related to leadership ability, for which only 15% of skeptics gave Mr. Obama an "excellent" rating compared to a statistically-equivalent 12% for Mr. Romney and 8% for Mr. Perry. The "above average" score (i.e., excellent plus good) gave Mr. Obama top standing among the skeptics (43% vs. 35% for Mr. Romney, 26% for Mr. Perry).
Views of Other Faith Groups
Various factions of the faith community held divergent views. For instance, seven out of ten evangelicals stated that Mr. Obama does not deserve to be re-elected. About half of the non-evangelical born again adults said he does not deserve re-election. Among notional Christians, the response was evenly split between feeling that he does and does not deserve a second term, with one-quarter undecided. A contrary view came from skeptics (atheists and agnostics): a plurality said he should be given another term, although one-quarter of the skeptics remained undecided. Among Catholics, the outcome was evenly divided whereas about half of Protestants felt Mr. Obama does not deserve to be re-elected, a bit more than one-third said he does, and one out of every six were undecided.
Among the adults who preferred Mr. Obama in each of three trial heats against a trio of Republican hopefuls (Mr. Perry, Mr. Romney, and Mrs. Bachmann), nearly one-quarter of those consistent supporters said they felt he did not deserve to be re-elected.
The survey was conducted using the web-enabled KnowledgePanel®, a probability-based panel designed to be representative of the U.S. population operated by Knowledge Networks. Initially, participants are chosen scientifically by a random selection of telephone numbers and residential addresses. Persons in selected households are then invited by telephone or by mail to participate in the web-enabled KnowledgePanel®. For those who agree to participate, but do not already have Internet access, Knowledge Networks provides at no cost a laptop and ISP connection. People who already have computers and Internet service are permitted to participate using their own equipment. Panelists then receive unique log-in information for accessing surveys online, and then are sent emails throughout each month inviting them to participate in research.
"Born again Christians" are defined as people who said they have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in their life today and who also indicated they believe that when they die they will go to Heaven because they had confessed their sins and had accepted Jesus Christ as their savior. Respondents are not asked to describe themselves as "born again."
"Evangelicals" meet the born again criteria (described above) plus seven other conditions. Those include saying their faith is very important in their life today; believing they have a personal responsibility to share their religious beliefs about Christ with non-Christians; believing that Satan exists; believing that eternal salvation is possible only through grace, not works; believing that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth; asserting that the Bible is accurate in all that it teaches; and describing God as the all-knowing, all-powerful, perfect deity who created the universe and still rules it today. Being classified as an evangelical is not dependent upon church attendance or the denominational affiliation of the church attended. Respondents were not asked to describe themselves as "evangelical."
Protestant mainline denominations include American Baptist Churches in the USA; the Episcopal Church; the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; the Presbyterian Church (USA); the United Church of Christ; and the United Methodist Church.
Non-mainline denominations are Protestant churches other than those included in the mainline category described above.
About Barna Group
Located in Ventura, California, Barna Group has been conducting and analyzing primary research to understand cultural trends related to values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors since 1984. If you would like to receive free e-mail notification of the release of each update on the latest research findings from Barna Group, you may subscribe to this free service at the Barna website (www.barna.org). Additional research-based resources are also available through this website.
© Barna Group, 2011.