Brand Obama vs brand Romney: Who’s winning?

Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have campaigned for the US presidency on the basis of two very different visions, with the former running under the slogan ‘Forward’ and Romney using ‘Believe in America’. But despite the differences between their political ideas, both men have remained closely tied in the polls ahead of the election on 6 November.

Although neither candidate has managed to run away with the popular vote, an analysis of emotional responses among the electorate shows subtle differences in how each man is perceived. The research, released by agency Havas in early October, reveals that Obama is seen as a more ‘meaningful candidate’, with 45 per cent saying they feel Obama listens and cares, compared to only 20 per cent for Romney.

The survey of 378 voters measured its scores against 39 “aspects of meaningfulness” including whether the candidates make Americans feel less stressed or more emotionally secure. It found that for more individual, personal concerns, Romney lags behind Obama by 10 percentage points (14 per cent against 24 per cent) and that when it comes to more collective, social issues surrounding the community or economy, Obama is also ahead of Romney by 15 percentage points (36 per cent to 21 per cent).

However, the percentages for both candidates across individual and collective indicators of wellbeing are low, suggesting that voters do not think either candidate is doing enough to help them live better lives.

Romney achieved a small margin over Obama on business related areas, such as creation of jobs. Obama, though, doubles the scores of Romney on issues like ‘helping us become better citizens’. These scores were still only averaging percentages in the mid-20s when the survey was conducted.

Umair Haque, director at Havas Media Labs, says: “There is optimism in the US but it’s clear that both candidates are not delivering on this desire to live better lives in any tangible form.”

The research reveals that during the candidates’ first TV debate, a ‘liberal’ audience shared ideas on social media platforms to a greater extent than their conservative counterparts and were more likely to spend at least an hour per day discussing the candidates and the election. Liberals were also three to four times as likely to be posting or reading about the election during the debates.

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