Voters' thoughts on character traits of Obama, Romney revealed in Scripps online survey

WASHINGTON-- Results from an online survey posted on Scripps websites suggests people seek leadership, honesty, judgment and fairness in their next president but don't see either Mitt Romney or Barack Obama strongly possessing all of those traits.

Voters think character is an important determinant in selecting political candidates, according to polls cited by Neal H. Mayerson, whose non-profit Cincinnati-based VIA Institute on Character designed the online survey that was placed on several Scripps websites in recent weeks.

The nonscientific survey asked respondents to identify the top character traits they sought in the next president from a list of 24. It then asked them to identify the two candidates' top character traits.

Mayerson said 80 percent of respondents listed "leadership" as a trait they'd like to see in a chief executive. Seventy-five percent listed "honesty," while 53 percent chose "judgment" and 40 percent named "fairness."

"Across all respondents and within all sub-samples, Mitt Romney is seen by more people (in this survey) as possessing leadership than is President Obama," Mayerson said in analyzing the responses.

Similarly, survey respondents indicated Obama possesses more of the fourth-most important character trait -- fairness. Thirty-nine percent identified it as a core character trait found in the president while only 17 percent found Romney possesses the quality.

The online survey attracted 1,703 participants from all 50 states, with the largest numbers from California (413), Florida (334), Tennessee (312) and Ohio (178), reflecting Scripps markets. Women made up 52 percent of respondents; men were 48 percent of the sample.

The sample was not representative of the expected voting population. Thirty-eight percent identified themselves as Republicans, 27 percent as Democrats, 23 percent as independent and 12 percent as unaffiliated. Seventy-five percent described themselves as middle-income voters. Forty-six percent were employed, 26 percent are retired and 5 percent are unemployed.

Mayerson said that among the 7 percent of respondents who identified themselves as undecided, Romney came out ahead on "leadership," (52 percent versus 29 percent). But Obama topped Romney in the other three traits: "honesty" (24 percent to Romney's 14 percent); "judgment" (23 percent to 15 percent); and "fairness" (38 percent to 6 percent).

"Most people (in this survey) do not see either candidate as closely resembling what they are looking for in terms of presidential character," Mayerson concluded.

While not scientific, the findings are one way of assessing the public's perceptions of the candidates in what has become a very tight race.

(Contact Scripps Howard News Service Washington correspondent Bartholomew Sullivan at

(Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service)

Print this article Back to Top