Etch a Sketch overkill?

at 04:14 PM ET, 03/27/2012

Etch a Sketch was everywhere last week.


An "Etch A Sketch " is for sale at FAO Schwarz in New York City on March 22, 2012. TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images
In the wake of a comment by senior Mitt Romney aide Eric Fehrnstrom on Wednesday comparing the children’s toy to how his candidate would address some of the more conservative positions if he became the GOP presidential nominee, the political world exploded. (This blog posted two long-ish analyses on what Etch a Sketch might mean.)

The whole world was watching. Or not.

A new Pew Research Center poll shows that 55 percent of people were entirely unaware of the Etch a Sketch incident. Among the 44 percent who had heard about Fehrnstrom’s remark, 29 percent said it would have no effect on their feelings about Romney while 11 percent said it would make them less likely to support him and three percent said they were now more likely to back the former Massachusetts governor.

The numbers serve as a reminder — for the umpteenth time — that simply because 100 percent of people who do politics for a living (the Fix included) are closely following a story, it’s no guarantee that the story is penetrating nearly as broadly among the general public.

That’s true even for a story like this one that drew wall-to-wall media coverage for days as Democrats and Romney’s Republican rivals sought to capi­tal­ize on Fehrnstrom’s slip. Most people just have better things to do than follow every twist and turn of a presidential race.

As always in politics, there are caveats.

First of all, the fact that 44 percent had heard about the Etch a Sketch incident — given that there was no paid advertising by any candidate or party to draw attention to it — is not insignificant. (Two-thirds of people, for example, can’t name a single Supreme Court Justice.)

Second, as we noted when the Etch a Sketch episode originally happened, small things often become big things in politics. Simply because a majority of the country isn’t aware of the Etch a Sketch line today doesn’t mean they won’t be when Democrats begin to tell the story of Romney to the general electorate.

Still, that a majority of people haven’t heard of the Etch a Sketch moment is a telling reminder that for lots of people what goes on in the presidential campaign at this point is of little to no interest.

 
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