Romney may be tacking to the center. But will anyone believe it?

October 11, 2012

Just a moderate guy with a moderate baby... (Associated Press)

My colleague Karen Tumulty has a piece today about how, ever since the first presidential debate, Mitt Romney has been trying to craft a more moderate image for voters: "There may be room for argument as to whether Romney’s positions are changing," she writes. "But the emphasis and tone with which he describes them unquestionably are — on issues that include immigration, taxes, education and health care."

That's the strategy, at least. But will any voters even notice Romney's pivot? John Sides, for one, is skeptical. He charts some polling data from YouGov — an online polling firm that surveys a different set of voters within its million-person pool each week. And there's been no shift in the perception of Romney's ideology since the first debate:

Sides writes that this lines up with what political science research suggests: "[T]he lack of change is not surprising: a venerable finding in political science is that many people do not have a deep understanding of political ideologies in general or the specific positions that candidates take in elections—much less how the latter connects to the former."

On the other hand, it's worth noting on the chart that respondents in the YouGov survey have long judged Romney's conservatism to be a bit closer to the average voter's position than Obama's liberalism. So perhaps how Romney was perceived ideologically was never his problem in the first place.

Related: Mitt Romney's policies are really vague. But voters like vague.

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Sarah Kliff · October 11, 2012