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Words, Good And Bad, Come Quickly To Mind For Many About Paul Ryan

Filed by KOSU News in Politics.
August 29, 2012

When we arrived in Tampa for the Republican convention, much of the buzz centered on vice presidential pick, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.

Young — he’s 42 — and a favorite of the conservative right, Ryan brought energy and attention to Mitt Romney’s ticket, and could help him play better in the key Badger State in November. Tonight, he’s set to accept his party’s vice presidential nomination.

We set about to ask people who had flocked to stormy Florida for the convention how they view Ryan, not knowing that the Pew Research Center was asking the same question in a national survey.

Our sample size was decidedly smaller than Pew’s 1,010. But what we heard mirrored what its interviewers found when they asked Americans to describe Ryan in a word.

There’s a clear partisan divide in perception, with 69 percent of Republicans using positive words to describe Ryan (“intelligent,” “good”) and 59 percent of Democrats using negative words (“extreme,” “phony”).

Pew found that many people referred to Ryan’s intelligence, and many also noted his conservative ideology.

Here’s what the Pew folks had to say about their findings:

“While Americans offer a wide range of descriptions of Ryan, a few themes stand out. References to his intelligence are common, with more positive assessments (25 people used the word ‘intelligent,’ another 13 ‘smart,’ 4 ‘knowledgeable,’ 4 ‘”sharp’ and 3 ‘educated’) than negative (10 people called Ryan an ‘idiot,’ 5 described him as ‘stupid’ and 4 as ‘clueless’).

“Ryan’s ideology is another often noted characteristic. The single most often used description is ‘conservative,’ offered by 26 people. Another 4 people specifically identify Ryan as ‘too conservative,’ while 8 call him ‘extreme.”

Overall, 37 percent of those surveyed by Pew used a positive word to describe Ryan, 35 percent used a negative word, and 28 percent used a word that was counted as neutral. Those words, Pew said, included conservative, young, unknown.

Pew noted that four years ago when it asked for a one-word description of GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin a few weeks after her nomination, the most commonly word used was “inexperienced.”

We didn’t ask our interview subjects, found at both the Republican convention and at a protest march, to characterize Ryan in a word. We asked them to finish the sentence, “If we say Paul Ryan, you say …”

Here’s what we heard, and who we heard it from.

– JoAnn McCracken, 73, a GOP delegate from Houston: “Wonderful — thank you for saving us old folks.”

– Gil Hernandez, 43, a GOP delegate from Corpus Christi, Texas: “All about the budget.”

– State Rep. Aaron Libby, a pro-Ron Paul delegate from Maine: “Mitt Romney trying to create the appearance of bringing in a fiscal policy.”

– Michela Martinazzi, 20, a University of Florida student who went to the protest march: “Misogynist.”

– Ron Morrell, an alternate delegate from York County (Maine) who supports Ron Paul: “Mitt Romney. I don’t see there’s a whole lot of difference.”

– Mary Burke-Russell, 60, the Republican Central Committee chair and a delegate from Maryland: “Energetic. Energetic. That’s what we all needed – the energy.”

– Brian Marshall, 19, a Florida State University student who was among the protesters: “Backwards.”

– Tony O’Donnell, 51, an alternate delegate from Lusby, Md.: “Smart guy.” [Copyright 2012 National Public Radio]

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