The Washington Post has a new poll out asking respondents to name the the ONE word that comes to mind after hearing the names of Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, and Herman Cain. The top word for Romney? Mormon. For Perry? Texas. For Cain? 9-9-9. Interesting that the two governors – who have had years to establish their policy credentials – get words related to identity, while Cain – the political neophyte – is most closely associated with a policy. The number two word for Cain is “businessman/business”, which I think shows the power of a catchy policy slogan. Take away 9-9-9, and Cain gets you an identity word as well, albeit a professional identity. I also think it is illuminating that “businessman/business” category doesn’t show up on Romney’s list until the 20th slot, while for Cain it is the second most popular word. Also worth noting is the fact that Mormon is first for Romney, while “black” doesn’t show up until 8th on Cain’s list. While there is undoubtedly some element of social desirability bias affecting this result – people may be hesitant to tell pollsters that the first thing that comes to mind when they think of Cain is that he is black – it is interesting that there does not appear to be a similar desire to avoid telling pollsters that people think of Romney as Mormon.

My personal favorite, however, is the comparison of the third most popular word used to describe each candidate. See if you can guess who got which word?

  • Interesting
  • Idiot/Idiotic
  • Flip Flop/Flip Flopper

Answers are here.

[Cross-posted at The Monkey Cage]

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Joshua Tucker is a Professor of Politics at New York University.