PhotoHe likes to compare himself to Rodney Dangerfield, saying he doesn't get the respect he deserves from party leaders.  But pizza magnate Herman Cain's Florida straw poll victory may force GOP leaders -- and the press -- to take him a bit more seriously.

It may be, of course, that Cain is polling well simply because he is still a relative unknown, though a seemingly likeable one, while sometime front-runners Mitt Romney, Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann's warts have been exposed in gory detail.

But whatever the reason, Cain has maintained a stunningly positive net sentiment with consumers for the last 12 months, according to a analysis of nearly 3 million consumer comments on Facebook, Twitter and other blogs and social media.  

Blue line shows net sentiment

While Cain was a virtual unknown a year ago, he enjoyed an approval rating approaching 100% among the few consumers who were aware of him.  A year later, he is at 80%, having never dipped below the 50% mark, despite a few well-publicized gaffes.

What do consumers like about him?  




Like Lilly, consumers who commented on the media we sampled seem to find Cain to be a take-charge, no-nonsense businessman possessed of a magnetic personality and -- something rare these days -- a sense of humor that he often turns on himself.

PhotoCain's 9-9-9 tax plan also resonates well because of its simplicity and apparent fairness.  He has proposed:

  • a 9% flat tax on business with a deduction for investments, purchases and dividends;
  • a 9% flat income tax with a deduction for charitable contributions; and
  • a 9% national sales tax, which would significantly expand the tax base by collecting taxes from consumers who currently pay little or no tax.
Like most of the candidates, Cain experienced a bump in August, when the Iowa straw poll got everyone's attention.  Most candidates collected gobs of both positive and negative comments as potential voters began sizing them up.  Cain, on the other hand, may have found Ronald Reagan's secret stash of Teflon.  He collected very few strongly negative comments in August, or any other time for that matter. 

Romney fading?

While the pizza business may be small change to Mitt Romney, the onetime private equity fund baron would no doubt like to exchange trendlines with Cain.  Although Romney has managed to stay in positive territory for the last year, he started at a relatively modest 55% last September and today, coming off a straw poll win in Michigan, is at an anemic 29%.  

Blue line shows net sentiment

Perry gets thrown

Then there's Gov. Rick Perry, one of the few candidates who actually has a job at the moment and who has proven himself to be a vote-getter, at least in Texas, where he is currently serving an unprecedented third term as governor.

But if politics is like a rodeo -- and who's to say it isn't? -- Perry has a hard time staying upright in the saddle of public sentiment. He started the year as an unknown in the "other" 49 states and has had a wild up-and-down ride ever since.  

Blue line shows net sentiment

However, judging from the 720,000 comments we analyzed, Perry's lows are lower than his competitors and his highs -- well, they're lower too.  He has never broken the 40% barrier and currently is back in the dust at 3%. 

About the best he can hope for now is that he gets out of the ring before a mule kicks him.

Bumpy ride

Though hardly a cowgirl, Michele Bachmann has also had a bumpy ride, falling into negative territory twice in the past year, hitting what may have been her peak -- 54%  -- in August, then plunging back nearly to zero in late September.


Above the fray

Then there's Ron Paul, the candidate nearly everyone likes but few vote for. He may be the Adlai Stevenson (Don't know the name? Look it up!) of this generation -- the guy who seems too smart, too pure, too idealistic to be President.  

His trend line more closely resembles Herman Cain's than that of any other candidate, hovering in positive territory all year as his loyal fans stay loyal but most everyone else wanders off in another direction. If the obstetrician-turned-politician can't find a way to slap-start his campaign, it may die aborning.


Usual caveats 

Unlike opinion sampling, which chooses supposedly representative individuals to serve as stand-ins for others of theoretically like mind, the sentiment analysis portrayed here looks at millions of comments by "real" people.  It uses no extrapolation and does not assume that one Akron tire worker's opinion mirrors others. 

There is no scientific basis for this kind of reporting.  It simply does what journalism has always done -- collects, collates and passes along the comments, hopes, fears and malaise of those who pass by our listening post.

On the other hand, there is no coercion, reward or arm-twisting, as has been known to occur at straw polls.  

Take it for what it's worth. 


Sentiment analysis powered by NetBase

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