Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, and why the need to be liked can still determine a presidential election

In the first of an occasional series, our writer - an American expat studying at St Andrews - wonders what role beer plays on popularity and policy in the US

Share
Related Topics

It is strange what a pivotal role likability plays in the American presidential election. The electorate want personal qualities they can relate to in their future commander-in-chief, the I’d rather-have-a-beer with-him factor as it might be called. Mitt Romney clearly loses on this ground – he doesn’t even drink beer. It may not literally be held against him, but why people vote for the candidate they’d rather drink with seems as ludicrous as it is, at times, predictive.

In 2009, President Obama held the first 'Beer Summit' at the White House. It invited much criticism – not for its intentions or its result – but for the straight awkwardness of those men (a Cambridge police officer, Mr Obama, and an affronted Harvard professor) drinking beers together in the Rose Garden.

At an Iowa fairground last June, Mr Obama raised his glass to criticism once again. This time not for buying the round, which he did for as many the cash in his wallet could cover, but for costing the beer-tent owner $25,000 in lost profits. (It should be noted the owner wasn't giving him his vote regardless). The White House has even released a video for its house-hops recipe; the President is sure to bring a few bottles of the brew on the campaign trail.

Beer is besides the point, however. Staying normal while persuading hoi polloi that you are normal can't be easy. This is also true for Mr Romney – especially with his dry religion. Relating to the average citizen might be hard if you don't live like one. But what candidate does?Personal characteristics help the electorate trust a candidate's policy will be intentioned; likability and trustworthiness are one in the same for a politician.

Sadly, as a result, ephemeral affection may be the deciding factor of this election. I don't need to like the President realistically we won't be having a beer together.  So I just truly hope that he can do his job.  If only the “hard questions reach the President's desk,” as quoted in a Time magazine article recently, I think most would hope he's sober when he gets them.

President Obama has been facing these questions for nearly four years, still managing to remain likable and keeping beer on tap. At the end of the summer, according to a USA/Gallop pole, likability between Obama and Romney was twenty-three percentage points in favour of Obama, while “can manage the government effectively” was Obama's by only one percentage point. Differences in affection can often go a good way to reflecting differences in the polls, and the narrow margin deciding this election rests on likability.

A good leader, though, is not necessarily liked. Most important is how the job is done, not how the leader is as a person  Like in the business world – personal life is relevant only when and how it affects business.  Everything else is a nicety, or it belongs at home. Hopefully undecided voters will make a business decision.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Parts Advisor

£16500 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the leading Mercedes-Ben...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer

£27500 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Telemarketers / Sales - Home Based - OTE £23,500

£19500 - £23500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Experienced B2B Telemarketer wa...

Recruitment Genius: Showroom Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This global company are looking for two Showro...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A teenage girl uses her smartphone in bed.  

Remove smartphones from the hands of under-18s and maybe they will grow up to be less dumb

Janet Street-Porter
Rohingya migrants in a boat adrift in the Andaman Sea last week  

Burma will regret shutting its eyes to the fate of the Rohingya boat people

Peter Popham
Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor