While the post-mortems written about Mitt Romney's campaign for President will rightfully point to a number of factors in explaining his defeat, there's one important factor that should not be overlooked: voters simply didn't trust him.
While this may sound simplistic, Project New America research over the final months of the campaign repeatedly indicated that trust was among the most important factors voters considered in deciding who they would vote for, particularly among emerging demographics like Women, Latinos and younger voters.
In late September, for example, PNA surveyed over 500 undecided voters in the Western battlegrounds of Arizona, Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico.
What we found was that these voters didn't necessarily believe their families would be better off with one candidate or the other, and they were hardly concerned at all whether the candidates agreed with them on the issues. When we asked which characteristics were most important to voters in determining their vote, the highest percentage (nearly 4 in 10) said “Is someone they can trust.”
An even higher number of women and Latinos in this sample said "trust" was there most important factor. As we now know, these groups voted heavily for Obama.
The research also showed that, for many of these voters, a lack of trust in Romney was the single biggest reason why they weren't supporting him.
This trend was confirmed in tracking polling that PNA conducted in battleground states through the final three weeks of the campaign. Consistently, voters in battleground states told us that “you can’t really believe what [Romney says]," and that he's "too willing to say or do anything to get elected."
The clear theme is that Romney's perceived flip-flops on issues gave voters serious pause.
Contrast with President Obama, who--in the campaign's final days--could frequently be heard reminding voters on the stump that they "know him," and "know where he stands." His TV ads in Colorado struck similar themes.
This difference likely steered a lot of undecided voters--especially in the West--over to the President.