One more Palin update: The new national survey from PPP released yesterday was the first to track Sarah Palin's favorable rating since the surprise resignation announcement last weekend. As suspected, they show little or no change. Her overall rating on PPP's automated survey of registered voters is now 46% favorable, 45% unfavorable, which is actually a few points better than their last measurement (although the difference is not big enough to be statistically significant).
Here are the same numbers in chart form. The favorable line does hint at a slight, year-long improvement although, again, we are looking at just five data points so it is possible that random noise made the March favorable percentage a little too low and this latest rating a little too high.
We can also plot the favorable percentages by party. Given the greater potential for random noise, I do not see much in the way of a trend in these results.
PPP also included a question about Palin's readiness for higher office: "Do you think that Sarah Palin is fit to be President?" As John Sides noted last night, the 37% who said yes is comparable to the 35% to 43% who considered her qualified in October 2008, as plotted by Charles in a post on Tuesday. Since PPP's automated calling and registered-voter-list sampling are unique among national media pollsters, and since their wording differs -- PPP asked if she is "fit" while the others used the words "qualified" or "prepared" -- I thought it would be valuable to see the full text and sample information for each of the late 2008 polls. You can decide for yourself how comparable PPP's question is to the results from last Fall.
These results also underscore how much work Palin needs to do to improve perceptions of her readiness "outside the base," as Charles puts it. Barack Obama certainly faced doubts about his relative inexperience during the 2008 campaign, but none as significant as what Palin now confronts. For example, back in February 2007, shortly after Obama announced his presidential candidacy, the Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll showed that a majority of registered voters (52%) already considered Obama at least "somewhat qualified" to be president, and only about a third (32%) considered him "not very" or "not at all qualified." By September 2008, just after the party conventions, Obama had convinced two thirds (67%) of registered voters nationwide that he was at least somewhat qualified.
In the fall of 2008, the Pew Research Center applied a tougher measure, asking registered voters if they considered Obama "well qualified." Their tracking shows that Obama's fall campaign -- including, presumably, his performance in the debates -- continued to boost perceptions of his qualifications. Although registered voters were closely divided in early September, Obama's "well qualified" number rose from 47% to 56% by the final week of the campaign.
These results show that Obama was able to use his campaign to reassure voters about his qualifications for office, but they also show how deep a perceived hole Palin is now in. When Obama began his campaign in early 2007, only a third of voters (32%) considered him "not very" or "not at all qualified" to be president. Compare that to the 55% who say Palin is not "fit" for the presidency now or to the 52% to 59% who said she was not "prepared" or not "qualified" last October.
While the resignation may not cause Palin's overall ratings to drop, it certainly does nothing to dispel the existing doubts about her qualifications. My colleague Marc Ambinder summed up the contrast between Obama and Palin on this dimension earlier this week:
Obama's campaign attracted the Democratic base because of his identity and because of his stand against the Iraq war, but Obama's message was consistently forward-looking and targeted to independents who were watching the Democratic primaries. Obama did not have to face the conviction that he was not qualified -- something more than half of all Americans believe about Sarah Palin. Indeed, Obama ran for Senate and stayed in the Senate precisely because he knew he needed more experience; he did not resign from office at the point when people were questioning his experience.
PS: For those pondering Palin's potential, I recommend today's dueling op-eds from two Republican consultants, Mike Murphy (who argues that Palin is "the political train wreck that keeps on giving" and will likely lose in the 2012 primaries) and Roger Stone (who says Palin was wise to resign and "may just be up to the task" of a successful 2012 candidacy).
PPS: On Monday, I argued that Palin's base of support, which appears to be intact following the events of the past weekend, makes her "the Republican best positioned to emulate the tactical model employed by Barack Obama" in the 2008 primaries. In addition to the issues raised above, one factor I overlooked was the apparent popularity of Mike Huckabee with many of the same "base" voters. In fact, as noted by an alert reader, Huckabee's favorable rating among evangelical Republicans in the recent Rasmussen survey (89% favorable, including 56% strongly favorable) are as good or better than Palin's (84% favorable, 56% very favorable). When Rasmussen asked evangelical Republicans their preference for 2012, Huckabee received more support (35%) than Palin (21%), Romney (17%) or Gingrich (15%). Presumably, Huckabee's numbers in all-important Iowa are as strong or stronger.
2010 Governor: Republican Primary
Rick Perry 38%, Kay Bailey Hutchison 26%
2010 Governor: Democratic Primary
Kinky Friedman 12%, Leticia Van de Putte 7%
If Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison resigns from the Senate to run for Governor and there is a special election to fill her Senate seat, which of the following candidates would you vote for, or haven't you thought enough about it to have an opinion?
John Sharp (D) 9%, David Dewhurst (R) 9%, Bill White (D) 6%, Greg Abbot (R) 5%
Do you think that Sarah Palin is fit to be President?
37% Yes, 55% No
Did Sarah Palin's announcement that she will resign part way through her term as Governor of Alaska make you more or less likely to support her in a possible future campaign for President?
30% More likely, 57% Less likely
Amanda Cox of the The New York Times posts a fascinating, must-click interactive chart showing the relationship between industrial production and the business cycle -- and suggesting that the recovery may be around the corner (via Indiviglio via Sullivan; more from Flowing Data).
Both Gallup and Rasmussen Reports released surveys yesterday that gauged reactions to Sarah Palin's resignation announcement last week. While neither organization tracked questions they had asked previously about Palin, and while instant reactions can sometimes mislead, it is hard to quarrel with Gallup's conclusion that Palin's resignation "has apparently not affected Americans' basic opinions of her to a large degree."
When confronted with new polling numbers, the most important question to ask is, "compared to what?" That question is a tough with these two surveys because, with only one exception, neither pollster has asked the same questions about Palin previously. The exception is Rasmussen's favorable rating, but this time they asked it of a new and different population ("likely Republican primary voters").
Soon pollsters, including Gallup, will update their measurements of Sarah Palin's favorable rating, or better yet, the questions plotted by Charles yesterday that ask whether Palin is qualified or prepared for the job of president. When they do that we will have a more precise sense of whether perceptions of Palin have changed, and if so, by how much.
Meanwhile, the comparisons we can make today are more tenuous.
Consider the question that Gallup asked, "if Sarah Palin were to run for President in 2012, how likely would you be to vote for her, very likely, somewhat likely, not very likely or not at all likely?" The results are hard to interpret both because Gallup has never asked it before and because it specifies neither an election (primary or general) nor an opponent and includes those vague qualifiers that pollsters love, "somewhat" and "not very."
Nonetheless, if we compare the results to two recent measurements of Palin's favorable rating, we can see that reactions break down along the same rough partisan lines. Americans views of Palin were polarized before and after her resignation announcement. The percentage of Americans who say they are very or somewhat likely to vote for her now are roughly the same -- overall and by party -- as the percentage who rated her favorably earlier this spring on a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center and Fox News/Opinion Dynamics.
Here is a chart that makes the comparison more clearly, although please note that I do not consider the Gallup question equivalent or comparable to a favorable rating, and I would not expect these questions to obtain identical results. Still, the similarity of the partisan breakdowns across these questions is striking.
Rasmussen's rating, not included in the chart and tables above, shows 76% of Republican primary voters with a favorable opinion of Palin, 21% unfavorable. Their sample of likely Republican primary voters is probably different than the Republican adults and registered voters polled by Pew and Fox respectively. Rasmussen did not report an earlier measurement for a comparable population.
Rasmussen also asked a 2012 Republican primary vote preference question. While they have apparently not asked that question before, their result was very close to what CNN/ORC obtained in May.
All in all, the data support the interpretation given by Republican consultant Alex Castellanos to USA Today's Susan Page: "For independents and Democrats, [Palin's] already not their candidate, and with Republicans her support is not based on her record as governor of Alaska."
Another way to put the new results into context is to compare them to identically structured questions asked about other political figures or other issues in the past.
Gallup's report notes, for example that they asked the same "likely to support" question Hillary Clinton in May 2005 and found 52% of registered voters at least somewhat to vote for her, including 28% very likely. Palin's numbers are lower -- 43% at least somewhat likely, including 18% very likely. However, as the chart below shows, Gallup had asked the same question about Clinton twice before (in 2000 and 2003), with varying results. The percentage that said they were "not likely at all" to support Clinton hovered at roughly the same level on all three of those surveys as the percentage that says the same about Palin now.
Finally, Gallup finds that roughly twice as many Americans say the resignation announcement makes them "feel less favorably" about Palin (17%) as makes them feel "more favorably" (9%), while the vast majority (70%) say the news does not affect their opinion. That reaction is nearly identical to what Gallup found last October when asking about Barack Obama's decision to opt out of the public financing system -- not exactly a career ending move for Obama. Moreover, Palin's "less favorable" number is far lower than what the Pew Research found with a similar question about Harriet Mier's judicial experience in 2005 (38%) and Bill and Hillary Clinton's involvement in the Whitewater deal in 1994 (32%).
Again, we should treat these results as preliminary and hold off on firm conclusions until we have better, more comparable data based on more than few days' reflection, but on first blush, it looks as those Palin's resignation announcement made less of an impression on Americans than the punditry of the last few days might lead you to believe. Palin's abrupt resignation probably confirmed or deepened existing impressions, but it does not appear to have changed many minds.
PS: Apologies to Mike Huckabee. In my post on Monday, I described Sarah Palin as "the most popular potential candidate for president in 2012...among Republicans." That was true as far as the data I cited from the Pew Research Center, but their survey did not test a favorable rating for Huckabee. Yesterday, Rasmussen found that Huckabee's rating among likely Republican primary voters (78% favorable, including 41% very favorable) was roughly comparable to Palin's (76% favorable, including 45% very favorable).
If Sarah Palin were to run for president in 2012, how likely would you be to vote for her?
43% Very/Somewhat likely
54% Not too/Not at all likely
Does Governor Palin's decision to resign make you feel more favorably toward her, less favorably toward her, or does it not affect your opinion either way?
9% More favorably
70% No effect
17% Less favorably
News coverage of Palin has been:
9% Unfairly positive
28% About right
53% Unfairly negative
Mark's must read post on Gov. Sarah Palin's support among Republicans tells one crucial side of the Palin story. Regardless of views among the entire electorate, her strength rests powerfully among those in the party who continued to support her after the election and through the spring. Go read his post now if you missed it.
But let me focus on the negative-- Palin's problem outside the base. Of all the dimensions on which Palin can be viewed, the one that is most crucial for any national ambitions she may hold is the most fundamental: is she qualified to be president? One might focus on her issue positions, her personality, her policy knowledge but the most basic question voters could and did ask in 2008 was "is she qualified to take over as president if that became necessary?" That's what all the other details boil down to. So let's take a quick look at how the 2008 campaign affected that view among voters.
From the announcement of her pick as VP through the convention and before her first national news interview with ABC's Charles Gibson, Palin had a small plurality seeing her as qualified to be president rather than not qualified. For an essentially unknown governor from a remote state, this reflected a mix of partisanship, trust in McCain's judgement, a well received convention performance and a bit of benefit of the doubt.
Confidence in Palin's qualifications declined following the ABC interview, though this also coincides with the financial crisis and the suspension and then resumption of the McCain campaign. That period also represents a shift of support which had briefly trended in McCain's direction following the GOP convention. So we should be reluctant to attribute all the change in views of Palin to her ABC interview alone and other events undoubtedly affected perceptions. Nonetheless, by mid-September a significant plurality of voters had come to see Gov. Palin as not qualified to be president.
In late September Palin appeared on the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric, first on September 24 and 25, then again the next week on the 29th and 30th. Two polls taken after the first two interviews and simultaneous with the second two, suggest some further negative impact of these appearances. And of course, reaction among political professionals was that the interviews were disasters.
These interviews were followed almost immediately on October 2 by the Vice-Presidential debate, which was generally seen as a success for Palin, certainly in comparison to the expectations set by the Gibson and Couric interviews.
The flurry of polling following the VP debate clearly shows more movement in public opinion. While the percentage seeing Palin as qualified held steady at about 40%, those seeing her as not qualified rose from just under 50% before the Couric interviews to about 53% after the debate.
But the ultimate problem Palin faced with the electorate at large is not about individual events of the campaign, but about the overall trend. From the beginning to the end of the campaign, Palin steadily lost ground with the electorate. Each week more voters perceived her as unqualified to be president. Her base of support was about 40%. Those seeing her as qualified declined from the high 40s to a stable 40% through the last 2/3rds of the campaign, with one final poll falling a bit below that.
The "not qualified" trend rose, from the low 40s in early September, to nearly 60% by election day.
Of all the things about Palin that might be relevant to her future, this is the most important. During a campaign in which she had her best chance to present herself to voters, and in which she chose her message to a considerable extent especially after the VP debate, Palin failed to convince voters she was qualified for the presidency. In fact, she did the opposite.
The enthusiasm and size of her crowds late in the campaign is testimony to her appeal to the base that Mark highlights in his post. But to be a contender for the presidency requires her to dramatically lower that 60% that thought her unqualified by November 4.
For all the commentary about Sarah Palin, this is the fundamental perception she must change. I doubt that Friday's announcement has done anything to improve those perceptions outside her base.
An update on yesterday's post in which I wrote that, as of last week at least, Sarah Palin was the Republican best positioned to emulate the Barack Obama's tactical model in the Republican nomination contest in 2012. That is, her base puts her into a position to draw big crowds that can be mined for small donations and re-solicited online at low cost.
How will Friday's resignation announcement affect Palin's popularity both overall and among the conservative Republicans who like her best? We will soon have survey data gauging initial reactions. Rasmussen promises an update on Palin's favorable rating at noon eastern time; Gallup says they will report results of a new survey at 4:00 p.m.
Meanwhile, two sources of data hint at a potential silver lining for the soon-to-be-ex Governor of Alaska. Yesterday, Personal Democracy Forum's Micah Sifry reported a sharp upward spike in Palin's Facebook friends.
Today, the Washington Post's Andre Vargas notes that Google searches for Palin have spiked to "their highest levels since the election." What's interesting about that, as Vargas points out, is what happens if you type "Sarah Palin" into a Google search. "[Y]ou will mostly see a Google ad for SarahPAC, her political action committee that is collecting e-mail addresses and donations."
Will that silver lining come at the price of a big hit in terms of the way moderate and independent leaning voters judge Palin? Will she continue to be as popular with conservative and evangelical Christian Republicans as surveys indicated a week ago? It will probably require a few weeks to know for sure, but we will get the first results very soon.
Update - Here are the results from the automated survey of 750 "likely Republican primary voters" conducted by Rasmussen Reports last night (and note that in yesterday's post, I overlooked that Pew did not ask about Mike Huckabee):
Seventy-six percent (76%) of Republican voters have a favorable opinion
of Palin, even after her decision to resign as governor of Alaska, with
45% whose view of her is very favorable. Palin trails Huckabee, who
unsuccessfully sought the Republican presidential nomination in 2008.
Huckabee is favored by 78%, with 41% who feel very favorably toward
Twenty-one percent (21%) have an unfavorable view of Palin, with nine
percent (9%) very unfavorable. For Huckabee, unfavorables are 17%,
including five percent (5%) very unfavorable.
Rasmussen also asked about vote preference and about the candidate that GOP voters would least prefer.
The report makes no reference to previous results for the same questions from a comparable sample of likely Republican primary voters. Keep in mind that the Rasmussen sample and methodology are both very different from those used to produce the Pew Research Center I cited yesterday, so comparisons across these polls are unwise.
In the wake of Sarah Palin's now well covered announcement last Friday that she will soon step down as Governor of Alaska, more than a few commentators have declared her political career over. While I'm not about to agree that her bizarre resignation represents a "shrewd move" -- it wasn't -- I do think proclamations of her political death are a bit premature.
To those of you already rolling your eyes, try to suspend disbelief for a moment and take a good long look at this table reported a week ago by the Pew Research Center. Just before her resignation announcement, among Republicans, Palin was by far the most popular potential candidate for president in 2012:
Yes, again, the Pew Center took this measurement before the political earthquake this past weekend. Palin also had the highest negatives among all adults (44% in June, compared to 28% for Romney and 38% for Gingrich). Her rating among independents was 46% favorable, 43% unfavorable.** So Palin's image among voters in the middle was already very different than her image among Republicans.
And yes, when other pollsters asked Republicans their preference for the Republican nomination, Palin's name has not rocketed to the top. She started in a virtual three-way tie (with 21%) against Mike Huckabee (22%) and Mitt Romney (21%) as the candidate Republican identifiers said they would be "most likely to support" on a May survey by CNN/ORC. She did worse on a poll by Fox News/Opinion Dynamics. They showed Palin with just 13%, running behind Huckabee (20%) and Romney (18%) when they asked Republicans who they would like to see as their 2012 nominee. So clearly, many Republicans that like Palin were not ready to support her as a future presidential nominee, even before the events of this past weekend.
But let's go back to those Pew Research favorable ratings among Republicans. Her numbers were especially strong, according to the Pew report, among conservative Republicans (80% favorable) and white evangelical Republicans (84%). These ratings also have depth: Twenty-eight percent (28%) of Republicans, 31% of white evangelical Republicans and 32% of conservative Republicans report "very favorable" impression of Palin (thanks to the Pew Research Center for sharing those additional results).
Looking at those numbers, I would argue that -- as of last week, at least -- Sarah Palin was the Republican best positioned to emulate the tactical model employed by Barack Obama in seeking the Democratic nomination in 2008. Remember that Obama did not begin as the first choice of party insiders or as a "front runner" in horse-race polls. Our trend estimate of vote preference results showed him as the choice of less than 20% of Democrats in late 2006. But Obama started with a real base, a core of true believers that showed up in big numbers whenever Obama gave a speech.
During 2007, the nascent Obama campaign discovered a new model for fundraising and field organizing. They learned they could mine Obama's big crowds for small donations (by selling tickets), In so doing, they obtained the email addresses of their most ardent supporters who they could re-solicit at low cost and channel into a grassroots organization. Thus, although Obama was never a "front runner" in national polls during 2007, his campaign was able to raise $129 million that year, remaining competitive with Clinton and building a small donor/grassroots army that ultimately overwhelmed Clinton in 2008 in dollars and (what turned out to be) all-important efforts to turn out supporters in caucus states.
So the point is this: The Pew numbers show that Palin's base as of June 2009 was as strong as Obama's on the eve of the 2008 campaign. Consider two numbers: Palin's "very favorable" rating last month on the Pew Research survey among all adults was 15%. Obama's very favorable score among all adults on a Pew Research survey in August 2007 was 14%.
As such, it is not completely crazy for Palin want to free herself from the time and travel constraints imposed by her gubernatorial commitments in Alaska. A month ago, Chris Cillizza outlined the logistical reasons why Palin would want to "take a pass" on a second term (resigning now is another story, of course). She has a big base and time is a resource. With more time to travel and speak, she would be able to build a grassroots army as Obama did.
Now...go ahead and un-suspend your disbelief. The parallels between Palin and Obama end there.
Palin and Obama are very different in many ways, but the most important are about political judgment and their approach to their biggest perceived weakness. Whether you think that Obama intended to seek the presidency from the beginning of his Senate term or decided for certain, as Obama claims, in the first week of 2007, there is no question that Obama aimed from the beginning to use his Senate seat broaden his perceived experience, especially in foreign affairs. Palin's resignation takes her in an opposite direction.
Also, while Obama made the most of his base, his campaign always focused on the much larger electorate they knew they needed to convert to win. Moreover, while "change" was clearly the central overarching theme, the Obama campaign worked at key moments to indirectly reassure voters about his readiness for presidency. These efforts included a constant drumbeat of testimonials at key inflection points in Obama's standing during the campaign: Law professors and Illinois legislators in early Iowa ads, everyone from Carolyn Kennedy to Kent Conrad just before Super Tuesday, Hillary Clinton in June 2008 and both Clintons at the August convention, Warren Buffett and Colin Powell in the fall.
In contrast, by resigning, Sarah Palin is likely digging herself into a much deeper hole. In late October 2008, the NBC/Wall Street Journalpoll found that 55% of registered voters considered Palin "not qualified" to be president (only 40% considered her qualified). Now, Palin faces a new perceived negative. As George Will put it yesterday, "in her own words, she now is a quitter."
This latest incident is consistent with the picture that emerges from Todd Purdum's Vanity Fairprofile of Palin and the McCain campaign emails between Palin and manager Steve Schmidt reported by CBS News last week. She eschews good advice from advisors who warn her that her own tactical instincts threaten to get her deeper trouble. Barack Obama did not suffer from the same flaw in his campaign. Neither, as the National Review's Jonah Goldberg points out, did Ronald Reagan:
Reagan had fantastic political instincts. He also had some of the savviest and most sophisticated political advisors in modern political history. Good politicians know how to take serious advice.
Unless Palin learns to seek out and listen to good advice, her base alone will be insufficient to win the big prize. Nonetheless, we need to keep an eye on Palin's base among conservative and evangelical Republicans in future polling. Without it, Palin is nowhere. With it she has the necessary precondition that will allow her to continue to be a force in Republican politics, particularly in the 2012 nomination battle.
**Correction: The original version of this post erred in reporting Palin's June favorable rating among independents as 39% favorable, 46% unfavorable.
My NationalJournal.com column for today takes a skeptical look at questions that ask Americans if they are "willing to pay" more in taxes to fund health care reform.
Surveys conducted last month yielded anywhere from 40% to 57% of adults or registered voters who said they would be willing to pay more to support the goal of providing health insurance to all Americans. See the column for details, but this gist is that support for higher taxes is likely much lower than some recent results would imply.
I asked some campaign pollsters for their thoughts on these results. The response from Democratic pollster Fred Yang came a few hours too late for the column. He beleives that "abstract" questions like those I cite,
tend NOT to capture the full anti-tax sentiment of voters. In the real world, the public tends to either forget the benefit and/or don't actually receive it, but they surely remember the tax part of the equation. It's hard to poll prospectively, as you know, but my experience is that voters typically remember the tax part and that's how they tend to act at the ballot box.
I do think we can get to a more accurate sentiment by asking INTENSITY. For example, I'd have asked the 57% who support raising taxes in the CBS poll if they "strongly" supported or "only somewhat or weakly" supported raising taxes. I think asking INTENSITY, esp among pro-tax respondents, helps get to a more realistic sense of public opinion on taxes.
Whit Ayres, the Republican pollster who conducts the Resurgent Republic surveys, argues that the questions like those I cited are like asking "do you like vanilla ice cream?" Well, says Ayres, "of course, the vast majority of Americans like vanilla ice cream." These pollsters get a "very misleading read," he says because they do not ask, "metaphorically speaking...'Do you prefer vanilla or chocolate ice cream?'" Ayres got a different result with his own question:
When we asked, for Resurgent Republic, " Would you prefer a health care reform plan that raises taxes in order to provide health insurance to all Americans, or a plan that does not provide health insurance to all Americans but keeps taxes at current levels? " we found a 52 to 39 percent margin for keeping taxes at current levels. "Willing to" makes it sound like a question of civic duty; prefer gets at the policy question.
Thinking about your views on political issues and how they have changed in recent years, would you say that you are now more conservative than you were a few years ago, have your views not changed, or are you more liberal than you were a few years ago?