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Is Sarah Palin like Hillary Clinton or Dan Quayle?

Topics: Al Gore , Dan Quayle , Favorable Ratings , Hillary Clinton , Sarah Palin

Is Sarah Palin the frontrunner for the 2012 GOP nomination? That's the claim that's been made by some prominent commentators (here, here, and here), but it's wildly premature. There's a reason that the Intrade futures market currently puts the odds of Palin winning the nomination at 18% (behind Mitt Romney and John Thune) -- in particular, her terrible poll numbers.

It's worth underscoring just how bad Palin's numbers are. The closest comparison to her is probably Hillary Clinton, another female politician with high unfavorables entering an anticipated presidential campaign. But even Clinton had much better numbers than Palin at this point in 2006:

Hillarypalin

Also, though Palin's ability to raise money and turn out crowds has made her a star within the party, it's unlikely that she will enjoy anything near the level of elite support that helped get Clinton so close to the Democratic nomination.

I've looked back through polls on possible presidential candidates at this stage in the election cycle, and it's difficult to locate an appropriate comparison for Palin. Besides Clinton, the best comparison might be to Dan Quayle, a former vice president with extremely high unfavorables who was widely perceived as not ready to be president. As a result (presumably), Quayle ultimately decided not to run in 1996 and 2000 dropped out of the field before Iowa in 2000. Similarly, though he was perceived as competent, high unfavorables may have helped dissuade Al Gore from running again in 2004 and 2008. Here's how Quayle, Gore, Clinton, and Palin's favorable/unfavorable numbers compare from the Gallup poll question closest to this point in the current electoral cycle:

Palincomparison

Obviously, neither Quayle nor Gore inspired the sort of adulation that Palin does today, but there's a reason that they didn't run. Given that Palin can make millions if she stays out of electoral politics, I'd put the odds of her running at less than the current Intrade estimate of 69%.

[Cross-posted to brendan-nyhan.com and Huffington Post]

 

Comments
Paleo:

That's an insult to Dan Quayle.

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Farleftandproud:

Yes, I would totally agree. Quayle wasn't as annoying as Palin. She might be more like Quayle's son.

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Aaron_in_TX:

Running would cement Palin's place in history, win or lose, and forever make her a symbol of the conservative movement. Goldwater played that roll; Palin could have a similar one.

Writing the occasional political book and making endorsements puts her in with all the other pundits who will be forgotten in 5-10 years.

She's running. It would be stupid for her not to at least try. Her only opportunity is while Obama is in office.

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Farleftandproud:

Besides from trying to start a nuclear war, Goldwater would be fairly moderate in comparison to Palin.

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Paleo:

"Running would cement Palin's place in history, win or lose, and forever make her a symbol of the conservative movement. Goldwater played that roll; Palin could have a similar one."

That's a far bigger insult to Barry Goldwater than to Dan Quayle. Goldwater had a fully thought out and reasoned viewpoint. Palin represents, as David Frum said, the closing of the conservative mind.

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AlanSnipes:

Well, why do we have to make a choice. Palin is who she is, and most intelligent voters know their is no comparison with Hillary Clinton.
Then there are the right wingers.

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s.b.:

Sarah Palin is very young. She has 20 years to run.

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Aaron_in_TX:

"Goldwater had a fully thought out and reasoned viewpoint."

True, but he had an intensity, excitement, and devotion among his followers similar to Palin.

He was also considered extremist and not fit to be president by a majority of the public.

I wasn't trying to compare them substantively, only symbolically.

"Sarah Palin is very young. She has 20 years to run."

No she doesn't. After Obama leaves office some other republican with actual credibility will be the new big thing. The longer she stays out of public life the less likely she'll try to go back. Punditry is not a stepping stone to the presidency. She'd never win a primary once he's gone. Her only chance is while he's president. She is only popular because she is the only popular, conservative voice right now that isn't tainted by the past in some way.

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