Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Harsh realities for 'Palin 2016' bid

Public Policy Polling is out with a new national survey of voter's opinion regarding a number of potential 2016 presidential contenders. Americans seem to have high regard right now for Gov. Chris Christie, Condoleeza Rice, and Hillary Clinton. Their favorable/unfavorable numbers are 48/26%, 51/29%, and 57/36% respectively. On the other end of the spectrum, Rick Santorum and Sarah Palin clock in with the worst favorability ratings of those tested, at 30/40% and 33/56% respectively.

The -23 point favorability rating for Palin would give pause to anyone considering a run for President, and indeed, may be the reason why she didn't throw her hat in the ring in 2012. Below is a chart of Governor Sarah Palin's national favorability ratings, starting in the months before the historic 2010 GOP take over of Congress (a feat that was largely accredited to Palin's primary-advocacy on behalf of Tea Party candidates across the nation):

Palin's favorable / unfavorable rating since September, 2010

All fav/unfav ratings can be found at argojournal & pollster

As you can see from the chart, an examination of the last two years of Palin's favorable/unfavorable rating indicates she saw her highest popularity around the time of the Tea Party take over of Congress. But even then, her favorability only averaged 38%/51% by the end 2010.  Her ratings took a notable dip across the board early the next year following the tragic Tuscon shooting of Rep. Gabby Giffords, when Palin and the Tea Party movement were called out for blame by the national media (rather unfairly). Her fav/unfav score SINCE the shooting has averaged 31%/57% (a net 13 pt drop from her average prior to Tuscon).  Unfortunately for the former Alaska Governor, Tuscon appears to have been a pivotal moment in her political career. Before then, her mediocre favorability may have been overcome with a concerted, smart public relations push. Since then, negative sentiment regarding Sarah Palin seems to have deepened and become more entrenched.

Fact is, fairly or unfairly, for good or for bad, Sarah Palin is not a well-liked national politician. Sure, she has a strong base of support among Americans who identify as "Republican" (66/25% per the new PPP poll) or "Conservative," (65/24%) but it stops there, rather haltingly. Moderates & Liberals hold an overwhelmingly negative view of Palin (16/74% and 9/80%, respectively). Independents in the PPP survey view Sarah Palin unfavorably by a 51-38% margin, despite disapproving of the job Barack Obama is doing as president by a staggering 22 points (37/59%)! That's a problem for any candidate for high office.

Just to show you HOW big of a problem it is, the below charts examine what it would take for Palin's favorability rating to break even in the PPP survey. How many Republicans or Conservatives would have to exist in the electorate for Palin's favorable rating to exceed her unfavorable rating (something it hasn't done since before 2010)? The PPP poll finds Americans identifying as 29% Liberal, 32% Moderate, and 39% Conservative. The libeal/conservative gap is roughly similar to what exit polls found on election day, 2012, when 25% identified as Liberal, 41% as moderate, and 35% as Conservative, though the 39% Conservative finding by PPP is historically high (NOT high enough for Palin to break even). How high would that conservative number have to be? Very high:

In other words, based on PPP findings, the electorate would have to split 60% Conservative, 30% Moderate, and 10% Liberal for Palin's favorable rating to exceed her unfavorable rating. Not even the historically whiter and more Republican mid-term elections have seen such a right-leaning ideological break-down amongst the electorate, much less in a presidential election year. So if the PPP poll is to be believed, Palin would need an unrealistically conservative electorate for her to break even in the favorability department.

The same holds true with regards to the number of Republicans needed in the electorate. The PPP survey finds voters identifying as 44% Democratic, 32% Republican, and 24% Independent (2012 turnout was D+6, or 38/32/29%). What would Palin's favorability rating be, all other things remaining the same, if PPP had found voters as Republican as the very-GOP friendly 2002 midterm elections (40% R / 38% D /22% I, or R+2)? It would still only be 38/52%:

The numbers are harsh no matter how you slice it for Sarah Palin in 2016. A national bus tour coupled with a long flirtation with running for President throughout 2011 did little to return her popularity to where it was in the immediate aftermath of her national convention speech in 2008. Barring some major national event, this seems unlikely to change. Palin has made only slight overtures to 2016 thus far. I would suggest, however, that she too has seen the numbers, and will reach the same conclusion she did in October 2011. It's hard to find a path to the presidency when nearly 2/3 of the country has determined they're against you. 

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