Thursday, February 6, 2014

Palin Nearly Ties Senator Begich in Democratic Poll, & the Crosstabs Indicate Room For Growth

PPP finds that Palin's support among Conservatives, Republicans, and 2012 Romney voters is less unified than Begich's support among Liberals, Democrats, and 2012 Obama voters. Yet Palin, who resigned from Alaska statewide office almost five years ago, only trails 44-40% in a new poll. Pic courtesy of Joshua Lott/Getty Images North America.

One of the country's most unpopular politicians, at least according to national favorability surveys, is competitive nonetheless in the state she governed for almost three years from 2006-2009. The latest poll from Republican agitator and Democratic pollster, Public Policy Polling, finds Senator Mark Begich's standing with Alaska voters deteriorating significantly over the last year, with what was once a near 20 point lead over former Governor Sarah Palin in a hypothetical Senate match-up deteriorating to just a 4 point lead, barely outside the poll's 3.6% margin of error. And a close look at the numbers indicates she's closer to her polling floor, while Begich is closer to his ceiling.

For the record, Palin isn't even all that popular in Alaska,  much less the brutal numbers she receives nationwide. A year-old Harper Polling (R) survey found Palin with an abysmal 34/60% favorability rating in The Last Frontier, while PPP puts her currently at 39/55%. But at least as far as the Democratic pollster is concerned, Palin's standing has gradually improved since their first survey in February of last year (from  34/59% favorability to 39/55%), reaffirming that absence can make the heart grow fonder. In fact, -15% represents her best favorability rating in PPP polling of the state of Alaska since 2010.

Furthermore, PPP's 44-40% Begich vs. Palin finding is the best she's performed against the incumbent in any survey taken of the race to date.

And if you dig into some of PPP's crosstabs, you can begin to see how Palin has more room for growth. Namely, Democrats, Liberals, and 2012 Obama voters are very united behind Senator Begich. Republicans, Conservatives, and 2012 Romney voters, on the other hand, are less united behind a Palin Senate candidacy.

For starters, take 2012 Obama voters. Those respondents supported Begich at a rate of 88%, while only 69% of self-identified Romney voters supported Palin. Among the 12% of Alaskans who said they voted for someone other than Romney or Obama in 2012, or didn't know either way, Palin led 36-30%.

Consider also PPP's partisan identification findings. Eighty-two percent of self-identified Democratic respondents said they would support Begich this November, while just 68% of Republicans said the same of Palin. Independent voters supported the Democrat by 16 points.

Finally, look in the crosstabs for the ideological findings. Palin carries roughly 1/3 of Conservatives (64%), while Begich nabs over three-quarters of Liberals (77%). He also wins moderates by a huge margin (64-26%).

 Keeping in mind the election is still 10 months away, suppose an actual (though highly unlikely) Palin campaign rallies Republicans to her side to the same extent that Democratic groups currently support Begich. How would the PPP survey results have differed in such an event? Not surprisingly, Palin is the beneficiary:

Palin's standing improves slightly to majorly, depending on the metric. But that's not the only reason she has room to grow. While right leaning groups aren't yet supporting Palin to the extent left-wing groups support Obama,  they also make up a larger portion of undecided voters. Twelve percent of 2012 Romney voters are undecided, while just 5% of Obama voters are. Nine percent of Republicans remain undecided, but just 5% of Democrats. Conservatives also remain more unsure of who to support than Liberals (17% vs. 6%).

Last July, I wrote: "Palin is not terribly well positioned for a return to elected office in her home-state..." If you buy PPP's current numbers, and believe most Alaska GOPers will "come home" in 2014, she's now quite well positioned to do just that.

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