PRINCETON, NJ -- Just 45% of Americans would like to see Sarah Palin become a major national political figure for many years to come, while a slight majority of 52% say they would not. These sentiments are sharply divided along partisan political lines.
Over three-quarters of Republicans would like to see the former vice-presidential nominee and current governor of Alaska become a major national political figure in the years ahead, in sharp contrast to the 43% of independents and 20% of Democrats who share that attitude.
Palin has been much in evidence since the Republican ticket's defeat on Election Day, appearing in interviews on NBC's "Today" show, Fox News, and CNN. Palin is also slated to give a major address to the Republican Governors Association meetings in Miami Thursday, followed by a press conference.
Palin's post-election media appearances certainly fuel speculation that she is interested in playing a major role on the national political scene in the years ahead, perhaps by running for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012 or 2016, or for the U.S. Senate from Alaska. The data reviewed above, from the Nov. 7-9 USA Today/Gallup poll, suggest that she has a way to go to convince the average American that her presence would be a positive addition to the crowded political landscape.
Certainly one of the most prevalent reactions to Palin's run as vice-presidential nominee was her appeal to base Republican voters, a conclusion that is reinforced by the current data showing that 76% of her fellow Republicans would like her to be on the national scene in the years ahead. The negative reaction from Democrats is not unexpected, but the tepid reaction from independent voters might give Palin pause as she contemplates her future.
In the same weekend poll, Palin's favorable ratings had climbed to the point where they were equal to her unfavorable ratings, a slightly more positive reaction than was generated in the final Gallup Poll conducted before the election.
Gallup's initial read on Palin's image -- taken on Aug. 29, the day John McCain announced that he was selecting her as his running mate -- showed that more than 7 out of 10 Americans didn't know enough about her to have an opinion of her, but among the few who did, she had a 3-to-1 positive-to-negative ratio. She continued to be rated more positively than negatively after the Republican National Convention and her well-regarded acceptance speech, but after a series of widely panned interviews with network news anchors, her unfavorables climbed, and, by the time of the election, more Americans viewed her unfavorably than favorably.
While Palin's ratings have improved somewhat after the election, they remain significantly more negative than those of either her former running mate, McCain, or the two Democratic nominees -- Barack Obama and Joe Biden.
Her favorable ratings by party group are sharply divided, reflecting the same basic pattern evident in reactions to the idea of her becoming a national political figure.
Palin's recent actions -- including granting a number of broadcast interviews, giving speeches, and holding press conferences -- make it clear that she is interested in staying on the national political scene rather than retiring to her previous obscurity as governor of the remote state of Alaska.
The current data suggest that she may have some tough sledding ahead of her if that is indeed the case. Although Palin enjoyed a huge jump in name identification in the slightly more than two months between her selection as McCain's running mate and the Nov. 4 election, she emerged with the most negative ratings of any of the four major-party presidential and vice-presidential candidates. And a majority of Americans say they are not interested in her becoming a fixture on the national political scene in the years ahead.
Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,010 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Nov. 7-9, 2008. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points.
Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones (for respondents with a landline telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell phone only).
In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.