PRINCETON, NJ -- Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's resignation -- announced last Friday -- fueled speculation that she may be setting up a run for president in 2012. A new USA Today/Gallup poll conducted Monday night finds a core of 19% of U.S. voters who say they are "very likely" to vote for her should she run, and an additional 24% who are somewhat likely to do so, giving her a decent reservoir of potential support to build upon. However, nearly as many voters (41%) currently say they would be not at all likely to vote for her.
By way of comparison, when Gallup in 2005 asked a similar question about Hillary Clinton running for president in 2008, 52% of registered voters said they were at least somewhat likely to vote for her, including 28% who said they were very likely to do so.
Predictably, most Democratic registered voters (70%) say they are not at all likely to vote for Palin. While most Republican registered voters (72%) say they are likely to vote for Palin, only about half of these (35% of all Republican voters) can be considered solid supporters who say they are very likely to support Palin at this time.
Even if Palin ultimately decides against a run for the White House, her high profile may allow her to take on a role as a major national political figure. When asked about her possibly having such a role, 39% of Americans say they would like to see her do this, including 67% of Republicans, 34% of independents, and 18% of Democrats.
Palin's announcement last Friday may have taken many political observers by surprise, but the data show her decision to resign the governorship did not affect most Americans' opinions of her. The poll finds 70% saying their opinion of Palin has not changed as a result of her resignation. Though this is clearly the minority of Americans, more say their opinion of her has gotten worse (17%) than improved (9%).
Majority Believes Media Unfair to Palin
Palin was a relatively unknown political figure when tapped to be John McCain's running mate, but she quickly energized the GOP ticket, drawing large crowds to their rallies during the presidential campaign. But news coverage of her quickly took a negative turn and many in the political world came to view her as a drag on the McCain campaign.
Palin herself has argued that she has been unjustly attacked by the news media, and most Americans seem to agree. The new poll finds 53% describing the news media's coverage of Palin as "unfairly negative," while just 9% say it has been "unfairly positive" and 28% say it has been "about right."
When Gallup asked a similar question about news coverage of Palin shortly after the Republican National Convention last September, Americans were more evenly divided in their views, with 33% saying the coverage was unfairly negative and the plurality of 36% saying it was about right. At that time, 21% thought the media were being unfairly positive toward Palin.
Palin's abrupt resignation with 18 months left in her first term as governor has probably raised more questions than answers about her political future. But the move has apparently not affected Americans' basic opinions of her to a large degree. As political observers eagerly await her next career move, roughly 19% of U.S. voters say they would be very likely to vote for her should she run for president in 2012, and another 24% say they would be somewhat likely to do so. While still the minority of all voters, it is perhaps not a bad start for an election still three years away, and arguably could put Palin in a better starting position than some of the lesser-known GOP candidates who may also seek the party's presidential nomination.
Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,000 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted July 6, 2009. 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 land-line telephones (for respondents with a land-line 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.
Polls conducted entirely in one day, such as this one, are subject to additional error or bias not found in polls conducted over several days.