Friday, September 05, 2008

The Palin Factor

I admit to slightly cringing, when some were using pre-Republican bounce polling to argue Obama was running away with the election. Historically, both parties get a bounce from their respective conventions, most of the time they cancel each other out in the end. Obama's bounce was nothing extraordinary, and now we are starting to see the polls settle back to the pre-convention numbers. Both Gallup and Rasmussen are already showing a return to the tight race, and the entire Republican convention hasn't yet been fully incorporated. Interesting fact to come out today, McCain speech actually outpaced Obama's earlier record acceptance, by a million voters (no word on how many were still awake at the end).

Many of my fellow bloggers have done an excellent job dissecting Sarah Palin's problems, her record and views, which make Mike Huckabee look like a commie. What I'm fascinated by, whether or not Palin will alter the landscape, is she connecting with voters, is she the "game changer". Don't take the above as anything to do with political preference, it's more a curiousity about dynamics. Rasmussen has done some polling on Palin, and the numbers suggest she well could make a difference:
Palin Power: Fresh Face Now More Popular Than Obama, McCain

Palin is viewed favorably by 58% of American voters. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 37% hold an unfavorable view of the self-described hockey mom.

The figures include 40% with a Very Favorable opinion of Palin and 18% with a Very Unfavorable view (full demographic crosstabs are available for Premium Members). Before her acceptance speech, Palin was viewed favorably by 52%. A week ago, 67% had never heard of her.

Perhaps most stunning is the fact that Palin’s favorable ratings are now a point higher than either man at the top of the Presidential tickets this year. As of Friday morning, Obama and McCain are each viewed favorably by 57% of voters. Biden is viewed favorably by 48%.

There is a strong partisan gap when it comes to perceptions of Palin. Eighty-nine percent (89%) of Republicans give her favorable reviews along with 33% of Democrats and 59% of voters not affiliated with either major party.

What I find striking, isn't so much that she outscores everyone on favorability(early days), but that 59% of independents have a good opinion of her. That fact seems to be translating to the Republican ticket as a whole:
The Palin pick has also improved perceptions of John McCain. A week ago, just before he introduced his running mate, just 42% of Republicans had a Very Favorable opinion of their party’s nominee. That figure jumped to 54% by this Friday morning. Among unaffiliated voters, favorable opinions of McCain have increased by eleven percentage points in a week—from 54% before the Palin announcement to 65% today.

Fifty-one percent (51%) of all voters now believe that McCain made the right choice when he picked Palin to be his running mate while 32% disagree.

These numbers represent a sizeable uptick for McCain, particularly the 11% rise with independents. All this data seems to contradict the Democratic talking point, that Palin doesn't appeal outside of the right wing base. Early, early days, but far from the trainwreck people are suggesting.

One other noteworthy item. The intrade market odds have moved considerably. In the last couple of months, Obama has consistently hovered around 60%, McCain generally around 39% at a maximum. These numbers have been surprising constant throughout the summer, despite the ebb and flow of the polls. In the past few days, McCain has narrowed the gap, today hitting another high water mark, up to 42%, Obama at his lowest since Clinton conceded. Still a healthy lead, but something might be afoot.

The Palin factor, in a purely detached political observer sense, is clearly something to watch moving forward. Apparently, the Dems have finally emerged from their dismissive posture, the Obama team set to unleash several high profile "women" to undercut any chance of momentum. That would be wise in my view, and it's also an acknowledgement of a potential problem.


Anonymous said...

For the contrarian view, here's another poll to consider on the same topic, same period of polling. Surprisingly, it yields the opposite finding as Rasmussen!

I know you are determined to believe Palin is the game-changer that will win it for McCain. Don't deny it! ; ).

I'm just not buying it. I am suspicious of Rasmussen on this topic after seeing how they turned a 29% recognition rate poll (meaning 71% had NO opinion at all) into into a headline that proclaimed a vast majority had a favorable view of the pick - ON DAY ONE!

The reporting and polling on Palin with Rasmussen is the best recent example of my feelings about Rasmussen overall. I respect their tracking poll tremendously. I think they do a really good job of that. But they have a tendency to dwell and dabble around the edges with their other polling in a way that "smells" rather selective. They seem to like running with a theme with motives a bit less than genuine, and always with a conservative leaning.

Most of their opinion pieces follow that trend as well (3 to 1 typically with a "conservative optimistic" viewpoint). I've noticed it for the past 2 presidential elections.

This is one of those cases / topics. I think this is the fourth ancilliary poll on Palin they've done this week, with results all presented in the best possible positioning. I think they are trying real hard to make the case you are making, with some numbers to drive their point. In my opinion, they are trying too hard. Again, I point out, who would take a poll with 21% recognition rate and turn it into a headline that says a majority of people approve of something?

Palin does and will help in some areas and with some key demographics. But I think the worst thing Obama could do is run the race against her for the next 60 days. Recipe for disaster. His opponent is McCain. Even the Republicans plan to use her sparingly and with specific groups, at least until she's been "coached" a bit more. Sounds like she'll be on the fund-raising tour as well.

She cements the base for McCain, but I don't buy the argument that she'll change the game on independents. And I think she'll hurt in some demographics as well.

I just don't think she is the game-changer.

It could be argued that if they aren't careful, Republicans could soon find their new star running in an unexpected "Paris Hilton" spot. Palin is probably best served in small doses.

Anonymous said...

Having said all of that, I do think it is an interesting phenomenon to watch.

If McCain wins, this will be looked as his great gamble that paid off.

But if Obama wins, this same selection may be seen as the move that took the "is the "celebrity" ready to lead?" token off the table.

And in August, do not forget that it was that question that drove McCain's numbers to an even draw.

I am interested in seeing how the bounce plays out into early next week.

I suspect it will be about where things were - 1 or 2 point race nationally.

Steve V said...


Let's take the polls out of it. If I told you last week that McCain's speech would be watched by more people that Obama's, would you have believed me? Also, the intrade numbers suggest some new momentum for McCain.

One of my favorite pundits is Gergen, he tends to play it cool, and he's always fair. He takes a view similar to what I'm arguing, it's EARLY, but there is no question the pick is playing well at the moment. Nothing more.

BTW, I remember everyone saying I was crazy last September when I suggested McCain was still a contender :)

Anyways, it's all up for debate, but for now, I'm buying it :)

Still think Obama wins though...

Steve V said...

"Having said all of that, I do think it is an interesting phenomenon to watch."

Agreed, in spades. This is a fascinating turn in this campaign.

Anonymous said...

One thing I could have predicted is that you would like Gergen.

Other analysts have their moments, some I ignore completely, but he is the one I always listen to attentively. He is excellent.

Incidentally, he sort of agrees with both our points because he is the one who suggested the trade-off of removing the leadership question as well ; ).

What ever happened to polls that showed what people thought of a given speech anyway? I would love to see someone - without bias - explore that specifically.

Have a good weekend.

Steve V said...

"What ever happened to polls that showed what people thought of a given speech anyway?"

I looked, couldn't find anything.

Anonymous said...

I think they are out of favor at the moment ; ). Maybe they got to gimmicky with the groups of undecideds holding "track meters" as they watching the debates so millions all squint at climbing and dropping lines on some question about something as mundane as the fate of the planet ; ).

I'm heading out, but look forward to your next installment.

Anonymous said...

OK--Full disclosure from the get-go. I'm a crad-carrying Tory, and I will vote for Harper come October. That said, I have, in my elatively young franchise, supported each truly national party. For much of my life, I understood myself to be liberal and centre-left, but as my sense of liberal was a bit more Mill than is fashionable now, I find myself moe blue than left. Whether this bespeaks changes in me, or in where the centre of political discourse in Canada falls now, as opposed to ca. 1987, I don't know.

As a Canadian, I am also a big supporter of Barack Obama. On two signal issues--abortion and free trade--I disagree with him, but on many I concur. What's more, I see in him a man of extraordinary talents and genuine good will. He is also, and rather easily, the greatest political orator of my adulthood. I am excited in a different way by Sarah Palin, primarily in the way she frustrates, and elicits outlandishness from, all sorts of baby-boomer feminist lefies...

But here's my main point: there's no way this race should even be one. We have, with some just cause, the least popular and credible President since--whom?--Andrew Jackson, maybe? So, in 150 years, give or take? And then there's Dick Cheney? Opposed to them is a history making, reasonably interesting and honorable man gifted with extraordinary perspicacity and oratorical skills. THIS SHOULD NOT BE CLOSE!!

But now, especially with the chatterers demonization of Palin, and her emergence as something more than lame, it really IS. So if I'm a Dem, I would be really worried and not just about this November. The fact is that they have in their own internal discourse, in their machine, and even more, in the media-prominent and vocal "fellow-travellers" they've accrued, become a 1968 campus party. And that's groovy cat, but unlike Canadians or most Europeans, most Yanks actually live in the Wasillias and Juneaus and Bismarks and Muncies and Boises and Santa Fes and Lubbocks and Jacksons and Montgomerys and Scrantons and Rochesters and Savannahs etc, and not in Tribeca or Frisco. And if you're messaging comes down to, that person doesn't count because of the "hick" place she comes from, or if you proudly offer up a floater about bitterness, God and guns, then you're frankly doomed.

And this strikes me--after 2004, another election the Dems had no business losing--as something that's on the verge of becoming a structural principle all but precluding a Democratic victory.... and that's what they should be concerned about much more than how Gov Palin will do her job, poor little girl that she is, with the five children she irresponsibly brought into the world in tow.

Seriously: there should not even be a race now. That there is should give the Dems serious pause.


Anonymous said...

actually we will find out what the bounce will be on monday and tuesday, thats when the polls will reflect everything after the republican convention, till then the obamatons tax everything kool aid drinkers can brague all they want....

Anonymous said...

oh and joseph !!!! mccain in a with it...

CKAinRedStateUSA said...

Maybe in eight or 12 years or so, when the Demockacrats mount a credible candidate for POTUS and VPOTUS to try and unseat the Republicans and conservatives -- including POTUS Sarah Palin -- they won't be the we're-entitled-and-up-yours-if-you-don't-agree gaggle of fractious interests they are this year.

Maybe this election's thumping will teach them something?

Anonymous said...

McCain may win, but it won't be a landslide. And I actually have no problem with McCain. From day one of this election, I have said and will continue to believe he is the best Republican candidate so I'm glad he got the nomination.

I do have a problem with Rove's involvement because I don't think he brings anything positive to the US.

A Democrat hasn't won the white house with a majority vote in decades so no one has ever thought this would be easy.

But anonymous, if you want to give a name, we'll compare notes on Nov 5. Care to define your landslide since you're so confident?

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the US citizens as a whole should be giving pause. You can't be serious that it is the Democrats "fault" that they "allowed" the Republicans to fuck things up so badly.

Perhaps the Republicans had some small thing to do with that situation.

Think a bit about what you're saying.

Anthony said...

suddenly im not so insane for saying that she the potential to pay off.

we need to see what the post-bounce numbers are but what you saw in the rallies today were crazy-entheusiastic rallies with mccain and palin and Barack Obama trying to attack McCain in a factory.

Palin has succeeded thus far in taking the lustre off Barack Obama. Last Saturday you called me crazy for suggesting that was even possible.

Anonymous said...


I never called you crazy. I said I thought the pick was irresponsible for someone who stares straight into a camera and says leadership and experience in a dangerous world is essential.

I still do.

If not irresponsible, certainly not genuine. What can I say? I'm an idealist at heart. McCain has disappointed me. And I'm glad the Democrats called him on it, which as I recall was the main source of our disagreement.

But if you want to categorize it as calling you crazy, go right ahead.

VA, NM, CO, and NV. That's all the matters. Standing by it. Still not convinced she helps in the right places.

CuriosityCat said...

Sarah Palin is John McCain's stealth torpedo aimed at male and female independent voters. And she is succeeding in winning them over.

An additional plus for McCain is that he has succeeded in making Obama end up fighting with McCain's VP pick; her attacks on Obama and his latest "I won't be bullied" speech run the risk of reducing him from being the one running against McCain for the top job, to fighting skirmishes against the second stringer.

The Democrats have a reall battle on their hands for the presidency. Let's just hope that they gain firm control of the House and the Senate, so that the worst Republican policies (Supreme Court picks etc) can be tempered or deflected.

Obama should have chosen Clinton as his VP. He is now paying the price for not having the courage to do that.