Palin’s Populist Appeal Still Mostly Missing in Polls

Nothing draws attention on the Internet like a column about Sarah Palin, so David Broder’s latest—arguing that the former Alaska governor offers “a pitch-perfect recital of the populist message that has worked in campaigns past,” and thus she is a force to be reckoned with—has already been picked over pretty well. Still, it’s worth briefly repeating a point CJR has made before: arguments for Palin’s purported popularity run aground on the abundant polling evidence that she is not, in fact, widely popular.

As it happens, there’s a brand-new poll out today from The Washington Post and ABC News. Here’s what it found:

Palin’s own ratings are weaker, apparently hurt rather than helped by her return to the spotlight. Fifty-five percent of Americans see her unfavorably, the most basic measure of a public figure’s popularity, and 71 percent believe she’s not qualified to serve as president, a position she said Sunday she’ll consider seeking. Both negatives are at new highs.

Palin’s more popular in her own party — 69 percent of Republicans see her favorably. But far fewer, 37 percent, do so “strongly.” (By contrast, in an ABC/Post poll last month, 70 percent of Democrats had a strongly favorable opinion of Barack Obama.) More problematic for Palin is that even in her own party 52 percent think she’s not qualified for the presidency — up by 16 points from an ABC/Post poll in November, shortly before the publication of her memoir, in which she criticizes the strategy of the 2008 Republican presidential campaign.

That doesn’t mean Palin won’t continue to be an important political figure; a substantial minority of the public likes her very, very much. But as for Broder’s suggestion that she might be what “the American people” are looking for—it seems the people, broadly speaking, do not agree.

Update, 2:15 p.m. Via Twitter, Nate Silver offers some reasons for skepticism about the significance of Palin’s numbers in the latest Post poll.

Has America ever needed a media watchdog more than now? Help us by joining CJR today.

Greg Marx is an associate editor at CJR. Follow him on Twitter @gregamarx.