It is just days before TLC’s heavily hyped Sarah Palin’s Alaska debuts, and Gallup released a new poll today which showed that 52% of Americans have a negative view of Palin. She has a negative rating of 83% among Democrats and 53% with Independents. Republicans gave Palin an 80% approval rating, but it is awfully tough to be president or even a reality TV star, when over half of America hates you.
According to Gallup, Palin tied her lowest ever measured, at least by their measure, approval rating at 40%, but she has managed to gain popularity among Republicans, where her approval rating has gone from 76% in July to 80% in November. The problem for Palin is that she is only popular within the Republican Party. She has a favorable rating of 35% with Independents, and a 15% approval rating with Democrats. As Palin’s approval rating has gone up with Republicans, she lost 8 points with Independents, and 3 points with Democrats.
Lydia Saad of Gallup noted that the perception of Palin went consistently negative in July of 2009 and has stayed there ever since, “Palin’s image has consistently tilted negative since July 2009, and was nearly as negative in October 2009 as it is today. Public views on her were also more negative than positive just before the 2008 election, in which President Obama handily defeated the Republican ticket. By contrast, Americans’ initial reactions to Palin after her debut at the Republican National Convention that year were mostly favorable.”
The more Palin forces the spotlight to stay on her, the more her popularity grows with Republicans and decreases with the rest of the country. I suspect that no amount of reality television or book tours will be able to rehabilitate her image. Non Republican America decided long ago that they don’t care for Sarah Palin, yet she continues to shove herself down their throats. It is not surprising that Democrats can’t stand Palin, but she has held consistently high negatives with Independents, and this is where she has become a real problem for the Republican Party.
Sarah Palin’s near universal popularity with Republicans makes her one of the favorites for the 2012 Republican nomination. Palin is vastly more popular within her party than any other potential 2012 GOP contender. The 2010 election demonstrated that the right will vote with their hearts over their heads, even if it ends up costing them the General Election. I don’t believe that this emotion over logic movement is going to dissipate within the Republican primary base before 2012.
The doomsday scenario that Karl Rove and others in the Republican establishment are trying to prevent is one where Republican primary voters vote with their hearts and nominate Sarah Palin, who then goes on to get absolutely crushed by Barack Obama in the November election. Palin will energize not only Republicans, but also Democrats and Independents to come out and vote against her. Instead of 2012 being the referendum on Obama that Republicans crave, it could turn into an anti-Palin energized Democratic landslide that costs Republicans not just the White House, but also control of the House.
The Republican establishment may see this freight train coming, but they could be absolutely powerless to stop it. Sarah Palin could be the Democrats greatest asset for 2012. Republicans know that all the voters who stayed home in 2010 will be back out in force to support Obama in 2012. Unseating an incumbent president is difficult enough without the additional burden of a nominee who is the least popular politician in America. If Palin’s popularity with Republicans continues to grow, Barack Obama will have little to worry about in 2012.