Poll: Support for Palin Still Strong Among GOP
Sarah Palin's bombshell that she will resign as Alaska governor actually has boosted her a bit among Republicans, a nationwide USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds, though it also has dented her standing among Democrats and independents.
Palin, tapped by GOP presidential nominee John McCain as his running mate last year, remains a favorite of Republicans and conservatives - and a nemesis for Democrats. Two-thirds of Republicans want Palin to be "a major national political figure for many years to come," while three-fourths of Democrats hope she won't be.
Independents by 55%-34% would prefer she leave the national stage.
The findings underscore how polarized opinions of Palin were even before Friday's surprise announcement. Seven in 10 Americans say their views weren't affected by her decision. Among those whose opinions have shifted, Democrats by 4-1 and independents by 2-1 feel less favorably toward her. Republicans, however, are inclined to see her more favorably.
"For independents and Democrats, she's already not their candidate, and with Republicans her support is not based on her record as governor of Alaska," Republican media consultant Alex Castellanos says. "The basis of her support is that she represents the social conservative wing of the party, that she's a new-generation working-mom conservative, and that she's a victim of the news media. And she's still those three things."
The poll Monday of 1,000 adults - including 321 Democrats, 323 independents and 316 Republicans - has a margin of error of +/- 3 percentage points for the full sample and 6 points for the partisan subsamples.
Palin's complaints about unfair treatment by the news media resonate with many. Three-fourths of Republicans, more than half of independents and even a third of Democrats say coverage of Palin has been unfairly negative.
Men were significantly more likely than women to say Palin has been treated unfairly.
Overall, 53% call the media's coverage unfairly negative, a jump from the 33% who held that view after the Republican convention in September.
Palin has complained that her actions and her children have been subjected to tougher scrutiny and criticism than other public figures. In a series of TV interviews aired Tuesday, the governor defended her decision to leave office 18 months before her term was up and parried questions about her future. "Don't know what the future holds," she said on ABC. "I'm not gonna shut any door. That - who knows what doors open?"
She talked to reporters in Dillingham, Alaska, wearing waders and helping husband Todd as he hauled in salmon from the family's fishing nets.
When it comes to a potential presidential run, the USA TODAY poll displays both Palin's strength in the Republican base and her weakness among the swing voters who usually decide national elections. Republicans by 71%-27% say they would be likely to vote for her if she ran for president in 2012, while independents by 51%-44% would not.
Her overall standing is only slightly more negative than that of Hillary Rodham Clinton in November 2000, eight years before she nearly won the Democratic presidential nomination.
Then, 47% told Gallup they were likely to vote for Clinton for president if she ran in 2004 or 2008; 51% weren't. Now 43% are likely to vote for Palin; 54% aren't.