Our poll report today underscores the world of doubt facing Sarah Palin in advance of tonight’s debate. The table below adds some historical context.
It’s clear that the top of the ticket drives the vote. Nonetheless we do ask people if a vice-presidential pick makes them more or less likely to support the team. In our latest poll, 23 percent say Palin makes them more likely to vote for McCain, 32 percent, less likely – a net negative of 9 points.
There are a couple of ways to look at this. One is that none of the VP candidates we’ve previously measured ever approached a 32 percent “less likely” number. It’s partly mitigated by Palin’s “more likely” result, but it means she’s unusually divisive.
The other is that only one previous vice-presidential nominee in our data ran a net negative in vote effect – Dan Quayle in 1988. Clearly it wasn’t decisive, since George H.W. Bush won that election. But Quayle does not look to have helped. (And Barack Obama certainly hopes he's no Mike Dukakis.)
Other comparisons with Quayle are mixed. He did substantially worse than Palin in personal favorability, but better than in terms of being seen as qualified for the presidency. Not good – just better.
A challenge in all this is that Quayle, in four years as vice president, never turned around those initial doubts about his competence. Tonight is probably Palin's single best chance.
More Less No likely likely diff. Net 9/29/08 Obama's choice of Biden 25 13 61 +12 McCain's choice of Palin 23 32 45 -9 9/4/08 Obama's choice of Biden 22 11 66 +11 McCain's choice of Palin 25 19 55 +6 7/25/04 Kerry's choice of Edwards 24 9 66 +15 8/7/00 Gore's choice of Lieberman 15 10 73 +5 7/29/00 Bush's choice of Cheney 14 6 78 +8 8/15/96 Dole's choice of Kemp 18 6 75 +12 9/19/88 Bush's choice of Quayle 7 19 68 -12 9/18/88 Dukakis' choice of Bentsen 20 6 71 +14 7/12/84 Mondale's choice of Ferraro 22 19 49 +3 (Among registered voters except 8/7/00, gen pop)