Palin’s Chance

Oct 2, 2008 5:18pm

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)
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