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The Sarah Palin puzzle: A plurality disapproves yet a growing majority now identifies with her views

Republican Sarah Palin stresses a point during Ronald Reagan dinner in Iowa 9-17-10

For someone who's so widely deemed unqualified to be president and disapproved by a plurality of Americans, Sarah Palin the politician sure has convinced an awful lot of people that she thinks like they do. And vice versa.

In a modern media age of images and sound bites, especially with so many feeling disappointed by another prominent pol, that's a powerful position to hold, even if she doesn't seek another political office.

Such an identification with voters, especially Republicans, independents and women, may help explain Palin's success endorsing primary candidates this year; about three out of four of her picks have won their race, including most recently Christine O'Donnell in Delaware and Joe Miller of Alaska. Very few of President Obama's high-profile endorsements have won, although voters in one poll claimed his endorsement outweighs Palin's.

A new Rasmussen Poll 23 months before the Republican nominating convention for 2012 finds....

...that a majority of Americans (52%) now say their own personal views are closer to the former governor who didn't finish her first term than they are to the former senator who didn't finish his first term. You know, her down-to-earth talk about commonsense conservatism and reining in Washington's runaway spending and arrogance.Republican Sarah Palin in Iowa 9-17-10

Only 40% say their views are closer to Barack Obama's and 48% now see his political views as extreme.

All part of the puzzling and polarizing political package that is Palin. Even her ardent detractors can't silently dismiss her as a nobody might merit. They must vociferously denounce her, which in politics is actually a sign of respect, the louder the better.

As we wrote here in June:

"So, how to account for Palin's successes this year, especially since her methods, like her style, are so doggone unconventional -- shunning grandstand news conferences and the media to issue endorsements and statements on her Facebook page, for instance, the way millions of Americans communicate with each other?

"Who does stuff like that and how can it possibly work?

"Whether that ever gets her elected to anything again, that's part of Palin's non-traditional brand, which in an era of profound distaste for establishment pols and many incumbents certainly helps set her apart from the pre-programmed, partisan suits Americans see maneuvering and mucking around to no particular end in Washington each day."

The new survey of likely voters found that 84% of Republicans and 59% of independents say Palin's views are more like theirs; 76% of Republican voters and 52% of independents now hold a favorable opinion of Palin, an improvement over a year ago.

However, only 16% of all voters and 34% of GOP voters say a Palin endorsement would sway them to vote as she recommends. Then again among tea party supporters, this year's most potent political posse, Palin's nod clearly carries more weight, making her a force to be reckoned with as the GOP field begins to line up for 2012.

And the fact is, for better or worse, Palin is far better known at this point in the 2012 cycle than a certain ex-state senator from Illinois was 26 months out from the 2008 vote.

Most of them will make a Go-No Go decision around the year-end holidays or shortly after, once they see the new congressional makeup and how weakened Obama appears. If many Palin picks end up winning six weeks from today, that gives her fresh party allies for the upcoming potential nomination struggle for the hearts of Republicans, where she's always run strong. And it enhances her clout, a Chicago kind of word but no longer confined to Obama's windy political hometown.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photos: Steve Pope / EPA (Palin in Iowa 9-17-10).

Comments () | Archives (27)

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American politics is fun to watch, you guys really have such a high proportion of fanatics and weirdos.
How does America produce such a high quantity of these people? Not to mention your religious extremists, such as the creationists.

And what is her picks lose in November? What is their far right rantings actually, as I expect, motivate people to vote against them? What is Democrats take a bigger majority into the Senate and the House, enabling Obama to work on his agenda instead of working on Congressmen who say they want bipartisanship, but who really only want to bring this man down? My God, he's been in office less than two years, hardly time to fix all the problems he inherited, or was given later.
Say it can't happen? We said Palin was a non-starter too, totally underestimating that her desire for fortune and fame was far greater than her need to raise her children.

Go Sarah, you can do it.

I couldn't see myself voting for Sarah Palin, but I am pleased with the way she exposes the blatant hypocrisy of so many on the left. People who claim to be champions of women's rights have no problem trashing Palin with catty comments about her looks, her family situation, etc. People who claim to champion the common man have no problem denigrating her State college background.

It might be worth having her as president, just to hear the howls of righteous indignation from the left.

Go Sarah, you are the 1.

She had more -- much more -- experience than Barack Obama yet the legacy media put up a non-stop barrage of negative coverage of SP while praising BO without end.

I love the unsourced and unreferenced "widely deemed unqualified". Please tell me in what way was BO qualified where SP was not?

She had more -- much more -- experience than Barack Obama yet the legacy media put up a non-stop barrage of negative coverage of SP while praising BO without end.

I love the unsourced and unreferenced "widely deemed unqualified". Please tell me in what way was BO qualified where SP was not?

Maybe the fact that the MSM, including the Times, has been attacking Gov. Palin relentlessly for the last two years has something to do with Gov. Palin's high disapproval rating despite the fact that the American people agree with most of her political positions.

That her views are commonly respected while she herself is not results from the non-stop Democrat-Liberal-Media smear campaign that has been waged against her since the day she was nominated to run for VP. The Left can still marginalize political figures it fears by making hate-objects of them and focusing all their mindless rage on them. The relentless bashing does have some effects, after all. How many of the people who actually mostly agree with her don't realize she shares their views because she has been falsely portrayed in the media?

If Barack Obama had been subjected to 1/10 the media scrutiny as Palin (and the results actually published rather than suppressed) he never would have been nominated, let alone elected.

Obama's pimping of willing media whores, followed by Palin's successful bypassing of them, are both harbingers of the end for the dinosaur media. And good riddance!

I would guess that most of those that voted for Palin's picks, voted for them not because they were endorsed by Palin, but because both Palin and the majority of GOP primary voters have the same views on who would make a good candidate for congress. In other words, Palin's success rate is a function of her being in touch with the right side of the aisle, not because what she says sways support.

She has been, and continues to be one of the most "misunderestimated" politicians of out time.

Many, many Americans agree with some of what she says. But they may not like her manner, her way of presenting herself. She can be annoying; however, Americans, especially middle class Americans who are not part of the cultural elite a la Peggy Noonan and Karl Rove, can see past her very real quirkyness. They may not vote for her, but in many things they agree with her. They may not believe she should lead the country as president, but they think she has a right to speak and have influence. Too often pundits and mainstream journalists look at someone like Palin in only beltway terms. They do not realize that many people of both parties, think the way she has been treated by the press and the politicos of Washington is extreme an uncalled for. Her populism really is not that mysterious.

You are making a fundamental error in assuming that Palin's endorsements are the CAUSE of the wins. More likely she is better in tune with the motivated conservatives and so endorses those for which the conservatives and newly conservative independents will ALREADY vote. She is a bell weather, not reason. The poll results support this idea. I'm a fan of Palin's, but let's put her power in perspective.

I think the disconnect is that a certain amount of people still buy into the Tina Fey caricature of Sarah Palin. Once she gets out there and starts campaigning for herself, the majority of the voters will like what they see. They will finally make the connection between the message and the messenger. They will finally see the real Sarah Palin.

There's a reason for Sarah Palin's popularity with the voters and her unpopularity with the media. The media is woefully out of touch with the reality of the world and has intentionally under reported the reality everyone is currently living. The only question is if the powers that be will allow the people to choose someone like Sarah Palin.

The mystery continues.... Of course it has *nothing* to do with the loss of credibility of the media that has been bashing her and puffing Obama.

"For someone who's so widely deemed unqualified to be president and disapproved by a plurality of Americans, Sarah Palin..."

Oh. I thought you were going to say someone else.

From what I can tell, that answer to this puzzle may be in a new book about Palin called "The Faith and Values of Sarah Palin." It seems to be an intellectually honest attempt to explore why she is so polarizing.

This plurality puzzle is easy to explain. Sarah can thank her "friends" in the media for constantly distorting her qualifications and tarnishing her image and accomplishments...this may take time to overcome if she ever does...because the media isn;t going to let up trying to convince all us how "dangerours and extreme" she hopes we never consider voting her into office.
Those of you that look to the media to pick your candidates..deserve what we have in White House today.

But the Left always says that she is both an irrelevant snowbilly quiter, or the female incarnation of Sauron who is building an army of orcs on Mordor.

Gov Palin will be the next President of the United States if she chooses to run against barry in 2012.

It's not so hard to understand. They are just now getting around to realizing that the multimedia hate machine that told them to hate her was lying. Same thing happened to Hillary Clinton, they just realized it after the election when it was too late. And Obama too, that's why he went from landslide victor to villian. You should have saved all of your lies and mudslinging for closer to '12. Nice try though.

Love her or hate her, one thing for sure, she lives rent free in the liberal's, RINO's and the LSM's head.

"Love her or hate her, one thing for sure, she lives rent free in the liberal's, RINO's and the LSM's head."

Yes, but you have to remember that those heads are almost always completely empty. No furniture except what the MSM tells them to think...! And academicide victims....! And Hollyweird...! And "Czar" Cass Sunstein...!

Gov. Palin may not come across as the brightest bulb, but neither does BHO if you honestly watch him. And Gov. Palin does have experience in governing the largest state. From most accounts, she did well at that job, which is one more success than you can list for BHO.

Palin has so many people disapprove of her because YOU, and your ideological friends elsewhere in the press, have been scorning her and lying about her. But you know, a lot of us don't believe you any more.

"For someone who's so widely deemed unqualified to be president and disapproved by a plurality of Americans..."

Help me here; whom are we speaking of? So the opening sentence should set the tone for the rest of the story (journalism 101). We should be doing a better job of this by now. Someone please, hire a professional for the blog...


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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