Sarah Palin: Rogue for President?

The buildup to her new book hasn’t eased Sarah Palin’s political challenges: Just over half of Americans in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll have an unfavorable opinion of her overall, as many say they wouldn’t consider supporting her for president and more – six in 10 – see her as unqualified for the job.

These views are much like they’ve been for the past year, when initially favorable responses to Palin’s selection as the Republican vice presidential nominee quickly turned down in the heat of the 2008 campaign.

Today 43 percent of Americans express a favorable opinion of Palin overall, while 52 percent see her unfavorably. Favorability is the most basic measure of a public figure’s popularity; in politics, where majorities win, it’s trouble when it goes negative, as it’s been for Palin since October 2008.

Intensity is against her as well: considerably more see her “strongly” unfavorably, 34 percent, than strongly favorably, 20 percent.

Fifty-three percent say they definitely would not vote for Palin if she were to run for president in 2012; that compares with 9 percent who say they’d definitely support her, while the rest, 37 percent, would consider it. (For comparison, in a 2006 ABC/Post poll fewer flatly ruled out Hillary Clinton, 42 percent, and fewer still wouldn’t consider John McCain, 28 percent.)

Palin moreover fails a basic hurdle on the road to the White House, were she to choose to take it: Just 38 percent of Americans see her as qualified to serve as president; 60 percent think she’s not qualified for the job.

Palin’s book, “Going Rogue: An American Life,” is being published this week. She’s interviewed by Barbara Walters in a five-part series beginning on ABC’s “Good Morning America” tomorrow, with the full interview on 20/20 Friday evening.

GROUPS – Political and ideological sentiment are prime factors in Palin’s ratings. Seventy-six percent of Republicans view her favorably, but that dives to 45 percent of independents and just 21 percent of Democrats. Her overall rating is held down by the fact that Republicans have accounted for fewer than a quarter of all Americans lately, 21 percent in this poll.

Similarly, Palin’s seen favorably by 60 percent of conservatives, compared with 38 percent of moderates and 22 percent of liberals.

Palin’s rated favorably by more men, 48 percent, than women, 39 percent; one reason is that women are more apt to be Democrats. She’s also notably less popular with young adults – just 37 percent of those under age 30 see her favorably, compared with 49 percent of seniors.

Beyond Republicans, she does best, a 65 percent favorable rating, among evangelical white Protestants.

Other gauges tell a similar story. Just under a quarter of Republicans rule out supporting her for president; that rises to half of independents and three-quarters of Democrats. And 61 percent of Republicans see Palin as qualified for the presidency – an underwhelming score in her own party, and one that falls to 37 percent of independents and 22 percent among Democrats.

Ideologically, as well, Palin stumbles outside her base. Conservatives are less likely than others to flatly rule out voting for her; 36 percent do so, compared with 56 percent of moderates and 79 percent of liberals. And 56 percent of conservatives think she is qualified to serve as president – another tepid score on this basic question, but much better than it is among moderates (30 percent see her as qualified) or liberals (18 percent).

Palin’s ratings are a comedown from the days just after her nomination briefly captured the public’s imagination. At her peak, in an ABC/Post poll Sept. 7, 2008, 58 percent viewed her favorably. Some of her steepest declines since then have come in the political center, down by 15 points among independents and by 20 points among moderates.

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