John McCain’s choice of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate is sitting very well with a lot of American voters, according to the latest FOX News poll.
The new survey also shows that—among all four candidates running—Palin (at 33 percent) is seen as most likely to understand “the problems of everyday life”—barely outpacing Barack Obama (32 percent), and finishing significantly ahead of both McCain (17 percent) and Joe Biden (10 percent).
Among independent voters, Palin’s lead over Obama on this score widens to 13 points (35 percent to 22 percent).
• Raw Data: Click here to view the full results of the poll. (pdf)
The national telephone poll was conducted for FOX News by Opinion Dynamics Corp.among 900 registered voters from September 8 to September 9. The poll has a 3-point error margin.
A solid majority of voters (54 percent) say they have a favorable opinion of Palin, while 27 percent assign unfavorable ratings. This gives the 44-year-old GOP vice presidential nominee the best ratio of favorable to unfavorable responses (2.0:1) of any of the four candidates tested in the survey. Moreover, Palin seems to deliver a greater impact to the top of her ticket than Biden does to the top of his. Palin moves 41 percent to a greater likelihood of voting for McCain; while Biden moves 35 percent to a greater likelihood of voting for Obama. The senator from Delaware does generate a higher comfort level than the Alaska Governor when it comes to “stepping in” and serving as president. Biden is the choice of just over half the sample on this score (51 percent), compared with just under four in ten (38 percent) who choose Palin. Among key independent voters, the choice of Biden on this measure rises to 53 percent.
Part of the reason Palin connects with voters on “day-to-day” issues may be the clear perception that she is “non-Washington.” More than half of all voters (54 percent) see Palin as a “political outsider.” Conversely, nearly two-thirds (65 percent) see Biden as a “political insider.” Indeed, when asked to judge whether running a state or being in the Senate is better preparation for the presidency, voters are almost evenly split between those who think being a governor (38 percent) or being a senator (37 percent) is better training for the Oval Office.
And, what if American voters needed some advice on a tough life decision? They would choose Palin as a resource over Biden by a 43 percent to 39 percent margin. And, while McCain is clearly viewed as the most likely to survive being stranded on a desert island (52 percent), Palin finishes a close third (16 percent) behind Obama’s second place (19 percent), and far ahead of Biden (4 percent).
Americans have also made a judgment on which campaign made a better vice presidential choice. Exactly half of registered voters (50 percent) feel McCain made the shrewder pick, while four in ten (40 percent) think Obama made the smarter choice. Interestingly, a majority of independent voters (50 percent) and nearly one-quarter of Democrats (23 percent) also think the GOP choice of Palin was smarter. And, while more than four in ten voters nationwide (42 percent) think Obama made a mistake in not choosing Hillary Clinton as his running mate, a majority (52 percent) feel he made the right decision. Perhaps more troubling for the Obama campaign is the fact that 40 percent of Democrats believe the Illinois senator should have picked the former First Lady.
There has been some controversy about Palin’s personal and family life in the short time since the announcement of her nomination. Some have suggested that it’s not right for her to run for high office given her personal family situation. There is no mistaking how American voters feel about the propriety of Palin running for high office. An overwhelming 70 percent think she is “doing the right thing” by getting into the race as the GOP vice-presidential nominee, while only 17 percent view it as “wrong.” And, while a plurality of voters (48 percent) do not think this controversy is driven by sexism, nearly as many (45 percent) believe it is the result of gender-based considerations. Interestingly, among younger women (under 45 years of age) the belief that these controversies are gender-related jumps to 50 percent.
On the specific issue of the pregnancy of her 17-year old daughter, the vast majority of voters (70 percent) say the situation does not make much difference in their evaluation of Palin. In fact, among those who say it has had some impact, positive assessments outweigh negative ones by an almost two-to-one margin (19 percent positive, 10 percent negative). Among voters who are married with children, the positive-to-negative ratio is even higher (21 percent positive, 8 percent negative).
Ernie Paicopolos is a Principal at Opinion Dynamics Corporation.