As Sarah Palin blankets the media on a whirlwind book promotion tour, the former vice-presidential contender is clearly back on America's radar screen. Despite being characterized by many as a divisive force in her party and the nation, Americans are much more likely to give Palin a positive rating (47 percent favorable) than another prominent female leader — Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (28 percent favorable). Moreover, about six in 10 Americans (61 percent) think Palin has been treated unfairly by the press, according to the latest Fox News poll.
The national telephone poll was conducted for Fox News by Opinion Dynamics Corp. among 900 registered voters from Nov. 17 to Nov. 18, 2009. For the total sample, the poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
Palin has been mentioned as a possible presidential candidate in 2012, along with a host of other Republicans. Among self-identified Republicans in the survey, Palin gets the highest favorable ratings (70 percent) amid a group of other possible contenders for the GOP nomination, including Mike Huckabee (63 percent), Mitt Romney (60 percent) and Newt Gingrich (58 percent). Palin's favorable score among all voters is 47 percent, up nine percentage points over last July's reading of 38 percent.
Another woman who has often been called divisive over the years is Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. When asked if they'd rather spend the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday with Palin or Clinton, the choice does provoke considerable division — with each attracting about 40 percent to a hypothetical turkey fest (Clinton 42 percent; Palin 39 percent). About one in seven Americans (14 percent) volunteers the view that neither would be welcome in their home next Thursday.
President Obama recently stated that he "probably won't" read Sarah Palin's new book. But his possible opponent in the 2012 elections trails him in personal favorability by only seven points (54 percent to 47 percent). Among the critical segment of independent voters, they are virtually even (Obama at 50 percent; Palin at 49 percent).
The largest number of Americans seem to feel that those who do buy the Palin book will do so because they really want to read it (35 percent). Just under one-third (29 percent) think book purchasers will do so because it's a trendy thing to do, and one-fifth (20 percent) feel people will buy the book to show support for Palin.
When we asked a similar question in 2003 about Hillary Clinton's book, a higher percentage thought buyers wanted to read that book (45 percent), but far fewer saw the purchase as a show of support for the former first lady (7 percent).
It may have been a savvy move by Palin to agree to an interview with Oprah Winfrey. The powerful talk show host garners the second highest level of favorability among all those tested in the survey (61 percent), behind First Lady Michelle Obama (63 percent).
Ernie Paicopolos is a principal at Opinion Dynamics Corporation.