A PPP survey of Republican primary voters in Alaska seeking to get at what drove Joe Miller's surprise victory last week finds that while the Tea Party was definitely a major factor, Sarah Palin may not have been. Here's what we found:
-Only 18% of Alaska Republicans identify themselves as Tea Party members but Miller won them by an 80-20 margin, enough to make up for Murkowski's 63-37 lead with ones who don't actively identify with the movement.
-While only 18% of GOP voters identified themselves as Tea Party members, 53% said they supported the goals of the Tea Party. With those folks Miller won 74-26, while Murkowski had the 88-12 edge with those who said they did not support Tea Party goals
-47% of primary voters thought Murkowski was too liberal to 38% who said 'about right' and 14% who said either too conservative or no opinion. Not surprisingly Murkowski lost the voters who said she was too liberal 85-15.
-Additionally 34% of primary voters said they thought the Republican Party in general was too liberal and with those folks Miller won 76-24.
-Only 15% of those who voted for Miller said Palin's endorsement was 'very important' in who they decided to vote for while 26% said 'somewhat important' and 59% said it didn't matter at all.
-Overall 35% of primary voters said a Palin endorsement would make them less likely to support a candidate while 26% said more likely and 39% said it didn't make a difference either way. Among Miller voters though 41% did say a Palin endorsement was a plus to only 13% who said it was a negative.
Wrapping it up
Joe Miller's victory was driven by conservatives who think their party and more specifically Lisa Murkowski have gotten too liberal. Tea Party identification in Alaska is actually not that high, but Miller's advantage with that group was so overwhelming it gave him the win. Palin's endorsement certainly helped Miller and it's unlikely he could have won without it, but it doesn't appear to have been the driving force in his upset.
Full results here