Friday, November 12, 2010

Palin no 'Mama Grizzly' herself--and don't expect her to close gender gap in 2012

Sarah Palin made a lot of noise endorsing "Mama Grizzlies" -- conservative Republican women candidates -- in the 2010 elections. And Democrats, who typically are the beneficiaries of a gender gap in which women favor them and men Republicans, did considerably worse with Palin's gender in this year's contests than in 2008 and other years, as more women were attracted to the GOP along with their male counterparts. But don't expect that trend to not reverse to normal in 2012 -- even at a low now, Obama is benefiting from a gender gap as high as 24 points in the generic re-elect figures we have been releasing this week.

If Palin is the Republicans' standard bearer in two years, the intuition is that, as the first female major-party nominee, she would help bolster Republicans' gains with women from 2010, but not so fast. The GOP may actually do better with the fairer sex if they nominated one of her male competitors.

A trend we have been noticing in our early Obama/GOP matchups at the national level is that Palin consistently performs worse with all female voters against Obama than both Mike Huckabee -- the strongest with women nationally -- and Mitt Romney, and not much better than Newt Gingrich. Because of this, Huckabee and Romney almost always do best overall against Obama.

Don't anticipate Palin's "Mama Grizzly" voters coming to her rescue in the primaries either. Huckabee and Romney almost routinely also beat Palin with Republican women. In our recent California poll, so did Gingrich, with Palin in fourth -- in fact, the only thing holding her in second place there is that she wins men with almost a quarter of the male vote. Such is her current strength with men and weakness with women that the only six states where she won the women vote are ones she also won overall -- so the key for her in winning the primaries may be actually persuading women, not turning them out to the polls.

All the results from the final set of six states will be released next week, but here's a chart of how Palin did with women in the Republican primary matchups in our 18 final 2010 polls, compared to how she did with men:

StateWomen %PlaceMen %Place
Colorado16Tied 2nd173rd
Nevada12Tied 3rd202nd
New Hampshire8Tied 3rd12Tied 2nd
North Carolina202nd182nd
West Virginia232nd281st

On average, Palin does only 2 points better with men than women, and she averages 2nd place in both genders, but Romney and Huckabee tend to be strong with both men and women, and sometimes considerably stronger than Palin, so her weakness with her own gender is more glaring when it comes to tallying the final results.

Ironically, and luckily for her, men outnumber women in the GOP primary electorate. But one could also argue that this could be a high point for Palin for two reasons:
  1. She is the most visible and well known candidate of the eight tested, and as the campaign begins in earnest next spring, the others will no doubt catch up on the name recognition front.
  2. These polls were conducted with the 2010 electorate that drew out so many of the Tea Party supporters that she worked hard to make her base. Whether they dominate a presidential-year primary electorate is an open question.


Anonymous said...

So you are previewing that she's leading in Ohio and Washington in the next six polls?

ARealSenator said...

There is probably no good way to ask this in a poll but I think it would be interesting to see how many voters (specifically men, but I could see women who fall into this group) like Palin not because of any of her issue stances (what are they by the way?) but because she is, in many people's estimations, an attractive and "folksy" woman. I've had a few conservative friends call me sexist over this claim, but people vote based on many things other than politics and attractiveness (both physically and in personality) is certainly a component. To be a little more direct, don't you think conservative Republican men would vote for Palin simply because she's hot? Well, I do, but you would have to prove it for me.

Dustin Ingalls said...

ARealSenator, studies have suggested that is true. I don't expect we'd get honest answers if we attempted to get into people's psychology in a poll, though.

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