Sarah Palin: Hero Of Talk Radio Listeners — But Anyone Else?

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November 30, 2009 7:13 a.m.

The new Washington Post poll illustrates the extent to which Sarah Palin’s political appeal is a disproportionate one, focused on the harder line of the Republican Party — which also happens to be where the GOP’s energy is these days. The key question we have to really answer in the next few years, then, is how far Palin’s disproportionate support among the hard right can really get her, and whether she can expand from there.

Overall, Palin had an 18% plurality when Republicans and GOP-leaners were asked who their choice for president was in 2012. But among Rush Limbaugh listeners it was a whopping 45%, and also a third among Glenn Beck viewers (we can probably assume that these two groups overlap to some extent). When asked who best represents the GOP’s core values, Palin attracted 17% support — with 48% among Limbaugh fans, and 35% among Beck’s audience.

Palin certainly has built up a following with these two hosts and their audiences. She’s not ruled out a Palin-Beck ticket in 2012 — though Beck has ruled it out with some very colorful language. Limbaugh has praised Going Rogue as “one of the most substantive policy books I’ve read.” And no less a voice than Bill Kristol, a frequent advocate of Palin’s, has said that the GOP’s “center of gravity, I suspect, will instead lie with individuals such as Palin and Huckabee and Gingrich, media personalities like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh.”Another key number: When all GOPers were asked who best represents the party, Palin’s 17% plurality put her ahead of John McCain, who had himself picked her for the 2008 ticket, at 13%.

A previous CBS poll from two weeks ago gave a similar hint about Palin’s support. Only 44% of Republicans wanted her to run for president, and only 43% thought she had the ability to be an effective president. But her strong suit was white evangelicals, 48% of whom wanted her to run, and 50% of them who said she had the ability to be an effective president.

However, Palin certainly does have her work cut out for her if she wants to run for president. A previous Washington Post poll showed a majority of Americans viewing Palin unfavorably, and saying she was not qualified to be president. And that CBS poll mentioned above also found that even self-identified conservatives didn’t want Palin running for president, despite the support of her white evangelical base.

On the other hand, as the recent Daily Kos/Research 2000 poll illustrates, the Republican base is very enthusiastic right now. If politics comes down to the simple question of who shows up, then the people who do like Palin could end up exercising a much greater influence than their raw numbers would suggest.

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