The Campaign Spot

The Palin Effect

Campaign Spot reader Joshua writes in, with some data on what Sarah Palin did and did not add to the Republican ticket.

First the most significant finding of this year’s poll. The media will undoubtedly focus on the fact that 60 percent of voters expressed doubts about Gov. Palin being ready to take over as president at short notice. But there is no evidence that this fact actually influenced people’s decision-making in the voting booth. When people were asked if Palin’s presence on the ticket was an important factor in their decision, 60 percent answered yes, 33 percent no. But of the 60 percent that said yes, 56 percent ended up voting McCain versus 43 percent Obama. By comparison, of the 33 percent that said no, only 33 percent voted McCain versus 64 percent Obama. Conclusion: on balance, people who thought Palin’s presence on the ticket was important were more likely to vote McCain by a significant margin.


Now to the McCain/Palin ticket’s performance with some of the target groups that Palin was going to be judged on, namely women, independents, white evangelicals and gun owners:


– White women voted McCain/Palin 53-46. That’s more or less the same as the Bush/Cheney score with this group in 2004 (55-44).


– White independents voted McCain/Palin 49-47. There are no comparable data on this group for 2004, but we do know that independents went for Kerry 49-48 in 2004, and 52-44 for Obama this year. It’s safe to conclude that the swing to Obama in this category was caused by non-white independents voting overwhelmingly for the Democratic ticket. 


– White evangelical/born again christians voted McCain/Palin 74-24 in 2008, which is slightly lower than the 78-21 breakdown in 2004. But their share of the total vote was larger this time than last time (26 percent in 2008 versus 23 percent in 2004), so on balance the white evangelical/born again contribution to the Republican vote was probably about the same size as it was in 2004.


– Gun owners votied for McCain/Palin in the same numbers they voted for Bush/Cheney last time round: 62-37 in 2008 versus 63-36 in 204


Conclusion: on her four main target groups, Palin delivered the goods for the McCain campaign. In all four categories, the McCain/Palin share of the vote was virtually identical to the Bush/Cheney share in 2004.

I’ll have to take a look at the exit poll data more clearly, but I’ll note that “Maverick” McCain’s high-profile fights with his party were supposed to help him with independent voters. Well, as noted above, independents split for Obama, 52-44.

I’ll have more thoughts on this as I awaken further, but I suspect that a Republican candidate will always have a tough time selling himself as anything other than a Republican. Few independents remember the fights with the party when they go into the voting booth.

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