Poll: Most Americans Not Fans of Government or Sarah Palin

A new ABC/Washington Post poll reveals to tantilizing findings: (1)most Americans are unhappy with government (2) Sarah Palin has a long way to go with most Americans.

But Palin and her supporters on another front should be happy, indeed.

Two major mainstream media commentators who are considered about as mainstream as they come have in effect declared her a serious candidate and say she is someone who could be the wave of the future — although one commentator seems to welcome that idea and the other dreads it.

Here’s the data from the poll:

Two-thirds of Americans are “dissatisfied” or downright “angry” about the way the federal government is working, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. On average, the public estimates that 53 cents of every tax dollar they send to Washington is “wasted.”

Despite the disapproval of government, few Americans say they know much about the “tea party” movement, which emerged last year and attracted voters angry at a government they thought was spending recklessly and overstepping its constitutional powers. And the new poll shows that the political standing of former Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, who was the keynote speaker last week at the first National Tea Party Convention, has deteriorated significantly.

The opening is clear: Public dissatisfaction with how Washington operates is at its highest level in Post-ABC polling in more than a decade — since the months after the Republican-led government shutdown in 1996 — and negative ratings of the two major parties hover near record highs.

And Palin? Her favorable rating is dropping:

But nearly two-thirds of those polled say they know just some, very little or nothing about what the tea party movement stands for. About one in eight says they know “a great deal” about the positions of tea party groups, but the lack of information does not erase the appeal: About 45 percent of all Americans say they agree at least somewhat with tea partiers on issues, including majorities of Republicans and independents.

Although Palin is a tea party favorite, her potential as a presidential hopeful takes a severe hit in the survey. Fifty-five percent of Americans have unfavorable views of her, while the percentage holding favorable views has dipped to 37, a new low in Post-ABC polling.

There is a growing sense that the former Alaska governor is not qualified to serve as president, with more than seven in 10 Americans now saying she is unqualified, up from 60 percent in a November survey. Even among Republicans, a majority now say Palin lacks the qualifications necessary for the White House.

Palin has lost ground among conservative Republicans, who would be crucial to her hopes if she seeks the party’s presidential nomination in 2012. Forty-five percent of conservatives now consider her as qualified for the presidency, down sharply from 66 percent who said so last fall.

Among all Republicans polled, 37 percent now hold a “strongly favorable” opinion of Palin, about half the level recorded when she burst onto the national stage in 2008 as Sen. John McCain’s running mate.

Among Democrats and independents, assessments of Palin also have eroded.

As yours truly has noted here and elsewhere: Palin’s problem is that she has worked to expand her existing constituency.

It’s not a wise move — or omen — for someone who (presumably) seeks higher office and, most assuredly, not for someone who wants to be able to govern as President. ABC News asks if the Tea Party movement could actually hurt Palin:

Although Palin is a tea party favorite, her potential as a presidential hopeful takes a severe hit in the survey. Fifty-five percent of Americans have unfavorable views of her, while the percentage holding favorable views has dipped to 37, a new low in Post-ABC polling.

There is a growing sense that the former Alaska governor is not qualified to serve as president, with more than seven in 10 Americans now saying she is unqualified, up from 60 percent in a November survey. Even among Republicans, a majority now say Palin lacks the qualifications necessary for the White House.

Palin has lost ground among conservative Republicans, who would be crucial to her hopes if she seeks the party’s presidential nomination in 2012. Forty-five percent of conservatives now consider her as qualified for the presidency, down sharply from 66 percent who said so last fall.

Among all Republicans polled, 37 percent now hold a “strongly favorable” opinion of Palin, about half the level recorded when she burst onto the national stage in 2008 as Sen. John McCain’s running mate.

Among Democrats and independents, assessments of Palin also have eroded.

Palin’s more popular in her own party — 69 percent of Republicans see her favorably. But far fewer, 37 percent, do so “strongly.” (By contrast, in an ABC/Post poll last month, 70 percent of Democrats had a strongly favorable opinion of Barack Obama.) More problematic for Palin is that even in her own party 52 percent think she’s not qualified for the presidency — up by 16 points from an ABC/Post poll in November, shortly before the publication of her memoir, in which she criticizes the strategy of the 2008 Republican presidential campaign.

Far more Americans see Palin strongly unfavorably, 38 percent, than strongly favorably, 18 percent. Among independents — swing voters in national politics — just 36 percent see her favorably overall, vs. 53 percent unfavorably, and only 29 percent think she’s qualified for the presidency.

AND:

The Tea Party may have more opportunities, but also faces risks. It’s most popular among conservatives, Republicans, critics of the Obama administration, opponents of health care reform and those who are angry with the government. But the political center’s more ambivalent: In terms of favorability, independents divide essentially evenly on the movement — 39 percent favorable, 40 percent unfavorable.

More independents, 54 percent, say they agree at least somewhat with its positions on the issues. Again that shows potential, but closing the sale may not be a simple task: Few Americans, 14 percent, “strongly” agree with the Tea Party’s positions as they know them, including 16 percent of independents, 25 percent of Republicans and 31 percent of conservatives. (Overall “strong” approval of Obama’s job performance, again for comparison, is at 29 percent in this poll, a career low for the president.)

More people agree at least somewhat with the Tea Party’s positions than see it favorably overall. That’s because its favorability is attenuated, 57 percent, among people who agree, but just somewhat. Among those who strongly agree with the Tea Party’s position, by contrast, 92 percent also view the movement favorably.

But two top mainstream media commentators are proclaiming Sarah Palin, in effect, the wave of the future — one in positive terms, the other with dread.

David Broder, long considered “the dean” of commentators and a quintessential centrists has this column which needs to be read in full where he in essence praises her populism as shown at the Tea Party convention. Here’s a small part of it:

Her lengthy Saturday night keynote address to the National Tea Party Convention in Nashville and her debut on the Sunday morning talk show circuit with Fox News’ Chris Wallace showed off a public figure at the top of her game — a politician who knows who she is and how to sell herself, even with notes on her palm.

This was not the first time that Palin has impressed me. I gave her high marks for her vice presidential acceptance speech in St. Paul. But then, and always throughout that campaign, she was laboring to do more than establish her own place. She was selling a ticket headed by John McCain against formidable Democratic opposition and burdened by the legacy of the Bush administration.

Blessed with an enthusiastic audience of conservative activists, Palin used the Tea Party gathering and coverage on the cable networks to display the full repertoire she possesses, touching on national security, economics, fiscal and social policy, and every other area where she could draw a contrast with Barack Obama and point up what Republicans see as vulnerabilities in Washington.

Her invocation of “conservative principles and common-sense solutions” was perfectly conventional. What stood out in the eyes of TV-watching pols of both parties was the skill with which she drew a self-portrait that fit not just the wishes of the immediate audience but the mood of a significant slice of the broader electorate.

AND:

This is a pitch-perfect recital of the populist message that has worked in campaigns past. There are times when the American people are looking for something more: for an Eisenhower, who liberated Europe; an FDR or a Kennedy or a Bush, all unashamed aristocrats; or an Obama, with eloquence and brains.

But in the present mood of the country, Palin is by all odds a threat to the more uptight Republican aspirants such as Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty — and potentially, to Obama as well.

Palin did not wear well in the last campaign, especially in the suburbs where populism has a limited appeal. But when Wallace asked her about resigning the governorship with 17 months left in her term and whether she let her opponents drive her from office, she said, “Hell, no.”

Those who want to stop her will need more ammunition than deriding her habit of writing on her hand. The lady is good.

It could be argued that if Palin strikes Broder this way, then centrists and independents — who are NOT a monolithic group — are not a lost cause for her by any means.

Time’s Joe Klein also says Palin should not be taken lightly, but it’s clear that unlike Broder he is not one of her fans:

“How’s that hopey-changey stuff workin’ out for ya?” Sarah Palin asked the anti-élitist Tea Party élites — those who could pay $549 for a ticket — gathered in suffocating self-righteousness at the Opryland Hotel on the first weekend of February. It was classic Palin, a brilliant line, brilliantly delivered: she does folksy far better than George W. Bush or any of the other Republican focus-group populists ever did. It was the signature line of her speech, which rocked the joint — and then, slowly, began to rock the national political community. The speech was inspired drivel, a series of distortions and oversimplifications, totally bereft of nourishing policy proposals — the sort of thing calculated, carefully calculated, to drive lamestream media types like me frothing to their keyboards. Palin is a big fat target, eminently available for derision. But I will not deride. Because brilliance must be respected, especially when it involves marketing in an era when image almost always passes for substance. (See the top 10 unfortunate political one-liners.)

I have a theory about Bill Clinton: his philandering worked in his favor politically, especially with a demographic chunk that usually shies away from liberalism: American working guys. It made him more accessible. Here was a fellow who got it on with faded lounge singers and then celebrated with a Double Quarter Pounder and fries at the local McDonald’s. If that ain’t pickup-truck nirvana, what is? Democrats haven’t produced many such men of the people; they produce law-professor presidents, a theme Palin launched in Nashville that we will be hearing a lot more frequently in the future.

Palin hits the same mystic chords as Clinton…

AND:

I suppose we need a paragraph here about why all this simplicity is extremely dangerous. Most economists agree that if it hadn’t been for the bank bailouts and the Obama stimulus package, the country would have slid into a deep recession that might have prevented a lot of Tea Partyers from buying their $549 tickets to ride. Then again, any sentence that begins with “Most economists” is a license to snore in tea party nation. And Palin will, quite often, veer from simplicity to duplicity. She was the inventor of the mythic, noxious “death panels.” In Nashville, she retailed nonsense about stimulus funds going to nonexistent districts. (A spokesman for Vice President Joe Biden, who is monitoring the stimulus package, told me that all funds went to actual places — but recipients occasionally didn’t write down their correct congressional districts.) And her support for bombing Iran was, no doubt, the work of her new Washington-insider neoconservative policy advisers, Randy Scheunemann and Michael Goldfarb, who had John McCain singing from the same warmongering songbook in 2008.

So how’s that hopey-changey stuff working out for you? The Obama presidency certainly hasn’t ushered in an era of comity and prosperity. In the end, though, Palin is offering the opposite of hope and change: despair and stasis. The despair is histrionic and purposefully distorted; the stasis proved disastrous during the Bush Administration. But is Sarah Palin the favorite to win the Republican presidential nomination and therefore someone to be taken absolutely seriously? You betcha.

Read it in full.

What does this mean taken together?

Palin has a bit of a road to climb since she is not expanding the base of people who support her. On the other hand, she is solidifying people such as Broder who are impressed with her populism and the fact that — like her or not — Sarah Palin is coming across as someone who is her own woman and not regurgitating talking points handed to her by her handlers.

Secondly, there is now a notable shift in the conventional wisdom.

Until the Tea Party convention Palin was considered as a contender but not necessarily a serious one for the nomination and it was often said that she really had no hope of being elected.

But now?

She is being taken seriously as a serious contender. And even some who don’t like her can see how she could be elected.

Even with polling numbers that aren’t stellar, that’s big progress — because perception is worth gold in politics. And, increasingly, the perception is emerging that when Palin speaks it’s the voice of a major segment of the Republican party and perhaps the voice of the person who’ll be the party’s 2012 nominee.