A new poll from Rasmussen released Monday reported that Sarah Palin’s divisiveness as a candidate may pose a serious electoral problem for the Republicans in 2012.
According to the poll, nearly half of likely GOP voters who support Palin said they would switch to a third party candidate if the former Alaska governor and current Fox News personality didn’t secure the presidential nomination in 2012. Fully 46 percent of Palin backers said they were likely to vote third party if Palin lost, with 22 percent saying it’s “very likely.”
This devotion among Palin fans is especially problematic for the GOP because, as an earlier Rasmussen poll showed, Palin is the GOP front-runner with the largest opposition among Republican voters. Thirty-three percent of likely GOP voters said Palin was the candidate they least want to see win the presidential nomination.
Other candidates’ support bases aren’t as quick to abandon the party should their candidate not win. Thirty-five percent of Mike Huckabee backers said they would consider a third party if the former Arkansas governor lost, while 31 percent of former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney’s supporters said the same.
But Palin voters abandoning the GOP likely won’t be much help to the Democrats, who stand to gain little from disillusioned Republican voters. Rasmussen reported that 90 percent of likely GOP voters said they were unlikely to vote for President Barack Obama, under any circumstance.
Rasmussen noted that the commitment of Palin backers appeared to have grown in recent months. In a survey taken last November, only 31 percent of Palin backers said they would consider a third party.
But Rasmussen suggests that, at least for some respondents, the third party option is an empty threat.
“During the 2008 Democratic Primary season, a fairly sizable number of Hillary Clinton supporters said they wouldn’t support Barack Obama if he won the nomination,” Rasmussen noted. “But, given a choice between Obama and McCain, those voters came around and supported the Democratic nominee.”
Palin’s overall popularity declined in recent weeks, after a series of perceived blunders following the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson earlier this month.
After taking criticism for having placed Giffords’ name on a “hit list” of targeted Democratic districts, Palin accused her critics of “blood libel,” a move she later defended despite anger from many groups upset at her apparent comparison of her own critics to anti-Semites.
Recent presidential race poll numbers have swung wildly for Palin. In a poll taken earlier this month, Palin ranked in second place with 19 percent support among likely GOP primary voters, behind only Huckabee at 21 percent. But a poll released Friday had Palin at 10 percent, with Romney in the lead at 28 percent and Huckabee at 15 percent.