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Donald Trump Is Sarah Palin 2.0

Sarah Palin will endorse Donald Trump for president today. I have no idea what effect the endorsement will have, if any, but the endorsement shouldn’t be surprising: Palin and Trump have a number of similarities.

1. They’re not all that conservative

Palin has a reputation for being very conservative, but she’s not., which grades public statements, rates her as a “moderate conservative.” Palin supported a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. She has described herself as a feminist. Palin is far less conservative than other Republican bigwigs, such as Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio; both rate as “hard-core conservatives.”

Palin’s ideology lines up much better with Trump’s. When you convert Palin’s and Trump’s OnTheIssues grades to a -100 (most liberal) to 100 (most conservative) scale,1 Palin and Trump have nearly identical scores (47.4 for Palin and 47.5 for Trump). Trump has strayed from conservative orthodoxy on abortion, foreign policy, gay marriage, Social Security and a whole host of other issues. Palin is more interested in outsider credentials than conservative bona fides.

2. They’re divisive

Few pollsters have asked about Palin’s favorability rating in recent years. In August 2013, however, Monmouth University pegged her net favorability among Republicans at +27 percentage points. Among all voters, she was at -35 percentage points, thanks to a -39 net favorability rating among independents. Although those numbers might have improved somewhat since the last poll was taken, they illustrate that Palin has plenty of detractors within the Republican Party and is heavily disliked outside of it.

Trump fits this to a T. According to Gallup, Trump’s net favorability is +27 percentage points among Republicans. That’s far lower than Cruz’s (+51) or Rubio’s (+46). He’s also the least-liked Republican running for president among independents; his net favorability in that group is -27 percentage points. It’s not much better among the public overall (-25).

So how is Trump leading the race for the Republican presidential nomination? As is the case with Palin, the voters who love Trump really love him. The voters who don’t like him really don’t like him.

3. They’re “mavericks”

In case you don’t remember, John McCain chose Palin as his vice-presidential pick in 2008 in part because of her outsider credentials. Palin became Alaska’s governor by challenging incumbent Republican Gov. Frank Murkowski in a 2006 primary. She then backed Joe Miller in his primary against incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski in 2010. And lest you think this is about conservatism, Palin backed the independent team of former Republican Bill Walker and Democrat Byron Mallott against her former running mate Sean Parnell in the 2014 Alaska gubernatorial election.

Does this sound like someone we know? Trump donated mostly to Democrats until very recently. Moreover, his entire campaign has been based around taking on the establishment, including criticizing McCain.

Check out the latest polls and forecasts for the 2016 presidential primaries.


  1. Each “very conservative” position on is assigned a score of 5, each “conservative” position gets a score of 2.5, each “moderate” position a 0, each “liberal” position a -2.5, and each “very liberal” position a -5.

Harry Enten was a senior political writer and analyst for FiveThirtyEight.