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What Sarah Palin And Chris Christie Have In Common

Sarah Palin is a more conservative version of Chris Christie — at least as far as the 2016 Republican nomination contest is concerned.

After the revelation that she was thinking about running for president, and after her much-panned speech at the Iowa Freedom Summit, Palin has re-entered the presidential spotlight. But if she were to run, she would almost certainly go nowhere.

I say this on the basis of her net favorable rating (favorable minus unfavorable rating) among Republicans: It’s not very good. Although no live interview polls have tested Palin’s popularity in the past year and a half, surveys in 2013 found that Palin was almost universally known (average name recognition of 89 percent) but not universally beloved (net favorable rating of just +24.3 percentage points) among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents.

As I wrote this week, this compares miserably with past presidential nominees for the two parties at this point in the process (since 1980, not including incumbent presidents). Eventual nominees start the campaign either well-known and well-liked in their party, or not well-known. Palin, like Christie, isn’t in either category.


Given her name recognition, Palin’s net favorable rating should be about +54 percent; she’s about 30 percentage points, or three standard deviations, off the pace. Christie’s net favorable rating, by comparison, is 25 percentage points below what you’d expect from an eventual nominee. No previous nominee has been more than 10 percentage points or one standard deviation below what would have been expected.

Palin’s big problem, not surprisingly, is from the moderates in her party. In a July 2013 Gallup survey, her net favorable rating among moderate and liberal Republicans stood at a bargain-basement low of -11 percentage points. No matter how strong Palin is among conservatives, it’s pretty much impossible for her to overcome her unpopularity with the GOP’s center.

Palin is stronger than Christie in one respect. Christie’s net favorable rating in a June 2014 Gallup survey was only +19 among moderate and liberal Republicans, and just +5 among conservative Republicans. That is, he wasn’t popular with either wing of the party.

Palin, by contrast, is a star with conservatives; she has net favorable rating of +45 percentage points. Palin is still a player, but only with one slice of her party.

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