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Palin and the Youth Vote

Sarah Palin Could Give the Democrats 40 More Years in the White House

Following the 2008 presidential election, strategist James Carville predicted that Democrats would dominate national politics for “40 More Years.” His reasoning boiled down to two words: young voters.

Now Republicans threaten to fulfill Carville’s prediction with their own two words: Sarah Palin.

Sarah Palin might have her fans, but among young American voters (18 to 29), she is widely unpopular. According to a recent Rock the Vote poll, only 28% of young voters view Sarah Palin favorably. This lags far behind the 56% favorability rating President Obama notched, the 46% of the Democratic Party, and the 36% rating of the Republican Party.

A recent poll of 1,000 college students by RK Researchconfirms this sentiment. When asked to rate candidates on a scale of 1 (strongly oppose) to 10 (strongly support), the surveyed students gave Palin an average of 2.56, placing her dead last of the 9 Republican names mentioned.

Rudy Giuliani 4.723163842
John McCain 4.42
Mitt Romney 4.19431988
Arnold Schwarzenegger 4.113440197
Ron Paul 4.089879154
Mike Huckabee 4.064705882
Bobby Jindal 4.011086475
Newt Gingrich 3.565789474
Sarah Palin 2.56346382

Nor did Palin do particularly well with self-identifying student Democrats or Republicans. Democrats kept Palin in last place, ranking her even lower:  1.59.

Rudy Giuliani 4.066666667
Arnold Schwarzenegger 4.018181818
Ron Paul 3.233333333
John McCain 3.160071942
Mitt Romney 2.788990826
Mike Huckabee 2.775330396
Bobby Jindal 2.730769231
Newt Gingrich 2.402234637
Sarah Palin 1.529824561

And though Republicans rated her higher (4.45), she still did poorly when compared to other names.

Mitt Romney 6.275449102
Bobby Jindal 6.157894737
John McCain 6.060301508
Rudy Giuliani 5.865497076
Mike Huckabee 5.859649123
Newt Gingrich 5.518796992
Ron Paul 4.761290323
Sarah Palin 4.445
Arnold Schwarzenegger 4.216931217

The poisonous bite of a Palin nomination could go beyond the 2012 election. Yes, she would lose the youth vote in 2012 – perhaps to an even greater tune than Republicans lost it in 2008 (66% for Obama to 33% for McCain) – but she could also potentially turn an entire generation away from the Republican party. The “formative years” and “stable partisanship” theories that are well-documented in political science literature suggest that party identification is very stable once chosen at the young adult age. Once a Democrat, always a Democrat. This is especially true when the first two presidential votes go to the Democratic Party.

Accordingly, when considering Sarah Palin, Republicans not only need to think about whether she could win 2012, but what effect she might have on the future of the party. It’s quite possible that Sarah Palin could give the Democrats “40 More Years” in the White House.