Poll: 51 percent say reporters are trying to hurt Palin

rasmussenreports.com; September 04, 2008

Over half of U.S. voters (51%) think reporters are trying to hurt Sarah Palin with their news coverage, and 24% say those stories make them more likely to vote for Republican presidential candidate John McCain in November.

Thirty-nine percent (39%) also believe the GOP vice presidential nominee has better experience to be president of the United States than Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama.

But 49% give Obama the edge on experience, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey taken before Palin’s historic speech Wednesday night to the Republican National Convention.

While Republicans and Democrats predictably favor their party’s candidate by overwhelming margins, the experience gap among voters unaffiliated with either party is even narrower than the national totals. Forty-two percent (42%) say Obama has better experience to be president, but 37% say Palin does.

The potential problem for Democrats is that Obama, the junior U.S. senator from Illinois and a former state legislator, is the party’s standard-bearer, while Palin, an ex-mayor and now governor of Alaska, is number two on her party’s ticket.

Palin’s highly successful debut on the national stage Wednesday night at the GOP convention is sure to impact these numbers, too. Her speech repeatedly highlighted her experience versus Obama’s, something she is expected to focus on from now until Election Day.

Just a week ago 67% of voters told Rasmussen Reports they didn’t know enough about Palin, only the second woman ever to be on a national political ticket, to comment on her. Heading into last night’s speech, however, 52% had a favorable opinion of Alaska’s Governor.

In the new survey, while 24% are more likely to vote for Palin due to recent news coverage, 19% say the opposite and 54% say the stories have no impact on their votes.

Nationally, the Rasmussen daily Presidential Tracking Poll showed Obama with a modest but expected bounce following the close of his convention last week, but that is already being offset by the bounce McCain is beginning to get from his party’s gathering.

Since McCain announced Palin as his running mate on Friday, she has been subjected to an unprecedented wave of negative media stories, many focused on her personal life and especially the pregnancy of her unmarried 17-year-old daughter. The focus of the coverage, especially in the blogosphere, has even prompted Obama to distance himself from it.

Republicans have responded angrily, and the media was the target of numerous negative comments over the first two nights of the GOP convention. Several aides to Hillary Clinton, who Obama defeated for the Democratic presidential nomination, also have criticized the media coverage for its sexist tone.

In the new survey, although 85% say they are following news stories about Palin at least somewhat closely, just five percent (5%) think reporters are trying to help her with their coverage, while 35% believe reporters are providing unbiased coverage.

Eighty percent (80%) of Republicans say reporters are trying to hurt the GOP vice presidential nominee, and 28% of Democrats agree. Only six percent (6%) of Republicans and even fewer Democrats (4%)think the reporting is intended to help her. Most Democrats (57%) think the reporters are being unbiased, but just nine percent (9%) of Republicans concur.

Among unaffiliated voters, 49% say reporters are trying to hurt Palin, while 32% say their coverage is unbiased. Only five percent (5%) say reporters are trying to help her.

Voters are more ambivalent about whether the media coverage of Palin and her family reflects a double standard that treats women worse than men. Forty-six percent (46%) say it does, but 35% disagree. Most Republicans and unaffiliated voters say the stories show the media’s double standard against women, but a majority of Democrats disagree.

The findings, nevertheless, are troublesome for the embattled news industry and parallel what voters said in surveys earlier this summer. Sixty-eight percent (68%) of voters now believe most reporters try to help the candidate they want to win, and 49% believe reporters are trying to help Obama this year. Only 14% think they are trying to help McCain. In another survey, 55% said media bias is a bigger problem for the electoral process than large campaign donations.

Although women voters by a 48% to 35% margin believe the coverage of Palin reveals a double standard in the media, they continue to support Obama more than men. Palin in her comments already has made clear that one of her key missions is to lure women voters disaffected by Clinton’s defeat in the Democratic primaries to the McCain column. This national survey of 1,000 Likely Voters was conducted by Rasmussen Reports on September 3, 2008. The margin of sampling error for each survey is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence.

Rasmussen Reports is an electronic publishing firm specializing in the collection, publication, and distribution of public opinion polling information.

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