September 3, 2008

For Immediate Release

National polling on women voters and the McCain-Palin ticket

On behalf of EMILY's List, Garin-Hart-Yang Research Group conducted a national survey among 800 women voters to assess their reactions to and perceptions of Sarah Palin as John McCain's running mate. Interviewing was conducted on August 31 and September 1, 2008. The margin of error for the findings is +/- 3.5 percentage points.

Independently of any late-breaking news regarding Sarah Palin's family situation, the results of this poll for EMILY's List among women voters clearly demonstrate that John McCain's selection of Governor Palin as his running mate will create more of a drag than a lift on the Republican ticket.

First, this selection puts John McCain squarely in the realm of politics over principle in women voters' eyes. Women voters see the choice of Governor Palin as being driven by politics rather than by any sense of conviction on Senator McCain's part that she has the experience and qualities to make a good vice president. Women voters' view of McCain's selection of Palin contrasts sharply to their view of Barack Obama's selection of Joe Biden as his running mate.

Second, Sarah Palin's background and personal narrative are not particularly appealing to women voters, and she matches up poorly against Joe Biden in terms of the potential to establish a compelling narrative.

Third, Governor Palin's inclusion on the ticket squanders, and in fact, reverses John McCain's previous advantage over Barack Obama with regard to experience and readiness to lead. When women voters learn that Palin's total experience in elective office includes two years as governor of Alaska, six years as mayor of a small suburban city, and four years on the city council, and that she has never served in Washington D.C. and has no foreign policy or national security experience, they express notable concern. In fact, a majority (52%) say that this information alone makes them less favorable to Palin (34% much less favorable, 18% somewhat less favorable).

Palin's lack of experience actually is a double-edged sword for McCain in that having the expertise and background to be president was McCain's single biggest advantage among women voters in a poll conducted earlier this month, just prior to the start of the Democratic Convention and the announcement of both parties' vice presidential selections. In that EMILY's List Women's Monitor survey (released 8/20/08 and available at, John McCain lagged far behind Obama on numerous key leadership measures (including caring about and relating to people like you, working across party lines, being independent-minded, and having strong moral, family, and personal values), while McCain bested Obama on only two fronts -- as a strong commander-in-chief and, his greatest marginal advantage (by 35 points), as someone with the experience, background, and knowledge to be president. But women voters now give the edge on that measure -- having the experience, background and knowledge to be president and vice president -- to the Obama-Biden ticket over the McCain-Palin ticket by a decisive 15 point margin (52% to 37%).

Fourth, several of Governor Palin's positions on issues, including her position on abortion, alienate large segments of the women's electorate and add to the perception that the GOP ticket is out of step with women voters' views and priorities.

Fifth, even with the historic inclusion of a woman on the Republican ticket, women voters conclude that the Obama-Biden ticket is more in step with the issues and concerns that are important to women than is the McCain-Palin ticket.

The more that Hillary Clinton's primary supporters learn about Sarah Palin, the less likely they are to support John McCain.

  • By the end of the survey, a 55% majority of Clinton's voters say that Palin's inclusion on the ticket makes them less likely to vote for John McCain (just 9% say her presence on the ticket makes them more likely to support McCain).
  • Obama goes from a 44-percentage-point lead (69% to 25%) to a 54-percentage-point lead (75% to 21%) over McCain among these Clinton voters as they learn more about Sarah Palin's background and her positions on core issues.

Finally, as these survey findings confirm, the Democratic presidential ticket of Barack Obama and Joe Biden continues to benefit from strong support of women voters. By an 11-percentage-point margin (52% to 41%), women voters support the Obama-Biden ticket over the McCain-Palin ticket, which places this Democratic ticket well ahead of Kerry-Edward's performance among women voters in 2004 (+3 points Kerry-Edwards over Bush-Cheney).

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