Friday, October 06, 2006

New Dittman Poll Shows Alaska Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Sarah Palin Opening Up a 12-Point Lead

The Palin campaign has released the results of the recent David Dittman poll (although they've not posted it on their campaign website yet), citing it as evidence that Sarah Palin (pictured at left) is ahead and has no reason to go negative against Knowles. For the sake of disclosure, the poll was paid for by the Palin campaign. First reported by Anchorage Daily News reporter Kyle Hopkins on his campaign blog, "The Trail". Also discussed on the An Alaskan Abroad Blog, operated by a left-of-center blogger who is well-informed about Alaska political issues.

The numbers show that the 6-point lead Hellenthal showed for Sarah Palin has now opened up to 12 percentage points.

Sarah Palin (R) - 49%
Tony Knowles (D) - 37%
Andrew Halcro (Ind) - 4%
Unsure - 10%

According to Dittman, the poll was conducted between September 23rd and September 27th, with a sample size of 507 people. The first question asked was:

The general election for Governor of Alaska is now a little more than a month away. If the election were held today, who would you most likely vote for between …”.People then heard a list of the candidate’s names - Halcro, Knowles and Palin - though the order was rotated so no one candidate was always mentioned first, according to Dittman. Other questions followed, but Dittman didn’t release those publicly.

However, Patty Ginsburg of the Knowles campaign disputes the results, saying that Palin is not 12 points up on Knowles. “Unless you are confident that a poll has come from somebody who doesn’t have an interest in the results, then you really need to take it with a grain of salt,” she said.

So how does she know the race is closer? Perhaps she was thinking about the Hellenthal poll taken during the first week in September, which showed Sarah Palin only 6 points ahead of Tony Knowles. However, if the Knowles campaign commissioned any of their own polls, they've declined to release the numbers, so far.

Commentary: Here's a recap of all previous general election polls, replete with pertinent links:

Hellenthal Poll, taken the first week in September:

Palin - 46.7%
Knowles - 40.8%
Halcro - 8.6%

Rasmussen Poll, taken September 5th, limited to head-to-head between Palin and Knowles:

Palin - 52%
Knowles - 38%

And the first Dittman Poll, taken August 30th:

Palin - 46%
Knowles - 29%
Halcro - 3%
Unsure - 22%

The Hellenthal Poll is the only one showing Palin with only a single-digit lead, and Hellenthal was notoriously wrong during the primary election campaign, consistently showing John Binkley ahead of Sarah Palin. However, the September Hellenthal Poll hinted at a trend which has manifested in this latest Dittman Poll.

Note how the Unsure percentage dropped from 22% in the first Dittman Poll to only 10% in the latest Dittman Poll. Now look at the other changes. Palin rose from 46% the first time to 49% this time. However, Tony Knowles jumped from 29% the first time to 37% this time. Andrew Halcro is virtually unchanged. Could this mean that the "Unsures" are more likely to support Tony Knowles than Sarah Palin? This has been an issue of concern.

And what might be causing the "Unsures" to gravitate more towards Tony Knowles? One answer is a TV spot deployed by the Knowles campaign in which someone says that we can't afford to give a governor "on-the-job training" (in reference to the natural gas pipeline). This message might be resonating with some Alaskans.

Another answer has been some minor uncertainty about where Sarah Palin stands on some issues, driven by conflicting public statements from her, along with some questions about her selection of campaign venues. First, The Trail reported some confusion over her stand on school vouchers. The Palin campaign attributed the confusion to a clerical error in completing the Alaska Family Council's survey. However, it made her look indecisive and inefficient at best, and disingenuous at worst. Then The Trail reported that she missed three meetings with the Alaska State Chamber of Commerce, the Alaska Nurses Association, and a group of Native corporation CEOs. In the case of one of those missed venues, she chose instead to attend a ceremonial troop deployment at Fort Richardson to show her concern for our troops. And Kyle Hopkins is not singling her out for criticism; he's questioned some of Tony Knowles' actions as well. However, this otherwise normal confusion of a campaign, combined with Tony Knowles' skillful and timely ads about "on-the-job" training and "lack of experience", are sowing doubt amongst a few Palin supporters as well as some of the "Unsures". Her evolving perspective about the natural gas pipeline route has also been critiqued, but any candidate has the right to change a position once the candidate learns new information superseding the previous position.

An interesting sidelight: One of my neighbors, a former Marine in his 80s, who's to the right of me politically, disclosed that he intends to support Tony Knowles because Knowles promised to restore the Longevity Bonus. He's too rich to qualify for Frank Murkowski's need-based replacement programs, but too poor to do without the Bonus. And he's now displaying a Knowles sign in his yard. Don't worry - our friendship is more important than our political differences.

Now that Palin's lead is down to 12 points and it looks like the Unsures are jumping aboard the Knowles train by a 2-1 margin, it's time for Palin to tighten up her rhetoric and go on the attack. Attack doesn't mean "abuse"; it means address Tony Knowles' inadequacies and expose the mistakes of his previous two administrations. In particular, remind people that Tony Knowles twice proposed a state income tax. Plant firmly in the mind of the public that Tony = Tax. The people of Fairbanks proved this past Tuesday night how little they like taxes; they gutted their existing taxation scheme and put their city government inside a financial box. Sarah Palin needs to get on that horse and start riding it.

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