Josh Goodman is a former staff writer for GOVERNING..E-mail: email@example.com
Sarah Palin has an 80% approval rating -- I've read it more times than I can count over the past five days. But is it true?
It certainly was true as of May. Take a look at this report from KTUU in Alaska, as reproduced by the Republican Governors Association:
KTUU - Sarah Palin's popularity initially seemed to be a honeymoon of sorts -- the soccer mom had it coming, many thought, after defeating an incumbent governor and a former two-term governor in the 2006 elections.
As 2007 progressed Palin's continued high standing in public opinion polls became a big political success story.
Now, her sustained approval rating of more than 80 percent is widely seen as something of a phenomenon.
Last week, a poll found 86 percent of Alaskans had a favorable view of Sarah Palin, with more than half of those expressing very favorable feelings toward the governor.
That, however, was before Troopergate hit. The most recent independent survey available is a July 30 Rasmussen poll which found that 64% Alaskans rate the job Palin is doing as excellent or good. That's not shabby by any means, but it's not 80%.
But, Rasmussen seems to produce lower approval ratings than other polling firms. That may be a result of the choices they give respondents: excellent, good, fair and poor. Even in April, when other polling firms had Palin at 80% or higher, Rasmussen "only" had her at 73%.
A week before the Rasmussen poll, Hays Research, another polling firm, surveyed Palin's approval rating. The result: 80% exactly. That was also after Troopergate got started. Plus, the McCain campaign released polling today that put Palin at 86%, although they aren't exactly unbiased observers.
What's the upshot here? If I were writing a newspaper story on Palin, I'd use one of two journalistic techniques that help ensure accuracy: 1) Get very specific. 2) Fudge like crazy.
Specific: Palin is broadly popular in Alaska. A late July poll from Hays Research placed her approval rating at 80%.
Fudging: Palin consistently has had sky-high approval ratings in polls of Alaskans.
What I wouldn't write, however, is "Palin has an 80% approval rating" and just leave it at that.
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