ST. PAUL—Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin's prime time acceptance speech last night "clearly improved" her standing among women who participated in two focus groups in Nevada after the speech, according to Democratic pollsters at Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research.
But it appears that Palin's aggressive oratory - which had GOP conventioneers on their feet - did not did not fundamentally change the character of the race among women voters who watched the speech live on television, the pollsters say. "We saw no electoral movement," pollster Anna Greenberg says.
The speech helped reinforce support for John McCain among those who were leaning toward voting for the Republican, but did not appear to influence those who described themselves as undecided or leaning toward Democratic nominee Barack Obama. The swing state focus groups included a mix of undecided voters, and weak supporters of either Obama or McCain.
Palin's favorability among the 22 women who viewed the speech in the battleground state jumped 10 points to 39 percent, says Greenberg. But there also emerged, she says, "very significant questions" about Palin's experience, especially on economic issues, and particularly among unmarried women.
The speech by the second woman ever to be nominated to a major party ticket inspired a "lively" debate about gender roles, politics, and the challenges she and her husband could face if she's elected, the pollsters say. Many women, especially married women, "questioned [Palin's] ability to serve and raise a family, particularly one with special needs." The Palin's youngest child has Down syndrome.
Unmarried women had more questions about Palin's experience, and her ability to tackle their number one issue: the economy.
Several women in the focus groups were Hillary Clinton supporters, and they did not show any movement to the McCain camp after Palin's speech, Greenberg says. But a majority of the women said that they felt they could relate to the Alaska governor and connected to her life as a working mom. "Confident," "poised," and "comfortable in her own skin," were a few of the descriptions the women used to talk about Palin's speech.
Palin's anti-abortion views were already well know by the women who participated in the focus groups and even before the speech she had 72 percent name recognition among the participants.
The pollsters cautioned that the focus groups results are not predictive, but simply give a sense of where wavering women voters may go come November. And both of the campaigns are looking to capture this key voting bloc. According to a survey of women voters, a vast majority of them likely voters, conducted in the days before Palin's speech, the pollsters found:
-Obama leads McCain among women likely voters, 54 to 39 percent, a margin driven by unmarried women, 63 percent of whom said they support Obama.
-McCain leads among married women, 50 to 46 percent - unchanged, the pollsters said, since July.