For months, John McCain was having trouble getting support from women, even Republican ones. In late July, Barack Obama held an 11-point lead among likely women voters over the Republican senator. But things changed with the addition of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to the ticket, according to a new Lifetime Networks "Every Woman Counts" poll.
"The selection of Sarah Palin as McCain's VP placed him back in center court for women voters," says Republican pollster Kellyanne Conway, who helped conduct the poll. With the Palin pick, McCain strengthened his support among women, with 45 percent of women now saying they will support the Republican ticket and 47 percent pledging to support the Democratic ticket.
But instead of nibbling away at disenchanted Hillary Clinton supporters, the "Palin Effect" did something else altogether. "There had been a time when Democrats had been able to aspire to get some Republican women. With Palin on the ticket, I think that will be very hard to do," explains Democratic pollster Celinda Lake. "It closed the enthusiasm gap."
Now 91 percent of Republican women are behind the Republican ticket, and 83 percent of Democratic women are behind the Democratic ticket. "We have seen since Palin being on the ticket one of the persistent effects is that the Republicans who were less united than the Democrats are now even more united than the Democrats," says Lake.
And while a majority of women surveyed had a positive view of Palin, her pick was also very polarizing, the pollsters say. Overall, 18 percent of the women surveyed say Palin made them more likely to vote Republican in November, while 20 percent said they were now less likely. "She clearly had an impact in polarizing both sets of partisans," says Lake. Among independent women, 23 percent said they were more likely and 19 percent said they were less likely.
Since Palin is new to the presidential race and the national political scene, some might think that Clinton would still fare better when women were asked who would be the best role model for young girls, but not so. Palin edged out Clinton, receiving 28 percent of responses. Clinton got 23 percent.
But the top spot went to someone else—Michelle Obama—where 29 percent of women said the potential future first lady would be the best role model for young women.