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Poll: "D.C. Elites" Say Sarah Palin Unqualified to Be President

Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin signs her new book 'America By Heart: Reflections on Family, Faith and Flag,' Nov. 23, 2010 in Phoenix, Arizona.
Getty Images
Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin
Getty Images

Well-to-do Washingtonians are far less likely than the general American public to believe Sarah Palin qualified to be president - and an overwhelming majority of them believe the former Alaska governor is actually a negative influence on U.S. politics as a whole, according to a Politico poll released Wednesday.

The results of two separate surveys conducted Dec. 3-8, one of which sampled 1,000 people nationwide with a 3.1 margin of error, and the other of which polled 225 Washington elites with a (more sizable) 6.53 percentage margin of error, point to a disconnect between the political beliefs of so-called "Washington insiders" and the rest of the nation's voters - a perhaps unsurprising fact that Palin, who has long claimed to champion the underdog, has used to her advantage since her appointment to the vice presidential ticket in 2008.

According to the survey, only 11 percent of the so-called "D.C. elites" (defined in this poll as people who live in the D.C. metropolitan area, make more than $75,000 per year, are involved somehow in politics or policy making and have one or more college degrees) think Palin is qualified to be president - whereas 23 percent of those "non-DC elites" surveyed thought the same.

Inversely, 86 percent of Washington elites thought Palin specifically unqualified to be president, as opposed to 64 percent of the general public who believed the same.

Furthermore, 79 percent of Beltway insiders said they thought Palin was "a negative influence in national politics" - up nearly 30 points from the general population, of whom 50 percent chose the same characterization. Slightly more than half of the general public, however, said they viewed Palin as "a breath of fresh air." Only 15 percent of Washingtonians said the same.

Meanwhile, respondents in the two groups opted differently when asked who was most likely to be the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, as well: Those among the general population chose Sarah Palin as the prospective nominee by 18 percent, leading Mitt Romney at 13 percent and Mike Huckabee at 9 percent. D.C. elites, meanwhile, saw Romney besting Palin as the party's 2012 contender by a significant 19 points, with 30 percent to Palin's 11 percent. (Mike Huckabee trailed at six percent, and Newt Gingrich and Haley Barbour tied at five percent each.)

Mark Penn, the CEO of the polling firm Penn Schoen Berland, which conducted the survey, told Politico that Palin's lack of Washington appeal was, in some ways, what made her so popular. (Note: Penn worked for Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign.)

"Palin is a populist-oriented phenomenon drawn heavily from lower middle-class voters, but she also deliberately comes off as anti-intellectual and anti-Washington, so it is no surprise she does not play in the Beltway," he said. "Elites almost everywhere are turned off by her and some of the very things she does that attracts her core support."


Lucy Madison
Lucy Madison is a political reporter for CBSNews.com. You can read more of her posts here. Follow Hotsheet on Facebook and Twitter.