By Dan Balz and Jon Cohen
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, December 17, 2010; 7:00 AM
Sarah Palin has played a prominent role in defining Republican Party politics this year but still faces sizable obstacles if she decides to run for president in 2012, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
Six in 10 voters say they would not even consider voting for the former Alaska governor if she launches a White House bid, and she loses badly to President Obama in a hypothetical 2012 general election test.
Despite her high profile, amplified this fall by her campaign appearances and endorsements and her new reality TV program, "Sarah Palin's Alaska," Palin has not made demonstrable progress in overcoming opposition to her possible candidacy. If anything, she has slipped over the past year.
A slim 8 percent of all registered voters say they would definitely vote for Palin for president, while 31 percent say they would consider doing so. Fully 60 percent say they definitely would not. Among all Americans, 59 percent say they would not vote for her, up from 53 percent in November 2009.
Even among Republicans, Palin has detractors, with 29 percent saying they would definitely not back her candidacy. Her highest support comes from Republican women and conservative Republicans. Even so, only about one in five in each group say they would certainly support her presidential bid.
Neither does Palin enjoy wide support among independents: 62 percent say they definitely would not vote for her. Among moderates, 66 percent write off her prospective candidacy.
In a hypothetical head-to-head general election matchup against Obama, the president prevails by 13 percentage points over Palin among registered voters, 53 to 40 percent. Palin draws 78 percent of Republicans in that test, while Obama enjoys support from 89 percent of Democrats. Independents break widely - 56 percent to 35 percent - for the incumbent.
Still, the survey shows limits to Obama's appeal. More than four in 10 voters - 44 percent - say they would not even consider voting for him in 2012, with about one in four definitively behind him. Among independents, 40 percent say they would not vote for him, 36 percent say they would consider it and 21 percent say they would certainly back him.
The survey also measured the potential appeal of New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg as an independent candidate for president in 2012. While just 2 percent of registered voters say they would definitely support him, another 45 percent said they would think about it. Forty-three percent say they would definitely not vote for him.
In a hypothetical three-way ballot test, Bloomberg draws about a fifth of the vote (18 percent), but doesn't alter the likely outcome. Obama prevails easily in such a matchup, with 46 percent of registered voters supporting him. Palin runs second with 32 percent.
Bloomberg's highest levels of support come from independents and young voters, although Obama far outpaces him in both groups. He also draws 25 percent of the vote from those who disapprove of Obama's handling of the presidency, with Palin taking almost six in 10.
The poll was conducted Dec. 9 to 12 among a random national sample of 1,001 adults. Interviews were conducted on conventional and cellular telephones. Results from the full survey have a margin-of-sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.