Sarah Palin continues to post gruesome poll numbers for a supposedly serious presidential contender. The latest CNN poll found that only 29 percent of Americans believe she is qualified to be president. That number represents a significant decline from perceptions of her qualifications during the campaign, which were already terrible.
Indeed, perceptions of Palin's qualifications are unprecedented among presidential/vice presidential nominees and major presidential contenders in recent years. From Joe Biden to George W. Bush, no one has been perceived as less qualified since Dan Quayle and Ross Perot. The Palin-Quayle parallel, which Jon Chait nailed soon after her nomination, is particularly striking. Each was a surprise VP pick who sparked initial enthusiasm but later became widely perceived as incompetent.
To illustrate the point, here's a comparison of poll results measuring perceptions of Palin and Quayle's qualifications based on time elapsed since their initial convention speeches*:
Though Quayle served as vice president for four years (and got a small bump in the Gulf War period), he could never overcome the perception that he was not qualified to be president. I expect Palin's trajectory to be very similar.
Update 10/30 1:26 PM: Credit where credit is due -- Phil Klinkner raised the Palin-Quayle parallel back on August 30, 2008, citing a Rasmussen poll.
Update 10/31 10:48 AM: In the post above, I didn't make explicit what happened to Quayle after his tenure as vice president. For those who don't know, he withdrew from the presidential race in 1996 and declined to run in 2000. Though he gave various reasons for his decisions to withdraw, the fundamental problem was his perceived lack of qualification to be president. Palin may run in 2012 or 2016 -- the base likes her more than it did Quayle -- but she will face the same obstacles that he did in trying to mount a successful campaign.
* The polls that were included used national adult and registered voter samples with binary qualified/not qualified questions.