Election analysts at FiveThirtyEight say that Alaska’s new untried election system means Palin is not a shoo-in


On the FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast, election prognosticators said that former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is not a shoo-in for winning this year’s election for Alaska’s lone congressional seat, open since Rep. Don Young died on March 18.

“It’s been nearly 14 years since Sarah Palin rocketed to one of the best-known and most polarizing politicians in the country as John McCain’s running mate in the 2008 presidential election,” said Galen Druke, FiveThirtyEight’s podcast producer and reporter.

Since then, Palin has hinted at comebacks, but her decision to run in this year’s U.S. House election is her first return to electoral politics.

The FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast analysts explain why Palin may not be a shoo-in for the seat left behind when Rep. Don Young died in March. For one thing, she quit the job as governor when the going got tough.

The analysts cited top-line finding from an Alaska Survey Research poll from last October, which tested Palin’s chances against Sen. Lisa Murkowski. The survey found that just 31 percent of Alaskans have a favorable opinion of Palin. That’s the same approximate rating found by the Must Read Alaska poll, conducted by by the national pollster Remington Research Group last week:

“Among broader electorate, she might have issues. She’s not terribly popular,” said Sarah Frostenson, FiveThirtyEight’s politics editor. With the new election system, including an open primary and ranked choice voting general election, “she may not be able to build the coalition she needs to win statewide.”

In the primary, all candidates run together, then appear on the general election ballot in ranked choice voting.

If Palin is the lone republican against a democrat, she’ll win, but if up against a more moderate republican, the electorate could team up against her. But with such a fast turnaround on the special election, Palin has the advantage at least at the beginning, because some of the other candidates don’t have well-known names.

The group acknowledged Alaska’s election system is now very confusing under Ballot Measure 2, and that there are other Republicans in the race and the 2020 Democratic nominee Al Gross.

Nate Silver, who runs the FiveThirtyEight, posted an explanation of Palin’s challenges in this video:

FiveThirtyEight is a website that focuses on opinion poll analysis, politics, economics, and sports blogging.


  1. Anyone know exactly how this ranked choice thing actually works? If you vote for just the #1 choice and leave the other three blank, is your ballot invalid?

    • Yes, your first choice will count until they are eliminated. Once eliminated, your vote will be considered and exhausted vote.

        • Jeff,
          “Not never”? So you’re saying the #1 vote will be eliminated under any scenario? Let’s please try and not confuse this any more than needed by adding double negatives to the equation.

          If no candidate receives greater than 50% of the initial #1 vote count then the candidate who receives the least amount of #1 votes is eliminated from contention. If your #1 vote is for the last place candidate then that vote is discarded and your #2 choice is counted, if you did not make a #2 choice then your ballot is exhausted and is no longer counted…so on down the line until a candidate receives greater than 50% of the counted votes.

  2. Republicans have a problem with getting behind 1 candidate. Our vote gets split. Democrats have no problem rallying behind 1 candidate and that is to their advantage. They know if more than 1 Democrat is on the ballot, they won’t have a chance. They also know with 2-3 Republicans on the general ballot, the Democrat candidate could win. We need to rally behind 1 Republican candidate after the primary. Whether it ends up being Sarah or Nick, I don’t care. Both seem like they’ll do fine. I hope one will drop out before the general and endorse the other.

  3. I’d rather see nicholas begich iii or matt shuckerow as u.s congressman than sarah palin nor any of the other 34 whom i think couldn’t last longer than 4 years.

  4. The best poll for Alaskans is the “86st,” which would boot Sarah out of Alaska and send her back to her new home state, ……..Arizona.
    Alaska is too small for both of us.

      • So is Globe, Examiner, and Star. Even if Mom doesn’t get elected, we are almost guaranteed our own reality tv show for a year. The Kardashians have nothing on us.
        Except, ……. Dad still refuses to wear heels, make-up, and a skirt. But we’re working on him.

  5. Walker and Brena need to fix this. They chose her, fed her ego, and set this crap storm in motion.

  6. With ranked choice voting and a corrupted election system, I don’t see much hope for a Republican to get this position. The Dems have been planning for this. The computer system in Juneau’s secret vote counting building is tied in with Anchorage. We’ll see.

  7. What 538 and others may be missing is how poorly the Democrats are polling in this election cycle. It’s so bad the “big name” Democrat among the 48 running for Congressman Young’s seat isn’t. Gross isn’t a Democrat.
    He’s declared himself a “nonpartisan.” Along with 11 other nonpartisan candidates, he has effectively taken himself out of the running.
    I’m sorry, but voters don’t wander into the booth thinking “hmmm, what flavor of nonpartisan am I in favor of today? Or wait, should I going to choose amongst the 10 “undeclared” candidates. Gee, what does nonpartisan or undeclared tell me about the candidate? Wishy, washey, flippity floppy, not much.
    My prediction, perhaps worth what you’re pay’n for it, is that Republicans have a very good chance of three, possibly 4, candidates advancing to the general election Nov 8th.

    • Split the conservative vote three ways, of course the progressive will win. That’s what they are counting on. I will vote my number one pick first, followed by bottom of the barrel choices.

  8. As an independent I will never vote for Palin, I will leave it blank first, same goes for China Walker that b_____d can go straight to the devil.

  9. The person on the video does not know what he is talking about. Begich has a better chance of gaining votes from Democrats and Independents than Palin?! Maybe he breaks even on the latter. No chance on the former. Palin actually reminds me of Trump in the 2016 primary. The majority of the primary voters regularly opposed him, but he got enough rock solid support from his voters to build momentum by winning delegates with 30% or less of the vote. Palin almost certainly will not get a majority of first place votes. But Democrats will almost certainly rank her ahead of Begich. And a lot of conservatives will rank her ahead of Gross. Her percentages will likely improve with each round since she has a strong enough base to do better than fourth place. In summary, ranked choice voting helps her chances.

  10. Nick Begich has name recognition, too. For me, I only know of Joe Begich, and that is not a good thing for Nick!

    • I would have given Nick a chance against Don since I didn’t want to be forced injected and Don required his office be. What is Sarah’s stance on the infamous covid injection?

  11. So long as mail in ballots and rank choice exist, there will never be another honest election in Alaska.

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