A new study is going to rock one of the most treasured beliefs held by campus progressives:  John McCain lost the election when he tapped Sarah Palin to be his running mate.

A pair of political scientists from Bradley University actually found Palin helped McCain in the 2008 presidential election.

“We find that using marginal effects, as is appropriate for cross-sectional data, shows that Palin had a positive effect on McCain vote choice, and based on our model specification, may have had a positive, conditional relationship for independent voters,” Edward M. Burmilla and Josh M. Ryan wrote in an article which appeared in the Political Research Quarterly.

They go on to conclude that, “when confidence intervals are included, Palin’s effect was not necessarily the largest among the nominees [for vice-president] since 1972.”

Their work runs counter to not only the collective wisdom of Democratic as well as Republican talking heads whose domes have dominated the airwaves over the past five years but also that of a quartet of other political science profs and researchers whose analyses have been more widely publicized including:

  • University of Central Florida professor Jonathan Knuckey
  • Roy Ellis of Stanford
  • D. Sunshine Hillygus and
  • Norman H. Nie, both of Duke.

Newsbusters offers more information on the study, including a sound debunking.

The interaction term is not significant and there is no feeling thermometer rating for Palin that produces a negative and statistically significant slope on McCain vote choice for independents or moderates. In fact, the slope is positive, though not statistically significant for all Palin feeling thermometer values. …

There is never a statistically significant negative effect of feelings toward Palin on McCain vote choice conditional on ideology. As before, there are no statistically significant differences between conservatives and moderates. The substantive interpretation is clear: the positive relationship between McCain vote choice and feelings for Palin is not conditional on party identification or ideology. Not only is there no negative effect for independent voters on feelings toward Palin, there is no meaningful difference between Republicans and independents on how feelings toward Palin affected McCain vote choice. Our analysis reaches a different conclusion from the original paper; we find that the positive relationship between the Palin feeling thermometer and the likelihood of voting for McCain does not depend on a voter‘s ideology or party affiliation. Therefore the results call into question the major conclusions of the paper; Palin did not have a negative effect on McCain‘s vote share overall, nor did she result in ―eroded support for McCain among critical `swing voters‘ such as Independents and moderates, (2012: 286-287).