Sarah Palin
John Raoux  /  AP
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin speaks to supporters at a Republican National Committee rally in Orlando, Fla., on Oct. 23.
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updated 11/10/2010 4:07:27 PM ET 2010-11-10T21:07:27

Sarah Palin is the most polarizing of the potential 2012 Republican presidential candidates, while impressions of Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney lean more positive, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll.

As for the rest — Pawlenty, Barbour, Thune, Daniels — most Americans say, "Who?"

The election, of course, is far away, and polls this early largely reflect name recognition and a snapshot of current popularity. A year before the last presidential election, the top names in public opinion polls were Rudy Giuliani for the Republicans and Hillary Rodham Clinton for the Democrats. Neither won their party's nomination.

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But jockeying among the dozen-plus Republicans eyeing a chance to challenge President Barack Obama is under way. Soon, they will be slogging their way to living rooms in snowy Iowa, New Hampshire and other early primary states.

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Palin, the former Alaska governor and 2008 vice presidential nominee, is the best-known and most divisive of the bunch. In the wake of her high-profile role in endorsing candidates all over the country, 46 percent of Americans view her favorably, 49 percent unfavorably and 5 percent don't know enough about her to form an opinion.

Her "don't know" score is considerably lower than those registered by other possible candidates tested in the poll.

Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor who won the 2008 GOP Iowa caucus, received the highest favorability rating, 49 percent. About one in four people has no opinion of him, and 27 percent view him unfavorably.

Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who ran in 2008, had similar results. Nearly a quarter of all Americans have no opinion about him, while 46 percent view him favorably, and 31 percent unfavorably.

Mike Huckabee
Jacquelyn Martin  /  AP
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee speaks in Washington on Sept. 17.

But what do independents think?
In terms of winning the 2012 nomination, the question is how Republican-leaning Americans view the contenders. Palin comes out on top. Among adults who identify themselves as Republicans or GOP-leaning independents, 79 percent view her favorably, and 17 percent unfavorably.

These findings worry many Republican officials. The poll suggests Palin might be able to win the nomination. But among independents — who could be the deciding factor in the general election — just 43 percent hold a favorable view of Palin, compared with 61 percent with a positive view of Obama.

And with half of independents viewing Palin unfavorably, she would have to work hard to persuade a majority of voters to back her.

Republican Rep. Spencer Bachus of Alabama recently said Palin's support for tea party-backed candidates cost the GOP control of the Senate.

Elsewhere among the poll's Republican respondents, 74 percent viewed Huckabee favorably, 10 percent unfavorably. Sixty-four percent viewed Romney favorably, 18 percent unfavorably. For former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, it was 68 percent favorable, 21 percent unfavorable.

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The rest of the possible field
Other possible candidates are largely unknown, even among self-identified Republican or GOP-leaning adults. The breakdown:

—Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, 28 percent favorable, 13 percent unfavorable, 59 percent no opinion.

—Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, 27 percent favorable, 14 percent favorable, 58 percent no opinion.

—Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, 24 percent favorable, 13 percent unfavorable, 63 percent no opinion.

—South Dakota Sen. John Thune, 20 percent favorable, 10 percent unfavorable and 70 percent no opinion.

The AP-GfK Poll was conducted Nov. 3-8, 2010, by GfK Roper Public Affairs and Corporate Communications. It involved landline and cell phone interviews with 1, 000 adults nationwide. It has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4.1 percentage points for all surveyed, and a 6.4 percent margin of error among the Republicans surveyed.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Palin’s reality show step toward White House?

  1. Closed captioning of: Palin’s reality show step toward White House?

    >>> sarah palin , the former vice presidential candidate , knocks news commentator and mama grizzly as she calls herself now takes her turn as a reality tv star. the palin family will invite america into their living room on the new tlc show " sarah palin 's alaska ." sarah and her husband todd sat down for an interview to discuss the show, their marriage and what's next for sarah palin . sandra, good morning, good to have you here. so it's interesting that she's doing this reality show now that there's so much question about her political future. you really got to spend a good amount of time with them. two days in their home. what are the real sarah and todd palin like?

    >> they have a very comfortable relationship, they almost don't need to say anything to each other. in fact todd told them their couple time was a long road trip , he would take a nap and she would go out jogging. they have been married 30 years, they're comfortable, cemented and also a real working two-man team. he does everything for her.

    >> she even says that in the interview, she says he is my everything.

    >> he's putting on her earpiece for fox news, googling for the latest news, checking up on candidates she might endorse. they're a really connected team.

    >> the new show on tlc, " sarah palin 's alaska " start this is sunday and a lot of people are wondering if this perhaps isn't an advertisement for her. but karl rove had an interesting take, he said that it would make sarah palin appear less presidential.

    >> i quoted that karl rove comment to her at her kitchen counter . and she showed me her bruised muscles from kick boxing and she said i would like for karl rove to come up here and see me in a man's world. she's afraid of heights.

    >> it's a mark burnett production as well, right?

    >> it started out as a documentary about alaska and the great outdoors. you see them as a very regular family, very involve parents encouraging their kids to challenge themselves.

    >> so it really is unguarded, the family is exposed. and i know sarah palin has called herself a mama grizzly, do they have any concerns about exposing their children to this kind of media.

    >> todd said that he did a little bit. and that's why they insisted that sarah have some editing control. they didn't take anything out, in fact sarah made some suggestions about what images to use over some of her voice over material.

    >> so there's no down side if she's going to have somewhat of a say there.

    >> right, that risk was minimize minimiz minimized, but there are still some telling scenes, willow has a friend who's a boy sneaking up the stairs.

    >> speaking of reality shows , her daughter bristol is a reality show star in " dancing with the stars " she actually got to the finals. and sarah palin said she actually had an ah-ha moment when her daughter bristol made a comment. what did she say?

    >> i think that was why they decided to just jump in and do the show. bristol said when she was going on "dancing" you know mom, whatever i do i'm going to be criticized i might as well go dance. and sarah and todd are going to go dance.

    >> a lot has been made about the financial aspects of the palin household, what do we know about what kind of income or how much they're worth now adays?

    >> that was interesting because i was almost afraid to ask, i know it's a touchy subject with a lot of people. and they seemed unbothered by the question, though they wouldn't answer it. she said reports that she's made 12 million in her first nine months out of office are grossly exaggerated. she said we haven't even made that much yet. i said would you like to correct the record? she said no, part of the freedom of being out of public office , i don't have to.

    >> she talks about the freedom being unshackled from government office , i think it will be a hard change of lifestyle for her to go back to that. but, you know, she said she hasn't made up her mind. she did say if there's an opportunity to make a difference she's going to take it.

    >> and she said that the kids are on board and say, sure mom, let's do it. and todd 's on board.

    >> interestingly, he said about the show, every step we take is a step towards whatever comes next. so i think the show is the next step.

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