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Sarah Palin's SNL Problem

Sarah Palin, Tina Fey AP Photo/Chris Miller; Lisa O'Connor/ZUMAPress.com

So, what happens if Sarah Palin does Sarah Palin?

With the TV world waiting to see if the Alaskan governor pops up on tonight's Saturday Night Live special, one new study says that when Tina Fey does Palin, the Alaskan governor's favorability rating drops. 

The poll, conducted yesterday by a research company and a college-based public-opinion institute, asked 314 people how they felt about Palin after watching snippets of SNL sketches spoofing the consonant-dropping vice presidential hopeful.

The results?

Unsurprisingly, Palin's favorability rating among her fellow Republicans held steady and strong, dropping just 1 point to 79 percent. Just as unsurprisingly, Palin's already low favorability rating among rival Democrats fell even further, down to 17 percent, a drop of 7 points.

Among all-important swing voters, Palin's appeal to unaligned independents fell 4 percent, to 33 percent.

The bottom line: The SNL sketches had the effect of a typical attack ad, with Palin's favorability rating among all voters slipping 4 points, to 43 percent.

"SNL has had an impact on the political process," says Jeff Weingrad, who, with coauthor Doug Hill, wrote the book, literally, on the landmark show, Saturday Night: A Backstage History of Saturday Night Live. "The fact is that SNL does some political satire and people know about it, and people talk about it:"

The buzz on the Fey-Palin sketches has helped drive up SNL's ratings about 50 percent over last season. Still, Weingard doesn't think SNL will lose, or win, the election for Palin and John McCain, just as he doesn't think SNL necessarily doomed the show's first political target, President Ford.  "For the most part, that type of satire is generally preaching to the converted," he says.

If SNL's political history has shown anything, it's that politicians will never stop trying to convert the show's audience to their side. In the past year, McCain, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have all made appearances. Speculation has Palin adding her name to that list before the November election, and maybe as soon as tonight.

If being spoofed is no fun—or helpful to the poll numbers—then joining the spoofers runs its own risks. (See Ford's videotaped appearance on a 1976 SNL that ramped up its jabs on his perceived buffoonery and featured a parody commercial for a jam called Painful Rectal Itch.)

"I don't know if I would have her go on the show," Weingrad says of Palin. "She runs the risk of Republicans feeling this is too serious of a time for her to be fooling around on SNL. And she runs the risk of not everybody pulls it off."

Fey's Palin, after all, is pretty tough to beat.

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