How Sarah Palin Works

Key Issues and Policy of Sarah Palin

Alaska governor Sarah Palin in her office on Dec. 6, 2007. Less than a year later, Palin would be picked as the Republican vice-presidential nominee.
Alaska governor Sarah Palin in her office on Dec. 6, 2007. Less than a year later, Palin would be picked as the Republican vice-presidential nominee.
Joseph Connolly/Getty Images

Palin fashioned herself as a fiscal conservative, especially in the realm of gover­nment spending. After being elected governor of Alaska in 2006, she removed the job of personal chef in the governor's mansion from the state payroll, listed the governor's private jet for auction on eBay, flew coach, and drove herself to work [source: New York Times]. She was taken to task, however, for accepting more than $17,000 in taxpayer money as per diem expenses for working from home, rather than at her official office in the capital of Juneau -- which is 600 miles (965 km) away [source: New York Times].

Her willingness to eradicate earmark spending was also called into question over the Bridge to Nowhere. One of John McCain's key themes during his campaign (as well as throughout his political career), has been ending excessive government spending through pork-barrel projects. He targeted one project in particular to serve as the icon for government excess, a proposed $398 million bridge to link the small town of Ketchikan, Alaska, to the airport on nearby Gravina Island. McCain decried it as the Bridge to Nowhere, and railed against it extensively in the Senate during his campaign to rid Congress of earmarks.


The bridge came up again after Palin's nomination, when she said in her acceptance speech and other successive speeches that, as governor, she told Congress "thanks, but no thanks" for funding for the bridge [source: Palin]. Like McCain, Palin considers spending reform a key issue and built her career on the issue. Her initial attitude toward the Gravina Island bridge project was called into question by the media, which reported that Gov. Palin expressed support for federal funds for the project in 2006. She later changed her position and reallocated the federal funds to other projects around the state [source: WSJ].

Palin is a staunch supporter of energy independence for the United States. She publicly supported the removal of offshore oil drilling bans along U.S. coastline and said that Alaskans were "ready, willing and able to contribute" to national energy independence through drilling in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge [source: Fox News].

Her religious views are strong and shape her views on family and morality. Palin was christened as a Catholic but later became a nondenominational "Bible-believing Christian" [source: Time]. She is anti-abortion, against stem cell research and state health benefits for same-sex partners, and believes that sex education should consist mostly of teaching abstinence [source: Boston Globe, National Post]. As governor, she decreed two religious-based state holidays, urging Alaskans to observe the National Day of Prayer on May 1, 2008, and proclaiming Nov. 18 to 25, 2007, as Bible Week in Alaska [source: Alaska Governor's Office: 2008, 2007]. Palin also supports teaching creationism and intelligent design alongside evolution in public schools [source: Biography].

Palin tends to support using American natural resources rather than overlooking them for ecological reasons. She created a subcabinet on climate change for Alaska after taking the governor's office. Also as governor, she threatened to sue the federal government if it didn't take polar bears off the endangered species list, as protected habitats and oil and gas deposits often coincide in Alaska [source: WSB]. She is an anthropogenic climate skeptic -- aware that climate change is taking place, yet not convinced it's caused by humans. She also supported a controversial bounty on wolves that paid aerial hunters $150 for the foreleg of each wolf they turned in to the state. The initiative was an effort to reduce the wolf population in order to maintain the moose and caribou populations in Alaska [source: Salon].

Some point to factors like her support of aerial wolf hunting as proof that Palin is unfit for the vice-presidency. Others, however, see it as one more sign that she's unlike any other candidate the country's ever seen.