June 7, 2003
Posted at: 8:05 p.m. CDT
WASHINGTON -- Nearly 2½ years after her husband left the White House, Sen. Hillary Clinton is poorly positioned to take it back: Most Americans don't want her ever to run for president, and her presence on the national stage is a deeply polarizing one.
While 44 percent of Americans express a favorable opinion of Mrs. Clinton, 48 percent view her unfavorably — an unusually high negative rating, and an unusually strong one. More than twice as many people view her "strongly" negatively as strongly positively. And she's no more popular among women than among men.
Mrs. Clinton's popularity largely is limited to Democrats, and is countered, and exceeded in intensity, by her unpopularity among Republicans. Sixty percent of all Republicans, and 71 percent of conservative Republicans, view her strongly unfavorably. By contrast, just 32 percent of all Democrats, and 42 percent of liberal Democrats, view her strongly favorably. (Moreover, conservative Republicans outnumber liberal Democrats by 2-1.)
Mrs. Clinton's popularity peaked, apparently on a wave of sympathy, during the Monica Lewinsky scandal in 1998, when 64 percent of Americans held a favorable impression of her. By September 1999, that had dropped to 49 percent.
Mrs. Clinton's memoir, Living History, is being published this week, and she's the subject of an ABCNEWS special with Barbara Walters airing Sunday at 7 p.m. ET.
Hillary in '08?
In a stark example of the problems Mrs. Clinton would face as a national candidate, only about four in 10 Americans say she should ever run for president, while a majority, 53 percent, says she never should run. Again, there's no substantive difference between women and men.
Even among the party core, enthusiasm for a Clinton candidacy is hardly overwhelming — 60 percent of liberals, 58 percent of Democrats and 52 percent of nonwhites would like to see her run. Again they're outmatched on the other side: A Clinton candidacy is opposed by 56 percent of whites, 60 percent of older Americans, 70 percent of conservatives and 76 percent of Republicans.
Given her within-party popularity — and high name recognition — Mrs. Clinton leads among Democrats (and independents who lean toward the Democratic Party) in a hypothetical matchup for the 2004 presidential nomination. Her 37 percent support far outstrips Sen. Joseph Lieberman, with 14 percent; and Rep. Richard Gephardt, with 10 percent. The remaining seven announced candidates receive support in the single digits.
Mrs. Clinton is supported by 43 percent of Democratic women and 29 percent of men, leading among both groups. As well as among women, she does better among lower-income and less-educated Democrats.
But among the broader public she trails by 24 points in a head-to-head general election matchup against President Bush, 58 percent to 34 percent. Six in 10 men and 55 percent of women favor Bush. And Bush wins support from 92 percent of Republicans, while Mrs. Clinton wins far fewer Democrats (67 percent). Independents prefer Bush by 55-31 percent.
Perhaps most troublesome to Mrs. Clinton is the relatively tepid support from her base — far weaker than what a national candidate would expect. Her support among Democrats (67 percent) and liberals (62 percent) falls well short, for example, of Al Gore's 86 and 80 percent support from these groups in the 2000 election.
While Clinton fatigue is a likely factor, it's hard to blame her husband entirely for her deficit. Fifty-five percent of Americans approve of the way Bill Clinton handled his job as president (down 10 points from just before he left office, but about the same as his two-term average). Mrs. Clinton, though, only wins 55 percent of her husband's approvers — 37 percent of them defect to Bush. And Bush wins 87 percent of those who disapprove of Bill Clinton's work in office.
This ABCNEWS poll was conducted by telephone May 28-June 1, among a random national sample of 1,029 adults. The results have a three-point error margin. Fieldwork was conducted by TNS Intersearch of Horsham, Pa.