Politics

Clinton Considered Presidential on 11 Dimensions

Only Republicans are negative about her abilities in most areas

Queen Elizabeth II holds an office that, functionally, is very different from that held by George III, but basically the office held by George Washington and the one held by John F. Kennedy are the same. The office is much more powerful (the United States is much more powerful); its duties are more varied (the American people expect much more of their government than they did); it is much more international (the United States is the greatest free nation in a contracted world). But when we consider the drastic changes that have taken place inside and outside the United States, it is astounding that the changes in the presidency have been so few."

-- D. W. Brogan, in the Introduction to the 1963 edition of The American Presidency by Clinton Rossiter  

PRINCETON, NJ -- The U.S. Constitution spells out the legal duties of the American president, but other roles presidents are expected to fill are more rooted in norms that the nation’s earliest officeholders established. Nowhere in the Constitution does it specify that the president must be inspiring, dignified, or safeguard the nation’s economy, but these are now among the roles that political scientists (like Cornell University Prof. Clinton Rossiter, who outlined seven basic roles of the president in his 1956 The American Presidency) typically assign to the job.

In Gallup’s latest Panel survey, conducted Oct. 25-28, 2007, Americans were asked to consider how well the front-runner for the 2008 Democratic nomination -- Sen. Hillary Clinton -- would handle each of 11 responsibilities associated with Rossiter’s seven roles of the president, should she be elected president next year.

Clinton scores well on all 11. No less than 53% of Americans think she would do an “outstanding” or “good” job of handling any of the roles, while the minority describes her as doing a “poor” or “terrible” job. Her positive scores average 66% across all 11 areas, and reach as high as 83% on one dimension.

If Hillary Clinton were elected president, do you think she would do an outstanding job, a good job, a poor job, or a terrible job handling each of the following responsibilities of the president? How about -- [RANDOM ORDER]?

2007 Oct 25-28

Outstanding/
Good job

%

Serving as leader of the Democratic Party

83

Working with Congress

73

Proposing new legislation to address domestic problems facing the country

70

Preserving the dignity of the office by exhibiting high moral and ethical standards

68

Representing the United States in dealing with leaders of other countries around the world

67

Managing the federal government

65

Appointing Supreme Court justices and federal judges

64

Managing the U.S. economy

64

Managing U.S. foreign policy

62

Inspiring the people of the U.S. and bringing the nation together

59

Handling the responsibilities of commander in chief of the military

53

As might be expected, Clinton’s strongest scores are in two areas relying on interaction with her own party. More than 8 in 10 Americans think she would do a good or outstanding job of serving as leader of the Democratic Party -- a de facto position that comes with holding the highest office in the land, and what Rossiter calls “Chief of Party.” Similarly, with both houses of Congress now controlled by the Democrats, it is logical that 73% of Americans believe Clinton would do a good or outstanding job of working with Congress, giving her an edge in her role as “Chief Legislator.”

Two-thirds or more of Americans are positive about the job Clinton would do in proposing new domestic policy legislation, preserving the dignity of the office of the president, and representing the United States abroad. These responsibilities span three distinct presidential roles defined by Rossiter: “Chief Legislator,” “Chief of State,” and “Chief Diplomat.”

Between 62% and 65% of Americans also have positive expectations for Clinton in the areas of managing the federal government (“Chief Executive”), appointing Supreme Court justices and federal judges (also “Chief Executive”), managing the U.S. economy (“Guardian of the Economy”), and managing U.S. foreign policy (“Chief Diplomat”).

Clinton’s lowest scores -- though a majority of Americans still rate her positively -- are in the areas of inspiring Americans and bringing people together (“Chief of State”) and handling the responsibilities of commander in chief of the military (“Commander-in-Chief”).

Sharp Partisan Differences

Serving as leader of the Democratic Party and working with Congress are the only presidential roles included in the survey in which a majority or near majority of Republicans believe Clinton would do a good or outstanding job (65% and 47%, respectively).

On all others, a large majority of Republicans have negative predictions of Clinton’s performance. That ranges from 66% saying she would do a poor or terrible job of proposing domestic legislation to 84% saying she would do badly as commander in chief. The rank order is about the same when looking just at the percentages calling her likely performance “terrible” in each area.

Negative Perceptions of Clinton’s Potential Presidential Leadership
Based on Republicans

Oct. 25-28, 2007

Ranked according to % poor/terrible

% Poor/
Terrible

% Terrible

%

%

Leader of Democratic Party

34

14

Working with Congress

51

17

Proposing domestic legislation

66

24

Representing U.S. abroad

67

27

Preserving dignity of the office

69

41

Appointing judges and justices

72

36

Managing federal government

73

28

Managing the economy

75

31

Managing foreign policy

75

32

Inspiring and uniting people

78

32

Being commander in chief

84

43

Whether Republicans would be as critical of the potential leadership of other Democratic candidates can’t be answered from the poll, but their overall view of Clinton is certainly more negative than it is of Sen. Barack Obama and former Sen. John Edwards. In a mid-September Gallup Poll, only 17% of Republicans said they had a favorable view of Clinton while 81% had an unfavorable view. Forty percent of Republicans had favorable opinions of Obama and Edwards.

By contrast, most Democrats have a favorable view of Clinton (81% in mid-September), and accordingly, the overwhelming majority of Democrats are positive in their predictions about Clinton’s possible presidential leadership. This varies in a narrow range between 86% saying she would do a good or outstanding job as commander in chief to 98% saying she would excel as leader of the Democratic Party.

Significantly more variation is seen in Democratic attitudes, however, in terms of the percentages calling her performance outstanding. This extreme praise is given most broadly for the prospects of her representation of the United States abroad (47% predict she would do an outstanding job of this), her maintenance of the dignity of the office of president (47%), and her leadership of the Democratic Party (45%). It is given by fewer than a third of Democrats for her being commander in chief (28%), working with Congress (30%), and managing the federal government (31%).

Positive Perceptions of Clinton’s Potential Presidential Leadership
Based on Democrats
Oct. 25-28, 2007

Ranked according to % outstanding/good

% Outstanding/
Good

% Outstanding

Leader of Democratic Party

98

45

Proposing domestic legislation

97

40

Preserving dignity of the office

95

47

Appointing judges and justices

95

39

Working with Congress

94

30

Managing federal government

93

31

Representing U.S. abroad

92

47

Managing the economy

92

34

Managing foreign policy

91

36

Inspiring and uniting people

89

33

Being commander in chief

86

28

Importantly for Clinton, the roughly one-third of Americans who consider themselves political independents are positive about Clinton on all 11 dimensions -- aligning them more much more closely with the Democrats’ outlook on Clinton than the Republicans’.

Perceptions of Clinton’s Potential Presidential Leadership,

by Partisanship
% Outstanding/Good
Oct. 25-28, 2007

Ranked according to
total % outstanding/good

Republicans

Independents

Democrats

Leader of Democratic Party

66

85

98

Working with Congress

47

76

94

Proposing domestic legislation

33

76

97

Preserving dignity of the office

31

73

95

Representing U.S. abroad

34

74

92

Managing federal government

27

70

93

Appointing judges and justices

27

66

95

Managing the economy

24

71

92

Managing foreign policy

25

66

91

Inspiring and uniting people

22

64

89

Being commander in chief

16

54

86

Bottom Line

How well a candidate is likely to fulfill the basic duties of the presidency is only one aspect of the political calculus Americans use to elect a president. The appeal of the various candidates on personal grounds, how closely Americans agree with the candidates on specific issues, the national popularity of the Republican and Democratic parties, and the particular challenges facing the country at the time of the election all factor in as well.

From the data reviewed here, Clinton clearly passes a basic test of presidential leadership. The vast majority of her own party members, as well as political independents, are confident she could carry out the fundamental duties associated with the job. Republicans’ rather harsh reviews are, in fact, consistent with their mostly unfavorable opinions of her. But the net result is positive scores from a majority of Americans on all 11 dimensions.

Whether Clinton’s presidential leadership is more highly rated than that of her Democratic opponents or any of the potential Republican nominees is another matter, and perhaps fodder for future polling.

Survey Methods

Results for this panel study are based on telephone interviews with 1,000 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Oct. 25-28, 2007. Respondents were randomly drawn from Gallup’s nationally representative household panel, which was originally recruited through random selection methods. The final sample is weighted so it is representative of U.S. adults nationwide.

For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

17. If Hillary Clinton were elected president, do you think she would do an outstanding job, a good job, a poor job, or a terrible job handling each of the following responsibilities of the president? How about -- [RANDOM ORDER]?

A. Preserving the dignity of the office by exhibiting high moral and ethical standards

 

Outstanding

Good

Poor

Terrible

No opinion

2007 Oct 25-28

25%

43

15

17

1

  B. Working with Congress  

 

Outstanding

Good

Poor

Terrible

No opinion

2007 Oct 25-28

16%

57

18

7

1

  C. Inspiring the people of the U.S. and bringing the nation together   

 

Outstanding

Good

Poor

Terrible

No opinion

2007 Oct 25-28

18%

41

25

14

1

  D. Handling the responsibilities of commander in chief of the military  

 

Outstanding

Good

Poor

Terrible

No opinion

2007 Oct 25-28

13%

40

28

18

1

  E. Proposing new legislation to address domestic problems facing the country  

 

Outstanding

Good

Poor

Terrible

No opinion

2007 Oct 25-28

22%

48

20

9

1

  F. Appointing Supreme Court justices and federal judges   

 

Outstanding

Good

Poor

Terrible

No opinion

2007 Oct 25-28

20%

44

20

16

1

  G. Managing the U.S. economy

 

Outstanding

Good

Poor

Terrible

No opinion

2007 Oct 25-28

17%

47

23

13

1

  I. Managing the federal government  

 

Outstanding

Good

Poor

Terrible

No opinion

2007 Oct 25-28

16%

49

23

12

1

  J. Serving as leader of the Democratic Party  

 

Outstanding

Good

Poor

Terrible

No opinion

2007 Oct 25-28

28%

55

10

6

1

  K. Managing U.S. foreign policy  

 

Outstanding

Good

Poor

Terrible

No opinion

2007 Oct 25-28

19%

43

24

13

1

  L. Representing the United States in dealing with leaders of other countries around the world  

 

Outstanding

Good

Poor

Terrible

No opinion

2007 Oct 25-28

26%

41

20

11

*

* Less than 0.5%

Gallup http://www.gallup.com/poll/102508/Clinton-Considered-Presidential-Dimensions.aspx Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A +1 202.715.3030