Secretary of State Kerry's Favorability Rising in the U.S.

Secretary of State Kerry's Favorability Rising in the U.S.

by Art Swift

A majority of Americans have favorable opinion of him one year into his term

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- As Secretary of State John Kerry traveled to Kiev, Ukraine, this week to show solidarity with the interim Ukrainian government, a recent Gallup poll finds that a majority of Americans have a generally favorable view of the secretary. Fifty-five percent in the U.S. view Kerry favorably, up seven percentage points since last September.

Trend: Favorability of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry

These results come from Gallup's annual World Affairs poll, conducted in February. The survey preceded the current crisis in Ukraine but followed the deal the U.S. and other countries reached with Iran to temporarily freeze parts of its nuclear program in exchange for the relaxation of some Western sanctions.

Gallup last asked Americans about Kerry in September 2013, when he was in the midst of U.S. debate over military action in Syria. At that time, Kerry said Syria's use of chemical weapons on its own people was "undeniable" and announced that the U.S. was pondering intervention in the conflict. At that time, 48% of Americans viewed Kerry favorably, while 35% viewed him unfavorably. In April 2013, two months into his tenure as secretary of state, 44% of Americans regarded Kerry favorably. So in less than a year, as more and more Americans have felt they knew enough about Kerry to rate him, his favorable ratings have risen 11 percentage points, while his unfavorable ratings have stayed essentially constant.

Gallup has asked about Kerry's favorability periodically since 1999, covering his time as senator from Massachusetts and Democratic presidential nominee in 2004. His current 55% favorable rating ranks on the high end of those ratings, with his personal best of 61% coming after his victories in the 2004 Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary that made him the clear front-runner for the 2004 Democratic nomination. At the time of the general election that year, 52% viewed him favorably and 43% unfavorably.

After First Year, Kerry Favorability Lower Than That of Most Recent Secretaries of State

While Kerry is enjoying the popular approval of a majority of Americans one year into his tenure, his favorable rating is lower than ratings of four of the last five secretaries of state at comparable points in office. Kerry's immediate predecessor, Hillary Clinton, had a 61% favorable rating after approximately one year in office. More than 60% of Americans also favored Condoleezza Rice and Madeleine Albright a year into their terms. Colin Powell enjoyed a high 85% favorability rating roughly one year into his service as secretary of state. That measure, taken in April 2002, at least partly reflected Americans' rallying for the government after 9/11, resulting in high approval ratings for the Bush administration and Congress.

Americans' Views of U.S. Secretaries of State, After Approximately One Year in Office

Kerry's favorability ratings after his first year in office eclipsed only those of President Bill Clinton's first secretary of state, Warren Christopher. The late secretary, who served in Clinton's Cabinet from 1993-1997, had a favorable rating of 41% after roughly his first year in office, with 21% of Americans viewing him unfavorably and 39% either not having heard of or having no opinion of Christopher.

Bottom Line

Much of the world is focused on Kerry this week as the U.S. and Russia engage in brinkmanship over Russia's military involvement in Ukraine. In his year in office, Kerry has been involved not only in the Ukrainian crisis but also the chemical weapons situation in Syria, developing a framework for peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, and nuclear peace talks with Iran. Although the question wording identified Kerry as secretary of state, Americans may also remember him as a longtime senator from Massachusetts or as the failed presidential candidate from 2004. Still, as this series of world conflicts persist, Kerry's favorable ratings as secretary of state are rising.

The secretary will be faced with a variety of challenges this spring. Kerry was supposed to be focused this month on achieving progress on Mideast peace, possibly reaching a historic agreement on the framework for peace talks, and now he is mired in a Cold War-like geopolitical conflict he likely never envisioned when he became secretary.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Feb. 6-9, 2014, on the Gallup Daily tracking survey, with a random sample of 1,023 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 50% cellphone respondents and 50% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.

Samples are weighted to correct for unequal selection probability, nonresponse, and double coverage of landline and cell users in the two sampling frames. They are also weighted to match the national demographics of gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, population density, and phone status (cellphone only/landline only/both, and cellphone mostly). Demographic weighting targets are based on the most recent Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older U.S. population. Phone status targets are based on the most recent National Health Interview Survey. Population density targets are based on the most recent U.S. census. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting.

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.

View survey methodology, complete question responses, and trends.

For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit

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