- Clinton's favorable rating is 48%, her lowest since 2008
- 54% of Democrats prefer to have a competitive primary
- Still, 57% of Democrats want her as 2016 nominee
PRINCETON, N.J. -- Hillary Clinton's favorable rating from the American public currently stands at 48%, which is similar to her 50% reading last month, but is down from 55% last summer and from 59% a year ago.
Not only is this Clinton's weakest favorable rating of the past year, but it is the lowest since 2008 when she was competing in that year's Democratic primary elections. Prior to that, her favorable rating sank to 45% or lower at points between 2001 and 2003 when serving as U.S. senator from New York, and to 43% at one point in 1996 when she was first lady.
The latest rating comes from an April 3-4 Gallup poll, conducted roughly a month after Clinton began responding to criticism of her use of a private email server for official business while secretary of state and as news reports continued to indicate she was gearing up to announce her presidential candidacy. The previous result is from a March 2-4 survey, conducted prior to Clinton's March 10 press conference in which she vigorously defended her email practices.
Clinton Favorability on a Rollercoaster Ride
Gallup has been measuring Americans' views of Hillary Clinton for 23 years, ever since she rose to national attention along with her husband, Bill Clinton, during the 1992 presidential campaign. As her role has evolved from first lady to U.S. senator to presidential candidate to secretary of state and now back to potential presidential candidate, her image has fluctuated.
Notably, none of Clinton's past favorability troughs turned out to be permanent. After suffering declining ratings in her husband's first term, she enjoyed a steady recovery in the second, ascending to a 67% favorable rating, her highest, after he was impeached. Her appointment as secretary of state under newly elected President Barack Obama in 2009 catapulted her favorable score into the mid-60s, where it subsequently stayed throughout her tenure in that position.
Since stepping down as secretary of state at the start of 2013, Clinton has been a more politicized figure. In addition to the email controversy, Clinton's leadership at the Department of State has been a source of controversy for her, as the House of Representatives is conducting an investigation into the attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi in 2012. She is also a constant object of speculation about the 2016 elections.
This shift in tone has had a much greater effect on the attitudes of independents and Republicans, both of whom view her less favorably now than a year ago, than it has had on Democrats, whose positive view of Clinton is largely intact.
Democrats Want Clinton as Their 2016 Nominee
This stability in Democrats' positive views of Clinton is generally consistent with their 2016 nomination preferences and views. Fifty-seven percent of Democrats, including Democratic-leaning independents, say they would like to see Clinton nominated for president in 2016, whereas 38% would rather it be someone else.
While Clinton receives higher support from women than men, and from college graduates than Democrats without a college degree, at least half of all groups support her.
Clinton also enjoys the aura of inevitability within her party, as 66% of all Democrats predict she will be the nominee, while 32% are doubtful.
Democrats Tilt Toward Saying Competitive Primary Would Be Better
Even if most Democrats would like to see Clinton as their party's presidential nominee, they don't necessarily want it to come easily. Democrats are more likely to say it would be better for their party to have a number of strong candidates running for the nomination -- rather than one strong candidate emerging as the clear front-runner. These sentiments are similar to what they were in 1999 when then-Vice President Al Gore was the strong 2000 Democratic front-runner.
Currently, 40% of Democrats say it is better to have one strong candidate emerge, similar to the 45% in June 1999, while in both instances the slight majority said it is better to have a number of strong candidates competing.
Clinton's public image has deteriorated some over the past year, but this has occurred mainly among Republicans and independents, suggesting the slide will have a limited effect on her probable bid to be the Democrats' 2016 nominee. In terms of national views, Clinton's popularity has rebounded in the past, but the inevitable scrutiny she will face as the investigation into her emails continues and as the presidential campaigns gain momentum makes it difficult to imagine how Clinton's favorability will improve without an unforeseen event as a positive catalyst.
Despite the drop in her overall image, she retains significant support among Democrats. Eight in 10 have a favorable opinion of Clinton, the majority would like to see her be their party's nominee and two-thirds think she will in fact win the nomination. But as discussed in a Gallup 2008 post-mortem, elections don't always turn out the way experts expect. For now, Democrats mainly support her, even if they think a vigorous nomination battle could help the party. How viable she is in the general election is another matter and could depend as much on who she faces as on the arc of her own popularity.
Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted April 3-4, 2015, on the Gallup U.S. Daily 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. For results based on the sample of 462 Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents, the margin of sampling error is ±5 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.
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.
Learn more about how the Gallup U.S. Daily works.