Democratic Race Tightens as Views of Clinton Become More Negative

by Jeffrey M. Jones

Forty-five percent favorable rating one of lowest ever for Clinton

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- A majority of Americans have an unfavorable image of New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination. Clinton's current 45% favorable rating with the American public is her third consecutive reading below 50% in the past two months, and is one of the lowest Gallup has measured for her since 1993. The recent decline in her image appears to be broad-based, as it is evident among most key subgroups. Even after her image first showed signs of decline in early March, Clinton managed to maintain a healthy lead in Gallup's trial heat of Democratic preferences for the party's 2008 presidential nomination. However, the new poll shows her lead has shrunk to just five percentage points over Barack Obama.

Clinton Favorable Ratings on the Decline

Clinton is no doubt a formidable candidate for president. She is the best-known candidate of either party, is widely respected by members of her own party, and has been able to raise large sums of money to fund her presidential campaign. Despite these advantages, recent Gallup polling reveals a potential weakness in her rather low likability scores among the general public. In the latest USA Today/Gallup poll, conducted April 13-15, 2007, more Americans say they have an unfavorable (52%) than a favorable view (45%) of Clinton. Clinton's favorable rating has been below 50% in each of the last three Gallup Polls, after being consistently above that mark since June 2003. As recently as February, her favorable rating was a solid 58%.

Gallup has only measured a lower favorable rating than the current 45% for Clinton on two other occasions: in January of 1996 (43%) and March of 2001 (44%). At the other end of the spectrum, Clinton's favorable ratings were consistently above 60% during the Monica Lewinsky scandal in 1998 and 1999, including a high of 67% in December of 1999 -- just after the House voted to impeach Bill Clinton as a result of this matter.   

A closer analysis of Clinton's ratings can shed light on where she may be losing support -- and also perhaps why. In three polls conducted from November of 2006 to early March of 2007, Clinton averaged a 55% favorable rating. In Gallup's three most recent polls, from late March and April, she has averaged 46%. The following table shows how her ratings in the two periods compare among key demographic groups.

Changes in Hillary Clinton Favorable Ratings

Group

Subgroup

Favorable,
Nov 9-
Mar 4

Favorable,
Mar 23-
Apr 15

Change in
favorable
rating

%

%

 

Total

All U.S. adults

55

46

-9

 

 

 

Party

Democrat

86

78

-8

Independent

52

43

-9

Republican

21

15

-6

 

 

 

Ideo-
logy

Liberal

81

73

-8

Moderate

61

50

-11

Conservative

35

26

-9

 

 

 

Gender

Male

49

38

-11

Female

61

54

-7

 

 

 

Age

18- to 29-
years-old

62

47

-15

30- to 49-
years-old

56

46

-10

50- to 64-
years-old

53

48

-5

65 and older

52

43

-9

 

 

 

Gender
By Age

Male 18-49

50

38

-12

Male 50+

46

39

-7

Female 18-49

65

55

-10

Female 50+

58

52

-6

 

 

 

Marital
Status

Married

48

41

-7

Not married

64

52

-12

 

 

 

Marital
Status
By Gender

Married man

43

35

-8

Unmarried man

58

44

-14

Married woman

55

49

-6

Unmarried
woman

69

58

-11

 

 

 

Race

White

49

41

-8

Nonwhite

78

73

-5

Black

89

84

-5

 

 

 

Edu-
cation

High school
or less

60

50

-10

Some college

53

44

-9

Four-year
college grad

48

42

-6

Post-graduate
work

58

46

-12

 

 

 

House-
hold
Income

Less than
$30,000
per year

65

57

-8

$30,000 to
$74,999
per year

55

46

-9

$75,000 or
more per year

49

40

-9

 

 

 

Resi-
dence

Urban

64

54

-10

Suburban

53

43

-10

Rural

48

44

-4

 

 

 

Region

East

62

51

-11

Midwest

56

44

-12

South

49

44

-5

West

56

48

-8

 

 

 

Church
Attend-
ance

Weekly

46

40

-6

Monthly

54

46

-8

Seldom or never

62

51

-11

 

 

 

Religion

Protestant

50

43

-7

Catholic

59

46

-13

No affiliation

66

58

-8

What is immediately clear from the table is how broad-based the more negative views of Clinton are. Each group analyzed shows a decline in favorable ratings of Clinton compared with earlier this year. This includes groups that have generally very positive views of Clinton, such as Democrats, liberals, blacks, women, young adults, unmarried adults, and those living in low-income households -- as well as those who typically view Clinton negatively, like Republicans, conservatives, and frequent churchgoers.

What is not clear is what exactly is behind the less-favorable views of Clinton, particularly since neither she nor her husband has attracted much negative publicity coincident with the decline in her ratings.

From a comparative perspective, Clinton is viewed less favorably by Americans than her two chief rivals for the Democratic nomination -- Barack Obama and John Edwards. Obama and Edwards both have 52% favorable ratings in the latest poll, slightly better than Clinton's 45%. But Obama's and Edwards' unfavorable ratings around 30% are much lower than Clinton's.

The two leading Republican presidential candidates -- Rudy Giuliani (57% favorable, 29% unfavorable) and John McCain (51% favorable, 32% unfavorable) -- are also viewed much more positively than Clinton.

Since March, when Clinton's favorable ratings first began to show decline, Edwards' ratings have basically held steady after a slight increase, and Obama's appear to have stabilized in the last few polls after showing some earlier ups and downs. Thus, the downward trend in Clinton's ratings is not a more general phenomenon plaguing other Democratic candidates.

Recent Favorable Ratings of Leading Democratic Contenders,
2007 Gallup Polls

2007
Feb 9-11

2007
Mar 2-4

2007
Mar 13-15

2007
Apr 2-5

2007
Apr 13-15

%

%

%

%

%

Clinton

58

54

48

47

45

Obama

53

58

53

49

52

Edwards

49

51

55

53

52

Clinton continues to be viewed quite positively by Democrats (including Democratic-leaning independents), which is probably a more relevant measure to help assess her chances of winning the Democratic presidential nomination. But Obama and Edwards are competitive with the better-known Clinton in their favorable ratings among Democrats, while having lower unfavorable ratings than Clinton.

Obama and Edwards have closed the gap with Clinton on favorable ratings in recent weeks. In the poll from March 2-4, 2007, Clinton's favorable rating among Democrats was 80%, compared with 68% for Obama, and 63% for Edwards.

Democratic Nomination Preferences

Until the current poll, Clinton was able to maintain a sizable lead in the race for the Democratic nomination even as her favorable ratings began to deteriorate. That appears to have changed, as evidenced by the latest update of Democrats' preferences for the party's 2008 nomination.

The April 13-15, 2007 poll finds 31% of Democrats saying they are most likely to support Clinton for the nomination, with 26% choosing Obama, 16% choosing Edwards, and 15% choosing Gore. All other candidates are at 3% support or below.

Next, I'm going to read a list of people who may be running in the Democratic primary for president in the next election. After I read all the names, please tell me which of those candidates you would be most likely to support for the Democratic nomination for president in the year 2008, or if you would support someone else.

BASED ON 504 DEMOCRATS AND DEMOCRATIC LEANERS

2007
Apr 13-15

%

Hillary Rodham Clinton

31

Barack Obama

26

John Edwards

16

Al Gore

15

Bill Richardson

3

Al Sharpton

2

Joe Biden

1

Wesley Clark

1

Dennis Kucinich

1

Christopher Dodd

1

Mike Gravel

1

 

Other

*

None

1

All/any

--

No opinion

3

* = Less than 0.5%

Prior to the latest poll, Clinton had held a double-digit lead in each Gallup measure of Democrats' preferences for their party's 2008 presidential nomination. Obama -- whose support had been stable at around 20% until the current poll -- has consistently held second place since last November, when his support was first measured. Edwards and Gore continue to vie for third place.

The five-point edge for Clinton in the current poll is within the margin of sampling error. This is the first poll conducted entirely after first-quarter fundraising totals were announced. The conventional wisdom was that Clinton would easily lead the fundraising derby, and as a result might discourage some of her competitors from challenging her for the nomination. But Obama surprised experts with his strong fundraising efforts, which proved to be competitive with those of Clinton.

Clinton still maintains a significant 53% to 41% lead over Obama when Democrats are asked to choose among the two in a head-to-head match-up. However, this lead is also down compared with previous polls.

Future polling will confirm whether the nature of the race has changed from one dominated by Clinton to a more competitive race, or if the new poll is showing only a temporary dip in support for Clinton. The next major event that could affect Democrats' preference is the April 26 nationally televised debate on cable television, in which all leading candidates are scheduled to participate.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,007 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted April 13-15, 2007. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 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.

For results based on the sample of 504 Democrats and Democratic leaners, the margin of error is ±5 percentage points.

7. Next, we'd like to get your overall opinion of some people in the news. As I read each name, please say if you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of these people -- or if you have never heard of them.

Hillary Rodham Clinton

Favorable

Unfavorable

No
opinion

%

%

%

2007 Apr 13-15

45

52

4

2007 Apr 2-5

47

49

4

2007 Mar 23-25

48

48

3

2007 Mar 2-4

54

42

3

2007 Feb 9-11

58

40

1

2006 Nov 9-12

53

42

5

2006 Jul 28-30

50

44

7

2006 Jun 23-25

51

44

5

2005 Oct 21-23

54

41

5

2005 Jul 25-28

53

43

4

2005 May 20-22

55

39

6

2005 Feb 25-27

53

41

6

2004 Jul 19-21 ^

56

38

6

2003 Oct 24-26

51

44

5

2003 Sep 19-21

54

40

6

2003 Jun 27-29 ^

52

44

4

2003 Jun 9-10

53

43

4

2003 Mar 14-15

45

46

9

2002 Dec 16-17

48

46

6

2002 Sep 23-26

47

44

9

2001 Aug 3-5

51

44

5

2001 Mar 5-7

44

53

3

2001 Feb 19-21

49

44

7

2001 Feb 1-4

52

43

5

2000 Nov 13-15

56

39

5

2000 Oct 25-28

52

43

5

2000 Aug 4-5

45

50

5

2000 Feb 4-6

55

39

6

1999 Dec 9-12

48

48

4

1999 Sep 23-26

56

40

4

1999 Aug 3-4

56

41

3

1999 Jul 22-25

62

35

3

1999 Jun 25-27

56

42

2

1999 Mar 5-7

65

31

4

1999 Feb 19-21

65

30

5

1999 Feb 4-8

66

31

3

1998 Dec 28-29

67

29

4

1998 Oct 9-12 ^

63

33

4

1998 Sep 14-15

61

33

6

1998 Aug 21-23

61

33

6

1998 Aug 10-12

60

36

4

1998 Aug 7-8

60

35

5

1998 Feb 13-15

60

36

4

1998 Jan 30-Feb 1

64

34

2

1998 Jan 24-25

61

33

6

1998 Jan 23-24

60

35

5

1997 Dec 18-21

56

38

6

1997 Oct 27-29

61

34

5

1997 Jun 26-29

51

42

7

1997 Feb 24-26

51

42

6

1997 Jan 31-Feb 2

55

39

6

1997 Jan 10-13

56

37

7

1996 Oct 26-29 †

50

42

8

1996 Aug 28-29 †

51

41

8

1996 Aug 16-18 †

47

48

5

1996 Aug 5-7 †

48

45

7

1996 Jun 18-19

46

47

6

1996 Mar 15-17

47

48

5

1996 Jan 12-15

43

51

6

1995 Jul 7-9

50

44

6

1995 Mar 17-19

49

44

7

1995 Jan 16-18

50

44

6

1994 Nov 28-29

50

44

6

1994 Sep 6-7

48

47

5

1994 Jul 15-17

48

46

6

1994 Apr 22-24

56

40

4

1994 Mar 25-27

52

42

6

1994 Mar 7-8

55

40

5

1994 Jan 15-17

57

36

7

1993 Nov 2-4

58

34

8

1993 Sep 24-26

62

27

11

1993 Aug 8-10

57

33

10

^ = Asked of a half sample.

† = Based on registered voters.

2002-March 2003 WORDING: New York Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton.

John Edwards

Favorable

Unfavorable

Never
heard of

No
opinion

%

%

%

%

2007 Apr 13-15

52

31

6

11

2007 Apr 2-5

53

30

9

9

2007 Mar 23-25

55

25

8

11

2007 Mar 2-4

51

28

9

12

2007 Feb 9-11

49

31

12

8

2006 Dec 8-10 †

54

21

13

12

2004 Oct 9-10

48

37

6

9

2004 Sep 3-5

56

30

3

11

2004 Aug 23-25 ^

52

28

4

16

2004 Jul 30-Aug 1

59

27

3

11

2004 Jul 19-21 ^

52

26

5

17

2004 Jul 8-11

55

24

6

15

2004 Jan 29-Feb 1

54

21

10

15

2004 Jan 2-5‡

24

24

27

25

2003 Nov 10-12 ‡

22

18

37

23

^ = Asked of a half sample.

† = WORDING: Former North Carolina Senator, John Edwards

‡ = WORDING: North Carolina Senator, John Edwards

Rudy Giuliani

Favorable

Unfavorable

Never
heard of

No
opinion

%

%

%

%

2007 Apr 13-15

57

29

6

8

2007 Apr 2-5

61

27

6

6

2007 Mar 23-25

60

26

6

7

2007 Mar 2-4

64

21

6

9

2007 Feb 9-11

66

22

7

5

2007 Jan 5-7

62

17

10

10

2006 Dec 8-10 †

77

12

7

4

2005 Jul 25-28

64

19

9

8

2004 Aug 23-25 ^

65

14

6

15

^ = Asked of a half sample.

† = WORDING: Former New York City Mayor, Rudy Giuliani

Al Gore

Favorable

Unfavorable

No
opinion

%

%

%

2007 Apr 13-15

48

47

5

2007 Apr 2-5

50

44

6

2007 Mar 23-25

56

38

6

2007 Mar 2-4

55

39

6

2007 Feb 9-11

52

45

3

2006 Jun 23-25

48

45

8

2003 Jun 27-29

49

45

6

2002 Dec 16-17

49

45

6

2002 Sep 23-26

46

47

7

2002 Apr 29-May 1

46

48

6

2001 Aug 3-5

52

42

6

2001 Apr 20-22

55

41

4

2001 Jan 15-16

56

41

3

2000 Dec 15-17

57

40

3

2000 Dec 2-4

46

52

2

2000 Nov 13-15

53

44

3

2000 Nov 13-15 †

54

44

2

2000 Nov 4-5 †

56

39

5

2000 Oct 24-26 †

53

42

5

2000 Oct 23-25 †

55

40

5

2000 Oct 20-22 †

57

39

4

2000 Oct 5-7 †

57

37

6

2000 Sep 28-30 †

61

31

8

2000 Sep 15-17 †

62

30

8

2000 Aug 18-19

64

30

6

2000 Aug 4-5

52

42

6

2000 Jul 25-26

56

38

6

2000 Jul 14-16

58

34

8

2000 Jun 23-25

52

39

9

2000 Jun 6-7

59

35

6

2000 Apr 28-30

53

38

9

2000 Mar 10-12

59

36

5

2000 Feb 25-27

59

35

6

2000 Feb 20-21

56

37

7

2000 Feb 4-6

57

37

6

2000 Jan 17-19

56

38

6

1999 Dec 20-21

57

36

7

1999 Dec 9-12

54

42

4

1999 Oct 21-24

58

36

6

1999 Oct 8-10

54

42

4

1999 Sep 23-26

55

40

5

1999 Aug 16-18

58

37

5

1999 Aug 3-4

52

40

8

1999 Jul 22-25

53

35

12

1999 Jun 25-27

56

39

5

1999 Apr 30-May 2

55

37

8

1999 Apr 13-14

54

39

7

1999 Apr 13-14

54

39

7

1999 Feb 19-21

59

33

8

1999 Feb 4-8

61

31

8

1998 Dec 28-29

57

28

15

1998 Sep 14-15

56

32

12

1998 Feb 13-15

57

33

10

1998 Jan 30-Feb 1

62

31

7

1998 Jan 24-25

56

32

12

1998 Jan 23-24

55

33

12

1997 Dec 18-21

50

37

13

1997 Oct 27-29

53

38

9

1997 Oct 3-5

47

42

11

1997 Sep 25-28

51

39

10

1997 Sep 6-7

55

32

13

1997 Jun 26-29

57

32

10

1997 Apr 18-20

56

34

10

1997 Mar 24-26

57

31

12

1997 Jan 3-5

60

26

14

1996 Oct 26-29

61

31

8

1996 Aug 30- Sep 1 †

61

27

12

1996 Aug 28-29 †

60

26

14

1996 16-18 †

59

30

11

1996 Aug 11 †

59

29

12

1996 Jan 12-15

52

34

14

1995 Jan 16-18

57

29

14

1994 Sep 6-7

56

31

13

1994 Apr 22-24

60

28

12

1994Mar 25-27

56

29

15

1994 Jan 15-17

62

26

12

1993 Nov 2-4

49

30

21

1993 Jul 19-21

55

30

15

1993 Apr 22-24

55

24

21

1993 Jan 18-19

63

22

15

1992 Nov 10-11

56

28

16

^ = Asked of a half sample.

† = Based on registered voters.

John McCain

Favorable

Unfavorable

Never
heard of

No
opinion

%

%

%

%

2007 Apr 13-15

51

32

6

10

2007 Apr 2-5

57

26

8

9

2007 Mar 23-25

51

28

9

12

2007 Mar 2-4

57

25

9

9

2007 Feb 9-11

57

26

9

8

2007 Jan 5-7

48

24

13

15

2006 Nov 9-12

54

23

10

13

2006 Jun 23-25

56

25

8

11

2005 Jul 25-28

51

22

16

11

2004 Aug 23-25 ^

55

19

9

17

2004 Mar 26-28

53

21

13

13

2002 Apr 29-May 1 †

53

21

11

15

2001 Jun 8-10 †

60

21

10

9

2001 Mar 9-11 ?

61

15

9

15

2000 Apr 28-30  †

61

18

6

15

2000 Mar 10-12 †

57

28

6

9

2000 Feb 25-27 †

66

18

5

11

2000 Feb 20-21 †

65

17

7

11

2000 Feb 4-6 †

67

12

8

13

2000 Jan 17-19 †

51

17

10

22

1999 Dec 9-12 †

57

11

14

18

1999 Oct 21-24 †

37

12

30

21

1999 Apr 13-14 †

35

12

28

25

1999 Feb 19-21 †

27

8

44

21

^ = Asked of a half sample.

† = WORDING: Arizona Senator John McCain

? = WORDING: Senator John McCain

Barack Obama

Favorable

Unfavorable

Never
heard of

No
opinion

%

%

%

%

2007 Apr 13-15

52

27

10

10

2007 Apr 2-5

49

24

14

12

2007 Mar 23-25

53

24

14

9

2007 Mar 2-4

58

18

15

9

2007 Feb 9-11

53

19

16

12

2006 Dec 8-10 ^

42

11

33

14

^ = WORDING: Illinois Senator, Barack Obama

12. (Asked of Democrats and independents who lean to the Democratic Party): Next, I'm going to read a list of people who may be running in the Democratic primary for president in the next election.  After I read all the names, please tell me which of those candidates you would be most likely to support for the Democratic nomination for President in the year 2008, or if you would support someone else. [ROTATED: Delaware Senator, Joe Biden; Retired General, Wesley Clark; New York Senator, Hillary Rodham Clinton; Connecticut Senator, Christopher Dodd; Former North Carolina Senator, John Edwards; Former Vice President, Al Gore; Former Alaska Senator, Mike Gravel; Ohio Congressman, Dennis Kucinich; Illinois Senator, Barack Obama; New Mexico Governor, Bill Richardson; The Reverend, Al Sharpton]

Apr
13-15,
2007

Apr
2-5,
2007

Mar
23-25,
2007

Mar
2-4,
2007

Feb
9-11,
2007

Jan
12-14,
2007

%

%

%

%

%

%

Hillary Clinton

31

38

35

36

40

29

Barack Obama

26

19

22

22

21

18

John Edwards

16

15

14

9

13

13

Al Gore

15

14

17

18

14

11

Bill Richardson

3

2

3

1

4

3

Al Sharpton

2

*

--

*

--

1

Joe Biden

1

1

1

3

1

5

Wesley Clark

1

3

1

2

1

2

Dennis Kucinich

1

*

*

--

*

*

Christopher Dodd

1

*

--

*

1

1

Mike Gravel

1

1

--

1

*

N/A

Tom Vilsack

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

*

*

John Kerry

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

8

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other

*

2

*

1

*

2

None

1

1

2

3

1

2

All/any

--

--

--

*

--

*

No opinion

3

5

4

4

3

4

* = Less than 0.5%

N/A = Not asked

DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL NOMINATION PREFERENCE (WITHOUT AL GORE):

Apr
13-15,
2007

Apr
2-5,
2007

Mar
23-25,
2007

Mar
2-4,
2007

Feb
9-11,
2007

%

%

%

%

%

Hillary Clinton

37

43

42

44

48

Barack Obama

29

19

24

27

23

John Edwards

19

18

17

10

14

Bill Richardson

4

3

4

2

5

Wesley Clark

2

3

2

3

1

Joe Biden

2

2

2

3

2

Al Sharpton

2

*

--

1

--

Dennis Kucinich

1

*

1

*

*

Christopher Dodd

1

*

--

*

1

Mike Gravel

1

1

*

1

*

Tom Vilsack

N/A

N/A

--

N/A

*

 

 

 

 

 

Other

1

2

*

2

1

None

1

1

2

3

1

All/any

--

--

--

*

--

No opinion

3

7

5

5

4

* = Less than 0.5%

N/A = Not asked

Note: Ballot recalculated by substituting Gore supporters' second choice for their Gore vote.

13. (Asked of Democrats and independents who lean to the Democratic Party who named a candidate they support for the Democratic  nomination in 2008): Who would be your second choice?

COMBINED RESPONSES: FIRST AND SECOND CHOICES

Apr
13-15,
2007

Apr
2-5,
2007

Mar
23-25,
2007

Mar
2-4,
2007

Feb
9-11,
2007

%

%

%

%

%

Hillary Clinton

58

58

57

59

67

Barack Obama

46

36

42

43

42

John Edwards

32

32

30

21

26

Al Gore

28

29

32

34

26

Bill Richardson

6

5

6

4

7

Al Sharpton

4

1

1

2

1

Wesley Clark

3

5

3

3

3

Joe Biden

3

4

3

4

5

Christopher Dodd

2

*

1

1

2

Dennis Kucinich

1

1

1

1

1

Mike Gravel

1

2

*

1

1

Tom Vilsack

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

1

 

 

 

 

 

Other

2

5

2

3

3

None

3

3

6

3

3

All/any

--

--

--

1

--

No opinion

3

5

4

7

4

* = Less than 0.5%

N/A = Not asked

Note: Percentages add to more than 100% due to multiple responses.

14. (Asked of Democrats and independents who lean to the Democratic Party): Given your understanding of who is definitely running for the Democratic nomination for president, are you generally pleased with that selection of candidates, or do you wish someone else would get into the race?

BASED ON 504 DEMOCRATS AND DEMOCRATIC LEANERS

 

   Pleased
   with selection

   Wish someone
   else would get
   into race

   No
   opinion

2007 Apr 13-15

   80%

   18

   3

15. (Asked of Democrats and independents who lean to the Democratic Party): S uppose the choice for the Democratic presidential nomination narrows down to Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama. Which one would you prefer the Democratic Party nominate for president -- [ROTATED: Hillary Rodham Clinton (or) Barack Obama]?

   Clinton

   Obama

   No
   opinion

   %

   %

   %

2007 Apr 13-15

   53

   41

   6

2007 Apr 2-5

   61

   33

   6

2007 Mar 23-25

   56

   37

   6

2007 Mar 2-4

   56

   36

   8

2007 Feb 9-11

   62

   33

   5

2007 Jan 12-14

   53

   39

   8

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