Clinton Controversy Appears To Boost Ratings Of Most Politicians

by David W. Moore

First Lady and Former Presidents Also Helped

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- The current controversy over allegations of sexual impropriety by President Clinton seems to have led -- although indirectly -- to an outpouring of positive feelings by the American public. Gallup polls now report that Clinton's approval rating is the highest of his presidency; that Americans' general satisfaction with the way things are going in the country is the highest it has been since the United States victory in the Persian Gulf War in 1991; and that approval of the way Congress is doing its job is now the highest it has been since Gallup first polled on this subject almost a quarter of a century ago.

Some observers suggest these high ratings are related to Clinton's positive message in his state-of-the-union speech, which among other things cited a major drop in violent crime, the successful bipartisan effort to achieve a balanced budget, and a booming U.S. economy. Ironically, the sexual allegations may have acted as a catalyst for the positive ratings, by stimulating people to watch the speech in the first place. A Gallup poll of those who had viewed or listened to Clinton -- conducted immediately after he finished speaking -- supports this interpretation. Many people who probably would not have tuned into the speech, but said they did so because they were curious as to how well Clinton would handle the situation, nevertheless came away feeling more positive than beforehand about Clinton and the subjects he addressed.

Still, the spillover of these positive reactions reaches into some unlikely areas. Both First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton and Vice-President Al Gore have seen their favorability ratings soar to their highest levels since early 1993, shortly after Clinton first assumed the presidency. And Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, long identified as one of the most unpopular political leaders in the country, now receives his highest performance rating ever, with more Americans approving than disapproving of the way he is handling his job.

Perhaps the most unusual spillover is the more positive retrospective ratings of three former presidents. They were last rated in 1993, showing little change from the two previous ratings in 1990 and 1992. But in the latest Gallup poll, when respondents were asked to indicate their approval or disapproval of the job performance of five former presidents, George Bush's retrospective approval rating jumped by 16 percentage points to 74%, Ronald Reagan's by 17 points to 69%, and Jimmy Carter's by 20 points to 65%. John Kennedy's approval -- already at the highest level -- remained constant at 77%. Only Richard Nixon's approval rating suffered, falling five points to 37%.

No Such Good News for Starr and Lewinsky
While recent events have produced increasingly positive ratings for most public political figures, both independent counsel Kenneth Starr and Monica Lewinsky have become less popular with the American public over the past three weeks. When the allegations against Clinton first became public, more Americans thought Starr was conducting a fair, rather than unfair, investigation. Today, a majority thinks the investigation is unfair. And Starr's personal rating, which had been evenly split between favorable and unfavorable, now shows a 17-point margin in the unfavorable category. Similarly, Americans' feelings about Lewinsky have become more negative, with 50% giving her an unfavorable and 30% a favorable rating three weeks ago, compared with 66% unfavorable and just 11% favorable today.

METHODOLOGY
The results reported here are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,013 adults, conducted January 30-February 1, 1998. For results based on a sample of this size, one can say with 95 percent confidence that the error attributable to sampling and other random effects could be plus or minus 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.

Do you approve or disapprove of the way Bill Clinton is handling his job as president?

Clinton Job Approval - 1998 Trend

Approve

Disapprove

No opinion

Jan 30-Feb 1

69%

28

3

Jan 28**

67%

28

5

Jan 25-26

59%

37

4

Jan 24-25

60%

35

5

Jan 23-24

58%

36

6

Jan 16-18

60%

30

10

Jan 6-7

59%

32

9

** Based on one-night poll; margin of error = ± 4 pct pts, with additional possible error due to limitations of polls conducted in only one night

Do you approve or disapprove of the way Congress is handling its job?

Congress Job Approval - Recent Trend

Approve

Disapprove

No opinion

1998 Jan 30-Feb 1

56%

35

9

1998 Jan 16-18

42%

47

11

1997 Dec 18-21

39%

52

9

1997 Oct 27-29

36%

53

11

1997 Aug 22-25

41%

48

11

1997 Jul 25-27

34%

57

9

1997 May 6-7

32%

58

10

1997 Apr 18-20

30%

59

11

1997 Feb 24-26

37%

48

15

1997 Jan 31-Feb 2

36%

51

13

1997 Jan 10-13

41%

49

10

In general, are you satisfied or dissatisfied with the way things are going in the United States at this time?

Satisfaction with U.S. - Recent Trend

Satisfied

Dissatisfied

No opinion

1998 Jan 30-Feb 1

63%

35

2

1997 Dec 18-21

50%

46

4

1997 Aug 22-25

50%

48

2

1997 May 6-7

46%

51

3

1997 Jan 10-13

50%

47

3



From what you have heard, read, or remember about some of our past presidents, please tell me if you approve or disapprove of the way they handled their job as president. First, ... Next, ... (RANDOM ORDER)

Retrospective Presidential Ratings - Trend

Approve

Disapprove

No opinion

John F. Kennedy
1998 Jan 30-Feb 1

77%

17

6

1993 Nov 15-16

78%

13

9

1992 Jun 4-8

76%

14

10

1990 Nov

84%

9

7

George Bush
1998 Jan 30-Feb 1

74%

24

2

1994 Sept 23-25

58%

40

2

1993 Nov 15-16

58%

40

2

Ronald Reagan
1998 Jan 30-Feb 1

69%

29

2

1994 Sept 23-25

55%

44

1

1993 Nov 15-16

52%

45

3

1992 Jun 4-8

50%

47

3

1990 Nov

54%

44

2

Jimmy Carter
1998 Jan 30-Feb 1

65%

29

6

1994 Sept 23-25

51%

46

3

1993 Nov 15-16

45%

50

5

1992 Jun 4-8

48%

46

6

1990 Nov

45%

52

3

Richard Nixon
1998 Jan 30-Feb 1

32%

61

7

1993 Nov 15-16

37%

56

7

1992 Jun 4-8

35%

59

6

1990 Nov

32%

62

6



Next, I'd like 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 this person -- or if you have never heard of him or her. First.. next...

Favorability - 1998 Trend

Bill Clinton

Favorable

Unfavorable

Not heard/ no opinion

Jan 30-Feb 1

65%

34

1

Jan 28**

63%

32

5

Jan 25-26

53%

43

4

Jan 24-25

58%

39

3

Jan 23-24

57%

40

3

Al Gore
Jan 30-Feb 1

62%

31

16

Jan 24-25

56%

32

12

Jan 23-24

55%

33

12

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Jan 30-Feb 1

64%

34

2

Jan 28**

61%

34

5

Jan 24-25

61%

33

6

Jan 23-24

60%

35

5

Kenneth Starr
Jan 30-Feb 1

25%

42

33

Jan 28**

20%

38

42

Jan 24-25

26%

27

47

Jan 23-24

24%

24

52

Monica Lewinsky
Jan 30-Feb 1

11%

66

23

Jan 28**

13%

69

18

Jan 24-25

29%

49

22

Jan 23-24

30%

50

20

** Based on one-night poll


Do you approve or disapprove of the way Newt Gingrich is handling his job as Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives?

Gingrich Job Approval - Recent Trend

Approve

Disapprove

No opinion

1998 Jan 24-25

46%

40

14

1998 Jan 23-24

48%

41

11

1997 Mar 24-26

25%

63

12

1997 Jan 3-5

27%

59

14



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