Hillary Clinton and the Benghazi aftermath

Hillary Clinton and the Benghazi aftermath

Americans are more negative than positive about Hillary Clinton's handling of the Benghazi attacks, but remain more positive than negative about Clinton herself – and more positive about her than they are about President Obama

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been talking once again about the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya – this time in a series of interviews.  She told NBC News it would be her one “do over” and expressed her regrets about it to ABC News, though she also indicated it would be “more of a reason to run” in 2016.

Is the continued discussion of Benghazi hurting perceptions of Hillary Clinton?   The latest Economist/YouGov Poll finds Americans more negative than positive about her handling of the Consular attack, which took place in the last months of her tenure as Secretary of State

In the last year, there actually has been a (very) small increase in the percentage of the public that approves of the way she handled that crisis.  In May, 2013, only 28% in an Economist/YouGov Poll said they approved of the way Clinton handled Benghazi.  The same percentage disapproved then and now.  That May 2013 rating was about a 10-point drop from the assessment she received in January of that year, four months after the attack.  But all three measurements showed more disapproval than approval. 

Americans also disapprove of President Barack Obama’s handling of Benghazi – and there is more disapproval of the President than there is of Clinton on Benghazi. 

Despite the criticism she has taken for Benghazi, Clinton’s overall tenure as Secretary of State still gets a net positive assessment.  Half approve of the way she handled that job.

There has been almost no change in the way her tenure is seen in the last four months, despite the latest focus on Benghazi.  In February, 49% approved of the way she handled her job as Secretary of State, and 39% did not.

In fact, Clinton scores better on handling foreign policy crises in general – and somewhat better on the likelihood she will fix the problems that led to the Benghazi attacks – than does President Obama. 

Both results, of course, are subject to extreme partisan differences.  

The difference is Clinton’s greater positive ratings on her ability to handle crisis from Democrats and Independents.  29% of independents are confident in Barack Obama’s ability to handle an international crisis; 37% are confident in Clinton’s ability on that.  And while 16% of Democrats are uneasy about the President’s approach, just 7% say that about Clinton.  Republicans are overwhelmingly negative about both Democrats.

As for fixing the problems that led to Benghazi, Clinton scores slightly better than the President on that as well.  And once again, it is Democrats and independents who make up most of the difference.

In the last year, there has been slippage in the former First Lady’s favorable ratings.  But except for a single point in November of last year, favorable assessments have continues to outnumber unfavorable ones.  However, in early 2013 Clinton’s net favorable rating (the difference between favorable and unfavorable ratings) was about ten points higher than it is today.  That change can be attributable almost entirely to Republicans.  There has been very little change in the opinions of Democrats and Independents.  

As a possible 2016 run for President by the former First Lady nears, Republicans have become decidedly negative.  In February, 2013, just after Clinton left her job as Secretary of State, one in four Republicans held a favorable view of here.  Today barely one in ten Republicans view her favorably.   Then, 68% of Republicans were unfavorable.  Today, that percentage is 16 points higher.  Now 84% of Republicans have an unfavorable opinion of her.

Image: Getty

Full results can be found here.

Economist/YouGov poll archives can be found here.


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Authors

Kathy Frankovic

KATHLEEN A. FRANKOVIC is one of the world’s leading experts in public opinion polling. She has been an election and polling consultant for CBS News and other research organizations.

She speaks and writes internationally about public opinion research, journalism and elections as an invited speaker in places as diverse as Italy, Jordan, Hong Kong, Manila, Mexico, Lisbon, Chile and India. In 2009 she retired after more than 30 years at CBS News.

She received an A.B. from Cornell University in 1968, and a Ph.D. in political science from Rutgers University in 1974. Before joining CBS News, she taught political science at the University of Vermont, and has also held visiting professorships at Cornell and at the Annenberg School at the University of Pennsylvania.