What if Hillary Clinton had been elected in 2008?

What if Hillary Clinton had been elected in 2008?

Most Democrats are happy that it was Obama and not Clinton who was elected in 2008, though Hillary's favorables are higher than President Obama's

What would be different? According to the latest Economist/YouGov Poll, not much. Many Americans don’t see any difference between a Clinton presidency and the Obama Presidency when it comes to foreign policy or disputes with Congress. 

Americans do, however, like Clinton more. That has been true for much of the Obama Presidency and is due to the fact that independents and Republicans are more favorable towards Clinton than towards Obama (the vast majority of Democrats like them both). 

18% of Republicans have a favorable view of Clinton. While that is a low number, it is still higher than the 10% of Republicans who view the President positively. For independents, 44% view Clinton favorably, while 36% are favorable towards the President. 

There are, of course, good feelings towards Clinton’s husband, Bill. 74% approve of his welfare reform law. Opposition to that law is highest among Clinton’s fellow Democrats, but just 22% of them disapprove of the welfare reform law. 

Last week, Hillary Clinton indicated that she would have armed moderate Syrian rebels earlier in the conflict, and she criticized the President’s overall foreign policy.  “‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organizing principle,” she said.

But it’s not clear Americans agree with her. They have consistently supported staying out of the Syrian conflict. In a January Economist/YouGov Poll, 63% said the United States did not have a responsibility to do something about the fighting between the rebels and the government, and only 18% said it did. In this week’s poll, only 27% agree with Clinton that the United States should have provided more aid to the Syrian rebels earlier. 

Support for arming the rebels sooner is highest among Republicans: 43% of them agree with Clinton (just 17% of Democrats do). However, just about as many Republicans (46%) think the U.S. should not have gotten involved at all.

That doesn’t mean Americans approve of Barack Obama’s management of the situation in Syria. Only 28% of American approve. But only one in five think Clinton would be any better.

Four in ten Americans are unsure whether having Hillary Clinton as President would be any different when it came to policy towards the Syria fighting. But nearly one in four Democrats think Clinton would have done a better job. Although they aren’t much more likely to say that the U.S. should have taken a tougher hand in Syria, more than half of those Democrats describe Clinton as a foreign policy hawk – and 71% of them wish she (not Obama) had been elected President in 2008. A third of those Democrats disapprove of how Barack Obama is handling his job, more than twice as many as the 16% of all Democrats who disapprove.

Democrats in general are more likely to describe Clinton as a hawk than is the public overall, and twice as likely as Republicans to believe that. The public overall isn’t particularly sure how tough Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy would be if she were President. 

But nearly a third wish she were. There is not much difference between Republicans and Democrats on this: Republicans are just a little more likely to say they prefer her to Barack Obama. 

There are a number of areas where few Americans see major differences between Clinton and Obama. Not only do just one in five believe she would do a better job handling the fighting in Syria, but similar low percentages say that about whether she’d be better dealing with Israel and Palestine, ISIS in Iraq, or the Ukraine-Russia conflict.

Most see no impact of a Clinton Presidency on relations with Congress, which are at a stalemate. Just about as many think Republicans in Congress would have opposed Clinton less than they oppose the current President as think they would have opposed her more. For the majority, there would have been no difference.

Most Republicans agree there would be no difference, though more claim the GOP would have opposed Clinton less than say the opposite.

As for the President’s signature health care law, Americans aren’t sure whether it would exist had Hillary Clinton been elected in 2008. But two to one, those who think it would exist think it would be essentially the same as the bill passed in 2010. By 46% to 35%, Republicans think there would have been no Affordable Care Act.

Image: PA

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.