Reputation Audit: Clinton vs. Obama

June 16, 2014, 11:12 AM GMT+0

Most Americans say that if Hillary runs in 2016 she will probably win the election, and her husband Bill is shaping up to be one of her key assets on the campaign trail as most Americans look back fondly on his Presidency

She may be still thinking about whether or not she will run for President in 2016, but if it were up to Democrats, Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would. In the latest Economist/YouGov Poll, an even higher number want her to run now than over three months ago. The views Americans have of Clinton set her apart from President Barack Obama in a number of ways.

In later February, 69% of Democrats said they favored a Clinton run.

One of Clinton’s strengths is that, as of now, she looks like a winner. When asked what would happen if Clinton ran, a majority of Democrats and independents – and even some Republicans – say she is likely to win. Overall, 56% say she is at least somewhat likely to win the general election.

Another strength may be just that – the perception among those who like her that she is a strong leader. Just about half of adults (and 84% of Democrats) have a favorable view of Clinton. The same percentage of Republicans don’t like her, and independents are split. Asked to describe Clinton, those with a favorable opinion overwhelmingly mention strength as her best characteristic. They did the same in February; her musings about running and the latest accusations about her handling of last September’s terrorist attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi have done little to change that.

This sets Clinton apart from the current President, the man who defeated her for the Democratic nomination in 2008. 45% of the country holds a favorable view of Barack Obama, but strength is not one his dominant characteristics. In fact, asked separately, only 28% say they would use the word “strong” to describe him. Slightly more (30%) say he is bold. But the one positive attribute that he does score highly on is intelligence.

But that characteristic also appears in Hillary Clinton’s profile.

Like many politicians, the two get poor marks for truth-telling. A majority believes the President mostly says what people want to hear, and not what he really believes. Opinion is divided on Clinton. And when asked whether each has more, less or the sane integrity as most people in public life, 30% say Clinton has less, while 40% say that about the President.

And truth-telling (or the lack of it) is what many people who don’t like Clinton or Obama focus on. 44% are unfavorable towards Clinton; 49% unfavorable about Obama. In fact, dishonesty is the biggest negative those who don’t like Clinton volunteer. The word “liar” dominates her world cloud (just as it did in February) when those who are unfavorable towards her are asked to describe her.

Dishonesty is also prominent in the words those who are unfavorable used to describe President Obama. But in his unfavorable word cloud there is one word even more prominent: “incompetent.” Detractors are not just talking about the President’s honesty and character, but they are attacking his work as President. This is probably not surprising; Republicans, nearly all of whom are unfavorable towards the President, also overwhelmingly disapprove of his job performance and oppose many of his policies.

As of now, Clinton is looked on a competent enough to be president. 50% approve of the way she handled the job of Secretary of State, 57% approve her performance as First Lady (Republicans and independents are more likely to approve of her performance as First Lady than as Secretary of State in the Obama Administration). A majority of Americans (52%) say she is qualified for the top job. That group includes 81% of Democrats, half of independents, and one in five Republicans. As the presidential contest draws nearer, more Democrats and independents see Clinton as qualified than did so in February, but fewer Republicans admit she might be. That suggests the possibility of even greater polarization on this measure down the road.

For at least some Hillary Clinton fans, being the not-Obama may be a good thing. Democrats, however, haven’t deserted the President by any means. 76% of Democrats approve of how he has handled his job, and when asked whether they supported Obama or Clinton in 2008, by 51% to 32%, they say they wanted Obama to win the Democratic nomination then.

There is one special advantage that Clinton will have in 2016: her husband. Americans approve of how he handled the presidency by nearly two to one. In fact his approval rating is only a little lower than it was the day he left office (in the CBS News poll, Bill Clinton was tied with Ronald Reagan for the highest outgoing approval rating in polling history). President Clinton’s high approval ratings come not just from Democrats. A majority of independents, and even a third of Republicans, approve of the way he handled his Presidency.

Today, just 41% approve of the way President Obama is handling his job. And his approval rating was above 60% in Economist/YouGov Polls only at the very beginning of his first term.

Image: Getty

Full results can be found here.

Economist/YouGov poll archives can be found here.