Hillary Clinton’s Favorability Hits Its Lowest Level In Years

Hillary Clinton is taking a hit in the polls, but it's unclear if that's going to matter when 2016 rolls around.

Clinton, Gates, And Mullen Testify Before Senate Foreign Relations Cmte

The first couple months of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 Presidential campaign have arguably not gone as smoothly as she likely would have preferred. Even before she officially launched her campaign in April, the former Secretary of State was dealing with the repercussions of the rather surprising revelation that she had used a private e-mail server for all of her official correspondence while serving at Foggy Bottom. Shortly after that, a new book and companion investigations by The New York Times and other media outlets began reporting on a series of revelations regarding the dealings of the Clinton Foundation including the Foundation’s  failure to report donations from foreign sources, its involvement in  a multinational deal involving a Russian uranium company, and other information that showed that the Foundation had not complied with an agreement that had been made with the Obama White House when Clinton began serving in 2009. At least initially, polling indicated very little damage to Clinton from  either the email scandal orthe allegations involving the Clinton Foundation, although it was becoming apparent that the stories were having an impact on Clinton’s favorability and the extent to which Americans considered her trustworthy. Today, however, there are two new polls out showing that Clinton’s favorability ratings are continuing to decline, and that could end up hurting her standing in General Election match-ups.

In a new CNN/ORC poll, for example, Clinton’s unfavorable number are at their highest point since her and her husband left the White House:

More people have an unfavorable view of Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton now than at any time since 2001, according to a new CNN/ORC poll on the 2016 race.

While Clinton remains strikingly dominant in the Democratic field, the poll shows that her numbers have dropped significantly across several key indicators since she launched her campaign in April.

A growing number of people say she is not honest and trustworthy (57%, up from 49% in March), less than half feel she cares about people like them (47%, down from 53% last July) and more now feel she does not inspire confidence (50%, up from 42% last March).

In head-to-head match-ups against top Republicans, her margin is tighter than it has been at any point in CNN/ORC’s polling on the contest.

In general election match-ups, Clinton now runs about even with Rand Paul, Scott Walker and Marco Rubio, while she continues to top Bush and Ted Cruz by a significant margin.

As noted above, those shifts stem largely from a change among independents, though Republicans appear to be solidifying their support for GOP candidates while Democrats are slightly less certain about Clinton.

One feature of the race that has held even as the numbers shifted: These match-ups prompt enormous gender gaps. According to the poll, the gender gaps remain over 20 points in each of the five match-ups tested, including a whopping 34-point gender gap in Clinton’s match-up with Scott Walker.

Her declining support in those general election match-ups, alongside falling favorability ratings and worsening impressions of her, suggests recent news about her actions as secretary of state may have taken a toll.

There are similar numbers in the new ABC News/Washington Post poll:

Clinton’s favorability ratings are the lowest in a Post-ABC poll since April 2008, when she was running for president the first time. Today, 41 percent of Americans say she is honest and trustworthy, compared with 52 percent who say she is not — a 22-point swing in the past year.


Clinton’s favorability rating has fallen steadily since she left the Obama administration in early 2013. Today, 45 percent see her positively while 49 percent see her negatively. That compares with ratings of 49 percent and 46 percent two months ago. Just 24 percent have a strongly favorable impression of her — down six points in the past two months — while 39 percent have a strongly unfavorable impression, up four points.

The decline in Clinton’s ratings as a candidate who is honest and trustworthy highlights a likely vulnerability as a general-election candidate. Half of all Americans disapprove of the way she has handled questions about the Clinton Foundation, and 55 percent disapprove of how she has handled questions about her personal e-mails as secretary of state.

Meanwhile, half also disapprove of the way she has dealt with questions about the attack on a U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11, 2012, that resulted in the deaths of four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens.

Majorities see the issues of the Clinton Foundation and Benghazi as fair game in the presidential election, while almost half of Americans say the e-mail issue is a legitimate topic.

The poll also shows Clinton with just a three point lead over Jeb Bush in a hypothetical General Election contest, but for some reason they either did not poll any head-to-head contests between Clinton and any of the other potential Republican candidates or they have not released those numbers yet. Nonetheless, it is worth noting that the last time ABC and The Washington Post polled a Clinton-Bush contest Clinton led Bush by twelve percentage points. In any case, what both polls are showing us is that Clinton is being hurt in at least some way by the ongoing coverage regarding issues from the recent past. As I have noted before, Clinton’s previous favorability numbers were unnaturally high and it was inevitable that they would start to decline once she entered the race for President. The fact that they now generally match the partisan divide in the nation as a whole isn’t entirely surprising. Additionally, it has become clear that, at least among Democrats and others inclined to support Clinton’s campaign, her ethical lapses don’t really seem to matter. Finally, even taking into account all of the problems Clinton has had over the past several months and the impact it has had on her poll numbers it shouldn’t be forgotten that, in the end, she will be the first female Presidential nominee and she will be running against whomever  the Republicans nominate in 2016. Just as the prospect of Barack Obama becoming the first African-American President was a powerful element behind the popularity of his campaign, it’s likely that the same will happen with Hillary Clinton no matter how many negative stories come out. Add to that the fact that Democrats have a strong advantage in the Electoral College that it will be difficult for the GOP to overcome, and the issues that Republicans have with young, minority, and female voters, and Clinton’s position seems to be fairly strong notwithstanding these poll numbers.

At the same time, though, the fact that Clinton’s favorability is turning negative and that large segments of the public are saying that she isn’t trustworthy is hardly a good thing. If this were happening closer to the General Election, it would be a huge problem. As it is, while there is still plenty of time for Clinton to bounce back from this and while she does still lead in most head-to-head matches, it’s still something that the campaign ought to be dealing with sooner rather than latter unless they want to have even bigger headaches on their hand than just a couple of bad polls.

FILED UNDER: 2016 Election, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. PD Shaw says:

    You’re likeable enough Hillary.

  2. Rafer Janders says:

    Weird, it’s almost as if the moment she went from not actively running for supreme political office against a large, well-funded opponent bent on destroying here, to actively running for supreme political against a large, well-funded opponent bent on destroying her, is when her favorability rating started to slip…..

  3. michael reynolds says:

    I think it’s all in the timing. The Republicans attacked too early.

    Hillary is laying back, staying very low-key, letting the over-eager Republicans and the pissy, entitled media attack unanswered. We are 17 months out from election day. If this is all the dirt anyone’s got it won’t amount to a hill of beans.

  4. george says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Yup, its very early to say much of anything about what’s going to happen in the next election. Most people simply don’t care this far out (with good reason).

  5. DrDaveT says:

    @michael reynolds: Agreed. Any sane candidate wants their popularity to bottom out long before the election. The idea that it’s going to continue slipping inexorably downward is based on… well, nothing. Nothing at all.

    I’d love to see historical data on this. My guess is that every candidate ever who was prominent enough to have favorability ratings before the campaign even began has taken a popularity hit the first time the big guns came out against them. Those who don’t fold immediately then steadily regain ground.

    As you say, Michael — the Republicans shot their wad (in the musketry sense).

  6. Dave Schuler says:

    I’m actually surprised at this. She has 100% name recognition (within the margin of error). That means that some people are changing their minds about her. Who?

    There are many possibilities as to what might happen. She might already have seen her highest favorable rating. She could bounce back. Her favorability rating could drift ever lower right now through election day. She could push back through her previous high favorability rating. I doubt it but anything could happen. Which of those is the most likely? BTSOM.

  7. stonetools says:

    My guess is that Clinton’s favorable ratings are slipping because some Democrats are measuring her aghainst their Perfect Liberal Candidate. Meanwhile non-Democrats are measuring her against The Perfect Republican Candidate.
    Once people stop comparing HRC to unicorns, and she is matched up against the actual Republican nominee, her favorabilty ratings will rise again.

  8. edmondo says:

    @michael reynolds:

    If this is all the dirt anyone’s got it won’t amount to a hill of beans

    If this was all the dirt anyone had, they wouldn’t be The Clintons. There’s plenty more to come..

  9. HankP says:

    And yet, she’s still the most admired woman in the US and has been for 17 of the last 18 years. She also pounds the snot out of every potential Republican candidate. So probably smoother going than most Republicans would prefer.

  10. michael reynolds says:


    On the contrary, the actual dirt is never more than a little dust bunny. With the Clintons it’s always less.

  11. michael reynolds says:

    I have no way of knowing whether this is deliberate strategy or blind luck, but when you’re calculating the odds consider the way this would look if we knew it was deliberate. To me it would look as if Hillary is playing rope-a-dope. She knows the beating is coming, so she lets it run early when it’s 18 GOP candidates beating up on her and people aren’t paying much attention.

    Then, when the GOP candidate is finally revealed – some time after Iowa or NH, most likely, she counter-attacks. She looks like a victim for months early on so she can start rolling the tanks closer to when it really counts. If she’s going to go negative – and I suspect we all think she will – then it will be great to have been beat up on. When a “victim” goes negative it looks like justice.

  12. An Interested Party says:

    You’re likeable enough Hillary.

    Compared to the gang of misfits and fools arrayed against her? Hell yes…

  13. MBunge says:

    When push comes to shove, the Clintons have never been terribly popular with the public. It’s hardly surprising that people are reminded of what they don’t like about Hillary when they focus on the reality of her becoming the next President.

    It’s very hard to imagine the GOP producing a candidate that can beat her, though.


  14. stonetools says:

    While liberals fret about Clinton’s “trustworthiness” , this is happening: Jeb Bush, by pretending not to run for President, is evading the campaign finance laws:

    It is hard to conclude that laws are not being broken when you look at Jeb Bush’s actions as an ‘undeclared’ candidate and the laws on the books. Quite clearly this is a man very actively running for President and raising tens of millions of dollars in ‘soft money’ to aid his quest. Denying he is a candidate does not exempt the former governor from obeying the law which prohibits candidates from raising and spending soft money. While the FEC has all but declared that it will not be enforcing campaign finance laws this election cycle, that does not mean the laws passed by Congress and signed by Presidents of both parties may be ignored.


    That’s just his Right to Rise PAC, though. His Right to Rise super PAC is where the real action is happening. Behind closed doors, he is straight-up bragging to donors about how much money he has raised for… whatever mysterious thing he is plotting!

    All-but-declared Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush told about 350 donors Sunday that he had set a record in Republican politics for fundraising in the first 100 days of a White House bid.

    Mr. Bush’s announcement, which was met by hearty applause according to donors in the room, came on the first night of a private, two-day gathering for his top donors at an oceanfront luxury hotel. The event will include policy, political and financial briefings by Mr. Bush and his advisers.

    So while Doug is obsessing about speaker fees, and liberal commenters are wringing their hands about Clinton’s impurities, Jeb Bush is raising untold millions from secret donors by promising them God knows what.( So are other Republicans).
    All this careful focus on the Clinton Foundation and deliberate ignoring of what the Republicans are doing, isn’t just happenstance, of course. And as result, Clinton’s 12 point lead over Jeb Bush has slipped to three points, because she is seen as “sleazy” and Bush is not.

    Honestly, sometimes I feel we liberals are just like children playing seasoned professionals when it comes to messaging.

  15. Tyrell says:

    Hillary needs to stay firmly in the middle and avoid the temptations to move left because of Sanders and O’Malley. She must remember that it was the independents that elected Obama. And they abandoned the Obama sinking ship presidency years ago. So she is going to have to come up with something better and bolder than what she has said so far – which has been nothing, to get the independent vote. The Sanders people are not going to jump ship and vote Republican, so she doesn’t have to cater to them by evoking the socialist lines and script.

  16. Guarneri says:

    I’ve sent a note to the Golden State Warriors that they should spot Cleveland 20 points in the first quarter of each game……….so they’ll have them right where they want them.

  17. anjin-san says:


    We’ve been waiting a long time for this, last time the Warriors were in the finals, I was a sophomore in high school. Oracle has been rocking all year, hope we can close the deal.

  18. Barry says:

    @MBunge: “When push comes to shove, the Clintons have never been terribly popular with the public. ”

    I’m happy to put President Clinton’s popularity against any GOP President you’d care to name.

  19. Modulo Myself says:

    Hillary Clinton is basically Al Gore in 2000. The problems for the GOP are that Gore lost a race that was basically tied, and the country that will decide the election is in no mood for the GOP.

    This is Scott Walker:

    Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) said Monday that he’d be willing to sign a 20-week abortion ban without exceptions for rape or incest, adding that women were mostly concerned about those issues “in the initial months” of pregnancy, television station WKOW reported.

    “I mean, I think for most people who are concerned about that, it’s in the initial months where they’re most concerned about it,” Walker said of pregnancies caused by rape and incest.

    Smart move going for the base. They love casual off-hand toxicity regarding women’s views on rape. But this is going to be death in the general election. And nobody in the GOP can call this crazy or disgusting. Not now.

  20. MBunge says:

    @Barry: “I’m happy to put President Clinton’s popularity against any GOP President you’d care to name.”

    The key part of my statement was “when push comes to shove.”

    Of course Bill Clinton is popular now when, to most of the public, he’s little more than a celebrity. Want to lay any odds on his popularity declining steeply the more closely and publicly he’s involved in Hillary’s campaign? Want to compare Ronald Reagan’s popularity rolling to a 49 state landslide in 1984 vs. Bill Clinton’s when he couldn’t get 50% to vote for him in 1996?

    To be clear, neither Bill nor Hillary Clinton have ever been as loathed by the general public as their enemies would like to claim. But there’s always been a lot about them that’s disliked by a sizable section of that public.


  21. stonetools says:


    To be clear, neither Bill nor Hillary Clinton have ever been as loathed by the general public as their enemies would like to claim. But there’s always been a lot about them that’s disliked by a sizable section of that public.

    The vast right wing conspiracy has a lot to do with that dislike, of course. Let’s face it, the left just doesn’t have a BS machine that can whip up hate 24/7/365 with Goebbels like efficency the way the right has. Note that even the very likeable, personal-scandal-free Barack Obama has a hard time keeping his approval rating north of 50 per cent.
    I will also admit that the left is ambivalent about the Clintons( and that the Clinton’s conduct has a lot to do with that).

  22. Tillman says:

    @stonetools: As you often put it, better the devil you’re ambivalent on than the devil you know is an asshole. 🙂

    Honestly, the Clintons only look sleazy compared to Obama, who’s so squeaky-clean as to defy belief. (He’s like the “less fat” version of the Clintons.) Maybe that’s just because the right went nuts trying to find something credible and went off the deep-end because of it, but still.

  23. wr says:

    @MBunge: “But there’s always been a lot about them that’s disliked by a sizable section of that public.”

    Quick, name one human being in the public eye about whom that is not true.

    And then for the bonus round, explain what point you think you’re making.

  24. stonetools says:


    MBunge wats us to know he’s not like the sheeple who have swallowed the Clinton Kool Aid and are blind, unthinking followers of the Billary Singularity.
    The reality , of course, is that there are no such “sheeple” around here. Everyone knows of the Clinton’s flaws and everyone is going into this election with their eyes open, knowing that we are supporting an imperfect candidate who is nonetheless infinitely better than the parade of pyscopaths served up by the Republican Party.But hey,MBunge is here to warn us about the flawed Clintons anyways.

  25. Ben Wolf says:


    My guess is that Clinton’s favorable ratings are slipping because some Democrats are measuring her aghainst their Perfect Liberal Candidate. Meanwhile non-Democrats are measuring her against The Perfect Republican Candidate.
    Once people stop comparing HRC to unicorns, and she is matched up against the actual Republican nominee, her favorabilty ratings will rise again.

    Lot of assumptions in there, including that many people just aren’t smart as you. That’s called hubris.