Voters Not Too Impressed With Hillary Clinton’s Time At Foggy Bottom

A new poll suggests that Hillary Clinton's record as Secretary of State doesn't impress voters as much as she might hope.

Clinton Secretary of State

A new poll from Politico suggests that Hillary Clinton’s time as Secretary of State may not be as much of an electoral enhancer as her supporters might believe:

A majority of voters are unimpressed with Hillary Clinton’s performance as secretary of state, according to a new POLITICO poll.

Just 14 percent described her time at State — she served four years ending in February 2013 — as “excellent,” while 28 percent defined it as “good.” Twenty-one percent called it “fair,” and 32 percent rated her performance “poor.” Six percent weren’t sure or declined to answer. The survey of likely voters in states and districts with the most competitive House and Senate races was conducted this month as Clinton traveled around the country to promote her new memoir, “Hard Choices,” and discuss her time as the nation’s top diplomat.

Clinton’s ratings did not vary meaningfully across income levels or age, but there was a clear partisan divide over the likely 2016 presidential candidate. Some 79 percent of Democrats viewed her performance as either good or excellent, while just 12 percent of Republicans saw her that way. Only 5 percent of Democrats thought she did the job fairly or poorly, in contrast to 86 percent of Republicans.

Yet, in a potential warning sign for Clinton, independents gave her lukewarm marks by a nearly 2-to-1 margin: 60 percent viewed her performance as “fair” or “poor,” compared with just 33 percent who answered “excellent” or “good.”

In a February 2013 Quinnipiac University survey, Clinton had a 61 percent favorable rating and a 34 percent unfavorable rating.

This is the same poll that surveyed Americans for the views on foreign policy, so the same caveats apply here as there. Additionally, it’s worth nothing a recent Gallup poll found that Clinton was both the most well-known and the most favorably viewed of any of the potential candidates of either party, and recent NBC News/Marist polling showed her with an overwhelming lead over any potential Democratic opponents in both Iowa and New Hampshire.  Judging by those numbers alone, and other evidence, it is fairly obvious that Hillary Clinton is sitting in a very good position should she choose to run for President in 2016, which at this point it seems rather obvious she will end up doing barring some extreme circumstances.

That being said, Clinton will not be able to coast her way to the Oval Office based on goodwill and high poll numbers alone. She’ll need to have a campaign message of some kind, and it seems fairly clear that a large part of that campaign will focus on her experience, principally as a Senator and Secretary of State. Her four years at Foggy Bottom, for example, are the subject of her book and a large part of the message that she attempted to convey during the media blitz that accompanied its publication involved the “hard choices” that she was forced to make during that period. At various points in the book, she draws distinctions between herself and the President, such as when she pointed out that she had been among those arguing in favor of arming the Syrian rebels when the rebellion against Bashar Assad first began, but that the President had decided otherwise.

Obviously, if Hillary Clinton does run for President she intends to use her tenure as Secretary of State as an argument in favor of her candidacy. What this poll suggests is that it may not be as impressive to voters as her most ardent supporters seem to think that it is. That doesn’t mean that her record will hurt her sufficiently to matter in the end, of course, but it does suggest that, at least by the time the General Election rolls around, 2016 may not be the cakewalk that they seem to think that it is.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2016, 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. stonetools says:

    Have there been any polls on Chris Christie’s foreign policy? How about Mr. Ted “Don’t Blink” Cruz’s FP?
    It’s always important to realize that HRC isn’t running against Jesus or George Washington but against the Republican clown car posse. Compared to them, I’m sure HRC will seem just fine.
    As far as Democrats are concerned, what matters to them is that HRC is a Democrat and a known (if not universally liked) quantity. She won’t be appointing a Roberts or an Alito to the bench.
    FP wise, HRC is more hawkish than many liberal Democrats would like. But that’s not paramount in most Democrats’ minds. What matters is that she won’t be a Republican.

  2. C. Clavin says:

    Most Americans don’t know what the State Department does.

  3. al-Ameda says:

    …32 percent rated her performance “poor”

    There you go, only a third of the respondents were Republican.

  4. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    Perhaps the people polled would be impressed if they only knew some of her accomplishments as Secretary of State. Just show them a few of the things she did in office, how her actions improved the nation and the world in some small ways.

    And then they can be told about her accomplishments in her eight years in the US Senate.

    Just lay out those facts, and I’m sure the public will be won over.

  5. george says:

    I suspect most people really have no basis for judging. I’d include myself on that list. Unless a Sec of State is either exceptionally good or exceptionally bad they’re going to fly under the radar. I include myself in that “most” – I couldn’t give an argument either way on whether she did well or badly in that role.

    I’d guess Kissinger is the last one who most of the public knew much about.

    Meaning its not going to help or hurt her chances at the presidency.

  6. beth says:

    @C. Clavin: Most Americans probably couldn’t name the last five Secretaries of State.

    So off the top of your head, without Googling, what were the top accomplishments of the last five S of S? What were Rice, Powell, Albright, Christopher, and James Baker known for?

    (I did that list without googling either so I may have missed someone)

  7. Raoul says:

    It is an online pollster with a poor reputation. Even then, I am surprised how well HRC polled considering that more Republicans than Democrats were polled and that 47% of the respondents make over 75K a year. Other cross tabs show that the poll was held mostly in red states and minorities were underepresented. Finally, the crosstabs don’t break down the split of fair/poor of independents voters (which probably lean GOP) because of a likely high margin of error. Considering that “fair” is a loaded term that means whatever one wants it to mean, this poll can be argued to show the opposite of the headline: that voters do accord a positive degree of success during HRC’s state department tenure.

  8. James Pearce says:


    What were Rice, Powell, Albright, Christopher, and James Baker known for?


  9. Ian says:

    These kinds of polls drive me nuts. Half the country can’t name the VP (and unlike his predecessor, the current guy isn’t some snarling recluse). How many could name something in this poll other than Benghazi(!).

    Same as when people were polled about Obamacare, pre-website debacle. How many people could actually tell you what Obamacare was without using the words, “death panels”, “pulling the plug on granny”, or “government takeover of health care”, or any other disqualifiers?

    You can ask the broad-brush questions, but asking an uninformed electorate (the left and middle don’t have an advantage in the LIV category, no matter what the right says) these kind of questions is just useless.

  10. Andre Kenji says:


    It’s always important to realize that HRC isn’t running against Jesus or George Washington but against the Republican clown car posse.

    That´s the problem. Hillary is not convincingly beating most of the people from the car posse in the polls.

  11. stonetools says:

    @Andre Kenji:

    She is beating all of them though. That we know for a fact.I bet her lead over them will grow, not decrease , as people learn about Christie and Cruz’s views on foreign policy.

  12. Tyrell says:

    “Voters not impressed with Hillary Clinton’s time at Foogy Bottom” : “uh, Bulwinkle, I wonder why on earth they would think such a thing?” (Rocky)
    Best sec of state: Acheson, Marshall, Rusk, Vance, Haig, Rogers, and of course Dr. Kissinger.

  13. stonetools says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    Clinton didn’t lie us into a war that cost us 4,000 Americans dead. How did your guys do?

  14. grumpy realist says:

    Doug, totally OT, but have you kept an eye on the whole “I lost therefore there must have been fraud!” McDaniel election thing?

    Not content with pissing off the Republican Party, he’s now ticking off the Mississippi Supreme Court and many many court clerks. This isn’t just a Hail Mary pass; he’s also burning down the rest of the stadium.

    I predict the next time we’ll see him is popping up next to Dear Sarah on the Grifter Express.

  15. rudderpedals says:


    What were Rice, Powell, Albright, Christopher, and James Baker known for?

    Rorshach test!

    Rice: Mushroom cloud
    Powell: Chemical warfare trailer
    Albright: Bosnia
    Cristopher: Tall white shirt collar
    Baker: Oil can

  16. superdestroyer says:

    The only thing that Hillary needs to get elected is the (D) next to her name on the ballot. What is amazing is had a good article on why anyone challenging Hillary Clinton will have a hard time.

    When there is no policy disagreement among Democrats, campaigns will be about name recognition, likability, and charisma. So far no one showing up for the Democrats has any more charisma than Hillary.

  17. Pinky says:

    @Tyrell: Marshall or Seward.

  18. wr says:

    @beth: “What were Rice, Powell, Albright, Christopher, and James Baker known for?”

    Well, Condi Rice is best known for never having been able to imagine the idea of planes used as weapons… something that even an idiot TV writer like me had been able to imagine and dramatize years before 9/11.

  19. KansasMom says:

    @beth: Homer Simpson once said that all American young men were turning gay (in the John Waters episode) since they had never gone off to war. “Thank you very much Warren Christopher!” So, there’s that.

  20. KansasMom says:

    My bad it, it was Moe that said that. “Time was, you send a boy off to war. Shootin’ a man fix him right up. But there’s not even any wars no more, thank you very much Warren Christopher.”

  21. CB says:



    Seriously, why even bother commenting anymore? Just leave your name, and everyone will know the message.

  22. bill says:

    but she may benefit from kerry’s complete ineptness- maybe they can sell her era there as “she wasn’t as bad as kerry”? still, she doesn’t look like a winner in ’16.

  23. C. Clavin says:

    Nice…take a document written to achieve consensus among disparate factions…and use it to claim there is no disagreement.
    Your as dumb as you are bigoted.

  24. C. Clavin says:

    Yes.. Israel is attacking the Palestinians agIn…because Kerry is inept.

  25. An Interested Party says:

    still, she doesn’t look like a winner in ’16.

    Compared to who? Chris Christie? Rand Paul? Jeb Bush? Ted Cruz? Good luck with any of those…

  26. Tillman says:

    If I’m being honest, I don’t recall the last time a Secretary of State impressed me. They’re putting the “fair” voters in the negative column, which speaks more to poor question wording. Unless there was an option beneath “poor” this excerpt didn’t mention.

  27. Tyrell says:

    @superdestroyer: Charisma ? You have to be kidding. Calvin Coolidge had more charisma.

  28. bill says:

    @C. Clavin: quid pro quo! launch a thousand rockets at a well armed enemy and get what you deserve. i’m sure the hamas crowd isn’t all that great at math but they killed one civilian with that barrage- dollars to dollars it wasn’t that good of an investment, but neither was electing a group of terrorists that have no idea how to actually run a country….aside from into the ground. maybe there will be some more pix of some dead/injured sheetheads to make you weep for them, while their leaders laugh at their human shields and how gullible people like you are. propaganda is propaganda.
    back to the point, kerry makes hillary look downright diplomatic- and that says little about her.

  29. C. Clavin says:

    Yeah…we know which team you root for…but your comments make no sense. Which makes sense…given the team you root for.

  30. superdestroyer says:


    I suspect that one of the reasons that President Obama beat Hillary Clinton in 2008 was that he is much higher on the likability scale than Hillary. When elections are not about issues but about personality, then the better personality will more than likely win. Also, being a more likable person means that more ambitious people are willing to work for you than the unlikable person.

  31. Tillman says:

    @Tyrell: Let’s not be too crazy. You can carry on a conversation with Hillary Clinton. Calvin Coolidge would just stare at you until his stare bore holes through your psyche.

  32. C. Clavin says:

    Yes…had the election been about issues McCain and Palin surely would have won.

  33. Eric Florack says:


    Hmmm. And yet your other post about her suggests Democrats still want to vote for her.
    There seems a disconnect, somewhere

  34. superdestroyer says:

    @C. Clavin:

    I was writing about the Democratic primary. President Obama was more likable than Hillary. In the general election in 2012, the Democrats worked hard at making sure that the world saw Romney as unlikable. That is why the focused so much on his wealth rather than issues.

    In the future, there will be even less discussion of issues since policy or governance differences among Democrats will fade away for those who want a career in politics.

  35. pylon says:

    I suspect most things that a good SOS does escape public notice, for good reason.

  36. Mr X says:

    Look at the 10 people who can’t name a noteworthy accomplishment:

    1. Andrew Sullivan notes how Hillary’s own supporters struggle to name an accomplishment from her time as Secretary of State

    2. Lanny Davis – Hillary’s achievement was being “the most popular woman in the world”

    3. Susan Glasser in Politico describes how not even a Clinton “ardent defender” can name a “signal accomplishment at the State Department to her name”

    4. Huffington Post’s Sam Stein noted how Clinton supporters have told him “nothing shines brightly” in Clinton’s State Department record

    5. James Rosen in the Washingtonian – Clinton’s “legacy is thin”

    6. Politico‘s Maggie Haberman on the Hugh Hewitt show – Clinton was not “a key factor” in “the issues that are the hottest right now, globally”

    7. MSNBC’s Chuck Todd – is “there a one big crowning achievement where you see her right there and then in a crisis moment as Secretary of State, especially compared to, for instance, John Kerry”

    8. Current State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki

    9. Former State Department official David Gordon -”great weakness was avoiding serious diplomacy”

    And finally…the candidate herself

    10. Hillary herself, who, at the Women of the World 2014 Summit in New York City on April 3, 2014, struggled to list concrete accomplishments during her tenure as Secretary of State.


  37. bill says:

    @C. Clavin: maybe reading comprehension isn’t your thing, i did it in as “plain speak” as possible. hamas uses their constituency for their own personal gain, they don’t care if they die in the process. ask yourself this next time you need to deflect, does hamas use Israels methods when attacking? does hamas warn anyone to leave an area they are going to hit? no need to answer, it’s obvious they don’t care.