After more than a year of high-profile political volatility, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has seen her popularity with American voters dip only slightly. That was before the brunt of the e-mail fiasco, which many Americans view as a technical glitch.
A new Gallup poll of 1,522 adults conducted March 2-4 found that 50 percent of Americans have a favorable opinion of Clinton – the prohibitive favorite to win the Democratic presidential nomination next year -- compared with a 55 percent favorability rating last July.
Yet the former first lady and New York senator continues to eclipse every other Democratic and Republican presidential prospect in the field.
An impressive 89 percent of those interviewed say they know who she is and have formed an opinion of her. Moreover, her positive-to-negative rating of +12 percentage points is far better than any other prospective Democratic or GOP candidate except for Republican Ben Carson, a pediatric neurosurgeon.
Among voters familiar with him, Carson gets a 20 percent approval rating to just an eight-percent disapproval rating. His problem is that little more than a quarter of Americans surveyed had ever heard of him.
Whether Clinton, 67, goes on to capture her party’s nomination and win the White House in the November 2016 election is a matter of intense speculation and conjecture, especially in the wake of intense controversy over her handling of official emails while she was at the State Department.
While GOP leaders are hoping the flap over her emails, contributions to her family’s foundation from foreign countries and other festering controversies will leave her vulnerable if she enters the race, the new Gallup survey shows the steep climb facing any of her Republican rivals trying to match her name recognition and still impressive popularity.
Right now, for instance, former Florida governor Jeb Bush and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie come closest to Clinton in name recognition -- with 68 percent and 65 percent, respectively. Carson and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida come closest to her in net-favorability, with plus 12 points and plus five points, respectively.
Yet all four of these prospective Republican candidates are currently weaker than Clinton on those other two dimensions, according to Gallup. But this will change.
“The candidates' images will change over the course of the presidential campaign as a result of increased attention from voters, increased media scrutiny, their performance in scheduled debates and how they perform in the early primaries and caucuses,” wrote Jeffrey M. Jones of Gallup.
It’s important to note that at a similar point in early March 2007, before her last presidential campaign, Clinton was actually better known than now. Back then, 96 percent of Americans surveyed were familiar with Clinton, and she enjoyed a similar favorability rating as now.
Her favorables varied over the course of that campaign, including times when more Americans had a negative than a positive opinion of her. She eventually lost the 2008 Democratic nomination to Barack Obama –- then a senator from Illinois -- after starting the campaign as the clear front-runner.
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