As the long march to November 2016 is underway, Hillary Clinton – Democrat heir apparent – has a very similar image rating to President Obama according to the most recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey.  Not a very auspicious way to launch a campaign … hence, a delay?


Hillary Clinton has experienced the peaks and valleys of political life, perhaps more than most public figures.  Her 20-plus year presence on the national scene has certainly been marked by high and low points, her image like a seismographic chart:


The American public is relatively quick to forgive, but Clinton has never stayed in the public’s good graces for long.

  • Clinton’s 57{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} positive rating as she became First Lady was swept away over the next year-and-a half thanks to the dramatic failure of Hillarycare – dropping to just 39{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} positive. Clinton became even more unpopular during the Whitewater investigation.
  • Americans rallied behind Clinton during the Lewinsky scandal and subsequent impeachment trial – 54{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} positive in February of 1999. But the positive sentiment was short-lived, dropping to 41{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} once again by the close of 1999.
  • Americans looked favorably upon Clinton as she launched her own political career as U.S. Senator (49{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} positive/36{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} negative), but within a matter of two months her national image rating had reversed itself – 35{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} positive/49{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} negative.
  • The 2008 presidential primary was generally difficult for Clinton and her image, but her positive image rating did reach a new high (59{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}) when she became Obama’s Secretary of State. She peaked again at 58{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} positive following the attack in Benghazi, but has rather quickly seen the positive sentiment erode.

When Hillary Clinton’s image takes a dive, it goes quickly.  And, she plummets with women and Independents.  Note the shift in over the last two-year period in Clinton’s image among some key electoral sub-groups.


Clinton experienced similar drops in 2001, when her positives dropped from 49{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} to 35{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} in two months.


Those quick to coronate might take a quick trip down memory lane.  Time, and the American people, has not always been kind to Hillary Clinton.  There’s a deep and tortured history about Clinton’s political life that is bound to resurrect itself.  She’s a very polarizing candidate and has been on a 20-year image roller coaster, most notably with women.  And if she doesn’t have women in her hip pocket, she won’t be able to count on men to make up the difference (36{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} positive).

Hang on … it’s going to be a wild ride.

Data cited in this post is from a series of NBC News/Wall Street Journal surveys.

Public Opinion Strategies