Clintons Score in Popularity; Karl Rove, Not so Much

By Greg Holyk

May 28, 2014 7:00am

Hillary Clinton and her ex-president husband win substantial popularity in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll. Republican strategist Karl Rove, not so much.

Fifty-five percent of Americans say they’d support Clinton running for president in 2016. More, 63 percent, express a favorable opinion of Bill Clinton, the second-highest popularity rating he’s achieved in decades in the public spotlight.

See PDF with full results and charts here.

Rove, for his part, gets the cold shoulder for his comments raising questions about Hillary Clinton’s age and health: Sixty-six percent of Americans disapprove, including 46 percent of Republicans and 43 percent of strong conservatives, groups hardly apt to be Clinton fans.

Clinton’s support as a candidate is similar to when it first was tested in an ABC/Post poll a year and a half ago (then 57 percent). Still, that’s essentially level – not up – and “strong” support for her running has slipped very slightly, down 4 percentage points to 32 percent.

As previously, there’s a big gender gap, with 61 percent of women saying they’d support her running, vs. 49 percent among men. She’s also supported by 74 percent of blacks and 69 percent of Hispanics, compared with half of whites.

This poll didn’t test Clinton against a potential GOP candidate, rather simply asking Americans if they’d support or oppose her as a candidate for president. That said, head-to-head matchups in ABC/Post polls this year have had similar results, with 53 percent support for Clinton against Chris Christie and Jeb Bush alike, again with large gender gaps.

Clinton and her husband have been re-raising their public profiles lately, both making numerous speeches across the country in recent weeks. That’s looked like a warm-up to the June 10 release of Clinton’s book, “Hard Choices,” on her time as secretary of state. Coverage will include an exclusive interview of Clinton by ABC’s Diane Sawyer, set to air June 9.

Rove stirred up some controversy this month by questioning Clinton’s health, citing her hospitalization (for three days; he said 30) during the 2013 New Year’s holiday for a blood clot in her head after a fall. Criticism followed; Rove subsequently said he intended to question whether or not she’d run, not her fitness for office.

As noted, two-thirds in this survey, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, say they disapprove of Rove having raised questions about Clinton’s age and health, with only a quarter approving. Forty-three percent strongly disapprove, four times the level of strong approval.

BILL CLINTON – Clinton fatigue may be a risk; she ran for president unsuccessfully in 2008, and her husband served two terms starting in 1993, surviving a tumultuous sex scandal in which he was impeached but acquitted. At least for now, though, Bill Clinton’s back in good graces: Sixty-three percent express a favorable opinion of him, twice as many as see him unfavorably.

That’s the former president’s second-best popularity rating in ABC/Post polls going back to late 1991. The one better, 68 percent, was the week he first took office. Further, his strongly favorable score surpasses strongly unfavorable views by 14 points.

Bill Clinton’s rating also is far up from his all-time low, 39 percent favorability, at the height of the Monica Lewinsky scandal. It also tops his post-presidency average, 54 percent.

He’s popular with 87 percent of Democrats and liberals alike, as well as two-thirds of moderates, six in 10 political independents and even 53 percent of those who say they’re “somewhat” conservative. That falls to 37 percent of Republicans and a third of strong conservatives.

Beyond partisan and ideological differences, Bill Clinton’s popularity peaks among blacks (81 percent) and 30- to 39-year-olds (74 percent). Unlike support for his wife’s candidacy, there’s no gender gap in his favorability rating.

Support for a 2016 candidacy for Hillary Clinton, similarly, peaks at more than eight in 10 Democrats and liberals; she’s also supported by 62 percent of moderates, and 51 percent of sometime swing-voting political independents. That drops to four in 10 somewhat conservatives and a quarter of strong conservatives and Republicans.

Most striking in Clinton’s profile, as noted, is the 18-point gap between nonwhites and whites in support for her running for president, and the 12-point gap between women and men. Should she run, the battle lines seem clear.

METHODOLOGY – This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by landline and cell phone May 21-25, 2014, in English and Spanish, among a random national sample of 1,017 adults. Results have a margin of sampling error of 3 points. The survey was produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates of New York, N.Y.

Analysis by Gregory Holyk and Gary Langer.

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