Poll: Clinton Does Well on Attributes, Lacks Crossover Appeal

Some factors are working well for Sen. Hillary Clinton in early jockeying for the 2008 presidential election: partisan loyalty, leadership, "values" and approachability. But another -- crossover support -- remains as elusive as ever for the New York Democrat.

About two-thirds of Americans in this ABC News/Washington Post poll call Clinton a strong leader and someone who has strong family values. More than half say she's open and friendly, understands their problems and is honest. Overall, 54 percent view her favorably.

Sampling, data collection and tabulation for this poll were done by TNS.

But the former first lady continues to be a polarizing figure. As many Americans strongly dislike as strongly like her (three in 10 in each case). And 42 percent wouldn't even consider voting for her, compared with 28 percent who rule out Republican Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

Election 2008
  Would Definitely Vote For Would Consider Would Definitely Note Vote For
Clinton 19% 38% 42%
McCain 9% 57% 28%

Indeed, Clinton's challenge is the mirror image of McCain's. She's strong in her base -- good for getting nominated -- but weaker in the center, and strength there is critical in a general election. McCain, despite recent attempts at repositioning, remains better placed for a general election but with less of the partisan base it takes to win the nomination in the first place.

For example, 37 percent of Democrats at this early stage say they'd "definitely" support Clinton, while just 11 percent of Republicans say they're definitely with McCain. It's very similar among ideological groups: Thirty-five percent of liberals are definitely for Clinton, compared with 10 percent of conservatives "definitely" for McCain.

What McCain lacks in base support he gains in the center. More than half of Democrats say they'd at least consider him, compared with just one in four Republicans who'd at least consider Clinton. And Independents -- the quintessential swing voters -- are 12 points more likely to say they'd at least consider McCain than Clinton.

All told, two-thirds say they'd at least consider voting for McCain, while 57 percent would at least consider Clinton. Either, it should be noted, is enough to elect a president.


Clinton does particularly well among women. Women are 13 points more likely than men to say they'd at least consider voting for her, a gap that remains even just among Democrats. And three in 10 Republican women would think about voting for her, compared with two in 10 Republican men. (McCain does not have such a gender gap -- about two-thirds of men and women alike would consider supporting him.)

Democratic men and women are equally likely to have an overall favorable impression of Clinton, the basic measure of a public figure's popularity. But Republican women are 13 points more apt than Republican men to view her favorably.

Her attributes may help explain why. Six in 10 women say Clinton understands their problems, while fewer than half of men agree. And women are 11 points more likely than men to say she has "strong family values."


Clinton and McCain have almost identical favorability ratings overall: Fifty-four percent of Americans have a favorable opinion of Clinton, while 55 percent view McCain positively. But again, Clinton rates higher in her base, while McCain rates higher in the center.

More than eight in 10 Democrats and liberals view Clinton favorably; many fewer Republicans -- 66 percent -- rate McCain favorably, as do even fewer conservatives, 59 percent. On the other side of the coin, just a quarter of Republicans rate Clinton favorably, while half of Democrats rate McCain positively on a personal level.

Among Independents, 48 percent view Clinton favorably, and 53 percent have a favorable opinion of McCain. But Clinton's unfavorable rating among this crucial group is 46 percent -- 13 points higher than McCain's.

Among all Americans, Clinton's unfavorable rating is 11 points higher than McCain's (more have no opinion of him), and 31 percent have a "strongly" unfavorable impression of her, 20 points higher than McCain's strongly unfavorable rating.

Bill and Ideology

Clinton's ties to her husband are not seen as much of an issue. Fewer than one in 10 Americans thinks Bill Clinton has too much influence over her (in fact, nearly as many Republicans and conservatives say he has too little influence as too much.) And fewer than two in 10 say the way she handled the situation surrounding her husband's affair with Monica Lewinsky makes them respect her less.

Clinton's Views on Most Issues
  Too Liberal Too Conservative About Right
All 37% 5% 52%
Democrats 12% 4% 80%
Republicans 71% 4% 19%
Independents 34% 4% 52%

Rather, Clinton's problem is that broad majorities of Republicans and conservatives, as well as about a third of Independents and moderates, see her as too liberal. About six in 10 conservatives, seven in 10 Republicans and eight in 10 Republican men say so. Among people who view Clinton unfavorably, three in four call her too liberal.

But again, liberals and Democrats are strongly behind her, with eight in 10 saying her views on most issues are about right. Good for the primaries, at least.


This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by telephone May 11-15, 2006, among a random national sample of 1,103 adults. The results have a three-point error margin. Sampling, data collection and tabulation by TNS of Horsham, Pa.

To see the complete results of this poll, click here.

For other ABC News polls, click here.