PRINCETON, NJ -- Three of the four principal Democrats the party is showcasing this week in prime-time Democratic convention speeches in Charlotte, N.C., are generally in good favor with the majority of Americans. According to a USA Today/Gallup poll conducted prior to both parties' conventions, former President Bill Clinton, first lady Michelle Obama, and President Barack Obama all have broad appeal, while Vice President Joe Biden receives mixed reviews.
Clinton's 69% favorable rating in the Aug. 20-22 poll is just slightly higher than Michelle Obama's 65%, and is his personal best in Gallup trends spanning his presidential and post-presidential years. His prior high was 66%, last recorded in July and matching his pre-inaugural rating in 1993.
Underscoring his value to the convention, Clinton also ties the first lady in positive ratings from several groups that are likely to be important to Democratic victory this fall: women, nonwhites, young voters, and independents. Additionally, of the four prominent Democrats rated in the survey, Clinton emerges as the most popular among men and older Americans, indicating his potential effectiveness at broadening the party's appeal to these groups.
None of the Democratic figures is viewed favorably by a majority of Republicans, but Michelle Obama and Clinton come close. At the same time, Michelle Obama has solid favorability with all other groups, while President Obama has sub-majority favorable reviews from men, whites, and adults 55 and older.
Biden lags about 10 percentage points behind Barack Obama in favorable reviews from men and women. However, on a relative basis he does slightly better among whites, Republicans, and those 55 and older. He fares slightly worse among 18- to 34-year-olds, nonwhites, independents, and Democrats.
More generally, since late 2009, Biden has consistently trailed President Obama in favorability by about 10 percentage points, mirroring the favorability deficit seen for GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan vs. Romney, with Ryan also receiving mixed reviews. Similarly, former Vice President Dick Cheney's favorable rating typically lagged behind then-President George W. Bush's by a few points, particularly in his first term, when Bush's favorable rating was above 50%.
By contrast, since late 2009, Michelle Obama has led the president by up to 14 points, consistent with the pattern Gallup saw with Laura Bush when George W. Bush was president.
Three of the four most prominent Democrats in the country today evoke positive reactions from Americans, with Clinton and Michelle Obama being especially popular. Although President Obama is not as popular, the majority of Americans nevertheless view him favorably, which is more than his vice president can say.
Obama's favorability also eclipses his Republican opponent's, as 48% of Americans viewed Romney favorably in the Aug. 20-22 poll. While that measure was taken prior to the Republican National Convention and Americans' views may have changed since, they are not likely to have changed much, given the basic stability in voter preferences for Obama vs. Romney spanning the convention.
It is harder than ever to compel Americans to tune in to live coverage of the national party conventions, so both parties are turning to star power -- whether that comes from inside politics or outside it (e.g., Clinton Eastwood) -- to attract viewers. The Republican convention's lackluster 2012 television ratings -- and the lack of a post-convention bounce for the Republican ticket -- may partly reflect the absence of any speakers that most Americans would intentionally tune in to hear. That may be different for the Democrats, particularly with Michelle Obama on Tuesday night and Clinton on Wednesday, but also with Barack Obama, who will take the stage Thursday to accept his party's nomination.
Apart from individual party members who may be popular, both parties' images need burnishing. Prior to this year's convention period, the Republican Party as a whole had a 44% favorable rating among voters, no better than in 2008, and the Democrats had a 43% favorable rating -- that party's lowest pre-conventions rating dating to 1992. Given these numbers, it may be difficult for either party to attract many viewers beyond its core supporters.
Results for this USA Today/Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Aug. 20-22, 2012, with a random sample of 1,033 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.
For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.
Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each sample includes a minimum quota of 400 cell phone respondents and 600 landline respondents per 1,000 national adults, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents by region. Landline telephone numbers are chosen at random among listed telephone numbers. Cell phone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.
Samples are weighted by gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, adults in the household, and phone status (cell phone only/landline only/both, cell phone mostly, and having an unlisted landline number). Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2011 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older non-institutionalized population living in U.S. telephone households. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting and sample design.
In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.
For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit www.gallup.com.