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Hillary Clinton Clear Leader in Favorability Among Democrats

Hillary Clinton Clear Leader in Favorability Among Democrats

Story Highlights

  • Seventy-nine percent of Dems have favorable view of Clinton
  • Her rating is higher than Biden's (64%) and Warren's (37%)
  • Clinton most favorable among liberal, moderate/conservative Dems

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Nearly eight in 10 Democrats (79%) have a favorable view of Hillary Clinton. Should she seek her party's 2016 presidential nomination, she would begin the campaign with a commanding lead in favorability ratings over several potential Democratic opponents, including a 15-percentage-point advantage over Vice President Joe Biden and 42-point margin over Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

Favorable Ratings of Potential 2016 Democratic Presidential Candidates

These results come from interviews with 649 Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents in a March 2-4 Gallup poll. Clinton's candidacy for the presidency, though widely expected, is still officially unannounced. And, at least for the moment, Clinton's presidential ambitions seem almost secondary to the still-unfolding controversy from her decision as secretary of state to conduct official government business through a private email server.

Gallup conducted this poll as the revelations about Clinton's email usage were still coming to light, but the results suggest that Clinton can withstand a few chinks in her armor, at least among the party faithful. Only Biden -- a former colleague of hers in the Obama administration and the U.S. Senate -- comes anywhere close to Clinton's familiarity and popularity among Democrats. But unlike Clinton, it is far from certain if Biden will even pursue the nomination. Warren -- a senator elected in 2012 touting a liberal economic agenda, who has previously denied interest in a White House bid -- has a favorable rating of about half of Clinton's (37%). Two other candidates who have publicly expressed interest in the nomination, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb, both have low favorability.

Of course, it is not that Warren, Sanders and Webb are unpopular with Democrats, at least as measured by the share of Democrats saying they have an unfavorable view of them. Most Democrats do not know these senators or cannot offer an opinion about them. Of some comfort perhaps to Warren and Sanders supporters, among those Democrats who are familiar with the candidates, they are very likely to have a favorable opinion of either politician than not. Webb is roughly even in terms of net favorability.

Gallup asked about two other rumored or speculative candidates in July of last year: Former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. Both men were also largely unknown to national Democrats, though seen positively among those who were familiar with them.

Clinton Leads With Liberal Democrats and Moderate/Conservative Democrats

Even among Democrats of differing ideologies -- liberal vs. a moderate/conservative outlook -- Clinton's strengths are readily apparent. Liberal Democrats, typically the party stalwarts, give nearly all the candidates higher favorable ratings compared with all moderate/conservative Democrats. Clinton, in particular, receives a resounding favorable rating (86%) from liberal Democrats, and other candidates, notably Elizabeth Warren, see a boost in favorability and name recognition. Even so, except Biden, all other candidates are much less known when compared with Clinton.

Favorability of Potential 2016 Democratic Presidential Candidates, by Party and Ideology

Moderate and conservative Democrats are less positive about all five potential candidates, but mostly because they are more likely not to know the candidates. Again, Clinton leads the pack, with Biden behind her. Warren can boast a respectable net favorable rating with these type of Democrats -- a claim neither Sanders or Webb can make -- but she is unknown as well.

Clinton's Front-Runner Status, Then and Now

Clinton's position today bears a strong resemblance to her place in the crowded 2008 primary cycle at a similar point in that campaign, with some important distinctions. In early March 2007, 80% of Democrats and Democratic-leaners had a favorable view of Clinton, essentially no different from now. But in 2007, then-freshman Sen. Barack Obama and former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards enjoyed favorable ratings well above majority levels, and both at that point had higher familiarity levels compared with that of Warren, Sanders or Webb today.

Favorability Ratings of Potential 2008 Presidential Democratic Candidates at the Same Point in the Previous Election Cycle

Clinton already had a race on her hands in March 2007, declaring her candidacy, along with Edwards and Obama, months earlier. This time around, however, no popular or well-known Democrat has officially entered the field, and it appears only Biden would begin the race with Clinton's high name identification. Biden, the potential candidate with the least ground to make up with Democrats in terms of his familiarity and generally positive ratings, has given mixed signals on running and is reportedly waiting until the end of the summer to make a decision.

Bottom Line

Clinton's favorable rating among Democrats remains higher than any prospective Democratic presidential rival -- none of whom have stated that they are running. At this point in the election cycle, a "more liberal" candidate might not suffice to remove Clinton from the front-runner status she currently enjoys. Favorability ratings are a good indication of a candidate's potential for success given that they embody both name identification and a candidate's image, but it is too early to know how any potential challengers to a Clinton bid for the presidential nomination would end up on that dimension by early 2016 when the primaries and caucuses begin. At this early point in the process, the individual who comes closest to Clinton's favorable ratings is Biden, who has already unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination twice.

While Clinton's ascension to the Democratic national ticket is widely seen as inevitable, history shows that such presumptions have been disproven before. But the Democratic field of eight years ago was much more crowded than it is today. The current election cycle is much less contentious, with many of the most influential Democrats rallying their support for her candidacy and little public dissent from the narrative of certitude the party has crafted as 2016 draws nearer.

For Warren, Webb and Sanders, the main problem is not a low favorability or a high unfavorable rating, but rather the large share of Democrats who do not know them at all. Strong majorities have either never heard of or cannot express an opinion about these potential candidates. To challenge a candidate with such widespread name recognition such as Clinton, these candidates must find ways to boost their profile among Democrats.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Mar. 2-4, 2015, on the Gallup U.S. Daily survey, with a random sample of 1,522 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, the margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.

For results based on the total sample of 649 Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents, the margin of sampling error is ±5 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.

All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.

Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 50% cellphone respondents and 50% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.

Learn more about how Gallup Daily tracking works.

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