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Secretary of State John Kerry's Image Improves

Secretary of State John Kerry's Image Improves

Story Highlights

  • 48% have favorable opinion of Kerry, up from 41%
  • Democrats twice as likely as Republicans to have favorable opinion

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Secretary of State John Kerry arrives in Cuba on Friday to raise the flag over the once-shuttered U.S. embassy there. Nearly half of Americans (48%) currently view Kerry favorably. This is up seven percentage points from a July poll conducted just prior to the diplomatic breakthrough that led to an agreement regarding Iran's nuclear program.

Americans' Opinions of Secretary of State John Kerry

These data come from an Aug. 5-9 Gallup poll. As secretary of state, Kerry has been instrumental in numerous key Obama administration diplomatic initiatives, including re-establishing ties with Cuba and the international agreement about Iran's nuclear program. The latter in particular may have boosted Kerry's image this year. Slightly more than four in 10 Americans (41%) approved of him in a Gallup poll conducted just days before the agreement was announced.

Kerry replaced Hillary Clinton as secretary of state at the start of Barack Obama's second term. His initial favorability reading was 44% in April 2013, while 35% viewed him unfavorably. By the following year, his favorable score had increased to 55%, his highest yet, as Kerry's portfolio of international events expanded to include crises in Ukraine and Syria, and the beginning negotiations of what would become the Iran nuclear deal.

Unlike several of his predecessors, including Clinton, Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell, Kerry has never enjoyed supermajority appeal. His current reading, though an improvement from earlier this year, is just one point better than his average as secretary of state, and well below the averages of Clinton (63%), Rice (61%), Powell (86%) and Madeleine Albright (62%).

Gallup Historical Ratings of U.S. Secretaries of State

Only Warren Christopher, Bill Clinton's secretary of state during his first term as president, had a lower average rating over his tenure than Kerry's current average. However, as Kerry still has more than a year remaining in office, his average rating is not yet fixed.

Seven in 10 Democrats View Kerry Favorably

Opinions about Kerry vary considerably according to party identification, as perhaps would be expected for a former Democratic senator and nominee for president. More than twice as many Democrats (70%) as Republicans (31%) have a favorable opinion of Kerry. Independents are mixed: 44% view him favorably and 42% view him unfavorably.

Americans' Opinions of Secretary of State John Kerry, by Party Identification

Kerry's main improvement in his public image has come among Republicans and independents, rather than the Democratic faithful. Since July, Republicans are 12 points more likely to have a favorable opinion of Kerry and independents are 10 points more likely.

Bottom Line

Kerry has been at the forefront of major diplomatic initiatives, including the U.S. rapprochement with Cuba, the international agreement to regulate Iran's nuclear program and his continued efforts to bring resolutions to ongoing conflicts in Syria and Ukraine. And while the public may question the merits of these individual policies, Kerry's labor appears not to have gone unnoticed.

But on a comparative basis, Kerry's favorable ratings are not as high as many of his predecessors in the job. This may reflect the difficult circumstances Kerry is encountering as secretary of state, or the fact that he is serving a president whose approval on foreign policy is low.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Aug. 5-9, 2015, with a random sample of 1,011 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 ±4 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 Poll Social Series works.

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