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Eight Dramatic Years Ending on a Positive Note for Hillary Clinton

Eight Dramatic Years Ending on a Positive Note for Hillary Clinton

Two-thirds of Americans approve of her job performance as first lady

by Wendy W. Simmons

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- Hillary Clinton leaves the White House to embark on a new career as a United States senator with generally positive evaluations from the American people. Two-thirds of the public currently say they approve of the job Hillary Clinton is doing as first lady and 56% have a favorable opinion of her, according to a Gallup poll conducted November 13-15. These numbers are similar to those recorded at the very beginning of Bill Clinton's first term as president. Although she is leaving on good terms with the American people, Hillary Clinton has had a volatile relationship with the public over the past eight years, with job approval ratings ranging from 54% to 80% and favorability scores ranging from 43% to 67%.

Opinion of Clintons has Waxed and Waned

Hillary Clinton's highest favorable ratings from the public came shortly after the House of Representatives impeached her husband in December of 1998, when 67% of the public said they had a 'favorable' opinion of the first lady. She received her lowest favorable rating (43%) in January of 1996, in the midst of the Whitewater controversy.

Just seven months after Bill Clinton took office, a majority of Americans had favorable opinions of both him and the first lady -- 53% and 57% respectively. Over the course of the next year, however, both Hillary and Bill lost favor in the public eye. By September, 1994, shortly before the Republicans won majority control of the U.S. House of Representatives, Hillary's favorablity rating had dropped nine percentage points to 48%, while the president's rating had dropped by five points to 47%. The public's disenchantment with the Clintons may have been tied to the high-profile Whitewater investigation into their personal investments.

Until the fall of 1997, Hillary Clinton's favorability rating hovered at or under 50%, while Bill Clinton's favorability ratings improved then fluctuated between 51% and 62% from mid-1995 to early 1997. The president's successful reelection in 1996 may have boosted the public's positive perception of him, while the first lady continued to be mired in the Whitewater investigation.

By September 1998, in the wake of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, the public had soured somewhat on Bill Clinton -- his favorability rating dropped by about 10 percentage points and generally ranged in the low 50s. However, the public developed a relatively positive assessment of the first lady during the Lewinsky matter, perhaps out of sympathy. Americans maintained that opinion throughout the subsequent impeachment of her husband and her campaign for the U.S. Senate. Currently, 56% of Americans hold a favorable opinion of Hillary Clinton as she prepares to enter elected office.

Women Have Consistently Had a Higher Opinion of Hillary Clinton Than Men Have

As Hillary Clinton campaigned for the New York Senate seat, reporters and observers remarked on the strong support she received from women in the Empire State. Indeed, a gender gap in public opinion has characterized her entire eight years in the White House, with women holding her in much higher regard than have men. One of the lowest overall favorability ratings (47%) the first lady ever received was in March of 1996, but a majority of women -- 54% -- still expressed a high opinion of her, compared with only 39% of men. Although there are big gender differences in each reading of Hillary's favorability ratings, the opinions of men and women have moved in tandem from year to year.

Over the Past Eight Years, Hillary Clinton has Impressed the Youngest Voters

In the first year of the Clinton administration, young adults (those between the ages of 18 and 29) were the least likely to hold a favorable opinion of Hillary Clinton and the oldest Americans (those over the age of 65) were the most likely to say they had a favorable opinion of the first lady. Over time, younger Americans have come to view the first lady much more positively while older Americans see her less positively. In early 1996, for the first time, more young Americans said they had a favorable opinion of Hillary than did any other age group, and that pattern has persisted until today. In the latest Gallup poll, 63% of the youngest Americans have a favorable opinion of the first lady, compared with 53% of Americans in the oldest age group.

Hillary Has Gotten Higher Approval Ratings Than Bill

According to a Gallup poll conducted November 13-15 of this year, 66% of Americans say they approve of the job Hillary Clinton is doing as first lady. This is about the same percentage of people who approved of her job performance in January 1993, shortly after her husband began his first term in office, but there have been significant changes in the years between. Over the past eight years, the Clintons' approval ratings have generally moved together, either positively or negatively, but Hillary has consistently received higher marks than Bill. She received her lowest approval rating (54%) in January 1995, shortly after the Republicans won control of Congress, and her highest rating (80%) in February 1999, during Bill Clinton's impeachment trial. Since then, public approval of Hillary Clinton as first lady has been fairly high, and currently stands at a healthy 66% on the eve of her new career as a United States senator. Bill Clinton's latest job approval rating, measured in early December, is 60%.

The largest gap in the job approval ratings of Hillary and Bill Clinton -- 18 points -- occurred in May 1999, soon after the first lady returned from a visit with the Kosovo refugees in the Balkans. At that time, 71% of Americans approved of her job performance, compared with 53% who approved of the president's performance. Bill and Hillary Clinton were tied at 62% in January of 1997, shortly before Bill Clinton was inaugurated for his second term in office.

Survey Methods

The results below are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,028 adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Nov. 13-15, 2000. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is plus or minus 3 percentage points. 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.

Next, we'd like to get your overall opinion of some people in the news. As I read each name, please say if you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of this person -- or if you have never heard of him or her. How about ... [Random order]

Hillary Rodham Clinton


Favorable

Unfavor-
able

No
opinion


Favorable

Unfavor-
able

No
opinion

%

%

%

%

%

%

2000

(NA) 2000 Nov 13-15

56

39

5

(NA) 1997 Oct 27-29

61

34

5

(NA) 1997 Jun 26-29

51

42

7

(NA) 2000 Oct 25-28

52

43

5

(NA) 1997 Feb 24-26

51

42

6

(NA) 2000 Aug 4-5

45

50

5

(NA) 1997 Jan 31-Feb 2

55

39

6

(NA) 2000 Feb 4-6

55

39

6

(NA) 1997 Jan 10-13

56

37

7

1999

1996

(NA) 1999 Dec 9-12

48

48

4

(LV) 1996 Oct 26-29

49

43

8

(NA) 1999 Sep 23-26

56

40

4

(RV) 1996 Aug 28-29

51

41

8

(NA) 1999 Aug 3-4

56

41

3

(RV) 1996 Aug 16-18

47

48

5

(NA) 1999 Jul 22-25

62

35

3

(RV) 1996 Aug 5-7

48

45

7

(NA) 1999 Jun 25-27

56

42

2

(NA) 1996 Jun 18-19

46

47

6

(NA) 1999 Mar 5-7

65

31

4

(NA) 1996 Mar 15-17

47

48

5

(NA) 1999 Feb 19-21

65

30

5

(NA) 1996 Jan 12-15

43

51

6

(NA) 1999 Feb 4-8

66

31

3

1995

1998

(NA) 1995 Jul 7-9

50

44

6

(NA) 1998 Dec 28-29

67

29

4

(NA) 1995 Mar 17-19

49

44

7

(NA) 1998 Oct 9-12(*)

63

33

4

(NA) 1995 Jan 16-18

50

44

6

(NA) 1998 Sep 14-15

61

33

6

1994

(NA) 1998 Aug 21-23

61

33

6

(NA) 1994 Nov 28-29

50

44

6

(NA) 1998 Aug 20 (*)

60

30

10

(NA) 1994 Sep 6-7

48

47

5

(NA) 1998 Aug 18 (*)

64

29

7

(NA) 1994 Jul 15-17

48

46

6

(NA) 1998 Aug 10-12

60

36

4

(NA) 1994 Apr 22-24

56

40

4

(NA) 1998 Aug 7-8

60

35

5

(NA) 1994 Mar 25-27

52

42

6

(NA) 1998 Feb 13-15

60

36

4

(NA) 1994 Mar 7-8

55

40

5

(NA) 1998 Jan 30-Feb 1

64

34

2

(NA) 1994 Jan 15-17

57

36

7

(NA) 1998 Jan 28 (*)

61

34

5

1993

(NA) 1998 Jan 24-25

61

33

6

(NA) 1993 Nov 2-4

58

34

8

(NA) 1998 Jan 23-24

60

35

5

(NA) 1993 Sep 24-26

62

27

11

1997

(NA) 1993 Aug 8-10

57

33

10

(NA) 1997 Dec 18-21

56

38

6

Do you approve or disapprove of the way Hillary Rodham Clinton is handling her job as first lady?

Approve

Disapprove

No opinion

%

%

%

2000 Nov 13-15

66

30

4

2000 Feb 4-6

65

30

5

1999 Nov 18-21

66

30

4

1999 May 23-24

71

23

6

1999 Feb 19-21

80

17

3

1997 Oct 27-29

62

31

7

1997 Jan 10-13

62

34

4

1995 Jan 16-18

54

40

6

1994 Apr 22-24

56

37

7

1994 Mar 7-8

58

39

3

1993 Jan 29-31

67

16

17



NA = National adults

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