Clinton’s Support Takes Hit, But Holds

   < < Go Back
from The Wall Street Journal,

Poll suggests emails, fundraising exact toll, but backing of Democrats is strong; still holds edge over GOP

Hillary Clinton’s stature has been battered after more than a month of controversy over her fundraising and email practices, but support for her among Democrats remains strong and unshaken, a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll finds.

In just seven weeks, a period in which Mrs. Clinton formally began her presidential campaign, the share of people with a negative view of her jumped to 42% from 36% in last month’s survey, and only a quarter of registered voters said they viewed her as honest and straightforward, down from 38% last summer.

But she remains highly regarded among Democrats, with 76% saying they viewed her favorably—a greater hold on party loyalty than any of her potential Republican rivals had in the poll taken between April 26-30.

Mrs. Clinton is also a polarizing figure and has been buffeted in recent weeks by reports about her use of a private email server while serving as secretary of state, which critics see as an attempt to evade oversight.

“She’s had a very rocky two months, and we can see the impact,” said Bill McInturff, a Republican pollster who directed the survey with Democratic pollster Fred Yang. “But all of this has played out—the emails, the Clinton Foundation—all of that made no fundamental difference to the Democratic primary voters.”

Peter Hart, another Democratic pollster who worked on the survey, sees the results as a sign of Mrs. Clinton’s political stamina. “America’s ‘Iron Lady’ does not have a glass jaw,” he said.

Candidates of both parties, especially Republicans, will be facing an electorate more concerned about national security than they were four years ago. Asked what issue should be the federal government’s top priority, 21% of those polled said national security and terrorism, second only to the 29% who said the No. 1 issue was job creation and economic growth.

By contrast, in March, 2012, before the rise of Islamic State militants in the Middle East and other tumult abroad, only 6% picked national security as a top government priority.

In assessing Mrs. Clinton, about half of those surveyed said she has the knowledge and experience to handle the presidency. Pluralities saw her as effective, compassionate, willing to find consensus and setting a proper moral tone. But she drew lower ratings when people were asked if she was inspirational and honest. Among Democratic primary voters, however, she drew far stronger marks, with 86% rating her as knowledgeable and experienced enough to serve in the White House. Only 14% doubted her honesty.

“I think she would be a good leader,” said Sandra Burnett, a retiree in upstate New York who participated in the poll. Asked about the controversies over emails and fundraising, Ms. Burnett said, “It doesn’t change my view of her. I think she is as honest and straightforward as any politician can be.’’

But the poll also found signs that negative views of Mrs. Clinton are growing among the swing voters she would need in the general election. Among independents, the share of people viewing her negatively grew to 48% from 34% last month.

“I used to be a very avid supporter of Hillary Clinton,” said poll participant Don Friedman, an independent from California. Now, “I’m beginning to wonder. She doesn’t seem to be open to the media about specifics about her plans for the administration, should she win.”

In those matchups against four potential rivals, Mrs. Clinton topped Messrs. Bush and Rubio by 49% to 43%, and she topped Mr. Walker by 50% to 40%. The GOP candidate who came closest to Mrs. Clinton was Sen. Rand Paul, who trailed by 47%-44%.

Unlike the other GOP candidates, Mr. Paul significantly outpolled Mrs. Clinton among independent voters, by 45%-37%, reinforcing his campaign’s argument that his libertarian conservatism helps him reach beyond the party’s traditional base.

More From The Wall Street Journal (subscription required):