|Photo courtesy of ricochet.com|
But why did media outlet after media outlet treat this generally benign news story like such a big deal?
It has a lot to do with the partially false, media-created notion that Hillary Clinton is nearly invincible as it pertains to the 2016 Presidential election, in part because she is so universally adored.
But a quick glance at her favorability ratings over the last half-year illustrates that the perception of Hillary as this overwhelmingly popular national figure certainly has its exceptions:
|Data compiled from Polling Report, Real Clear Politics, National Journal, TPM Poll Tracker, and various internet searches. For a complete look at the poll data stretching back to 1993, go here.|
She's down a net 15 points from Quinnipiac's last survey in February. She's down a net 5 points from CNN's last survey. She's down a net 5 points from last month's Economist/YouGov monthly average. And while she's stationary with PPP, they've consistently shown her with the lowest favorable/unfavorable ratings of the year, and are second to only Economist/YouGov as showing her with the lowest current favorability rating of any pollster (52/44% on PPP, 50/44% on Economist/YouGov).
But back to my original point: besides the negative trend lines, the chart also illustrates how Hillary Clinton's favorability decline is not a brand new phenomenon, recent media-interest aside.
It was January 2013 when PPP released a survey showing Clinton with a 54/39% favorability rating, the first non-Rasmussen survey since September 2008 to show Hillary with a net favorable/unfavorable rating lower than +20. But nary a word was mentioned about the finding at the time. The silence continued as PPP and YouGov released surveys showing Hillary's favorability rating at less-than-God-like status.
The steady decline in Hillary's ratings throughout 2013, especially as compared to her numbers while Secretary of State, looks even more pronounced in the below chart of her monthly average favorable/unfavorable rating:
|The number in parentheses represents the number of favorability surveys taken during each month. Monthly averages are only provided where at least two DIFFERENT pollsters surveyed Hillary's favorability rating in a given month. Data is compiled from Polling Report, Real Clear Politics, National Journal, TPM Poll Tracker, and various internet searches. For a complete look at the individual polls making up these averages, go here.|
Let me be clear - multiple pollsters have found Hillary Clinton with some very strong favorability ratings over the years, most specifically during her tenure as Secretary of State. So it's not so much that the press is incorrect in their assessment that Hillary Clinton is the new "teflon" politician, or that she's wildly popular. It's just that that assessment has become dated, and has been for longer than you would suspect.
The chart below allows you to compare public perceptions about Hillary Clinton throughout her various roles in public life. It also further illustrates the spike, then erosion, in Hillary Clinton's popularity before and after serving as Secretary of State:
|The number in parentheses represents the number of favorability surveys taken during each particular public role. Data compiled from Polling Report, Real Clear Politics, National Journal, TPM Poll Tracker, and various internet searches. For a complete look at the individual polls making up these averages, go here.|
But in the 12 surveys taken since stepping down from public service, her favorability ratings have dropped a net 10 points, from 61/32% to 56/37%.
Not to suggest that 56/37% is an unimpressive favorability rating for a universally known politician. It's just not quite as Herculean as the 2016 coverage up to this point would have you believe. And it's not as though Hillary hasn't been this high before, only to fall again, and rise, and fall again. See the chart below of Hillary's year-by-year average favorability ratings since becoming first lady in 1993:
|Data compiled from Polling Report, Real Clear Politics, National Journal, TPM Poll Tracker, and various internet searches. For a complete look at the individual polls making up these averages, go here.|
After a strong start, Hillary had become an unusually unpopular First Lady by the time her husband's re-election bid rolled around. But she recovered, reaching new highs in wake of Bill's sex scandal and impending impeachment fallout in 1998 and 1999. She also saw her highest ever net favorability rating of +46 in a January 7, 1999 Time/CNN poll (a feat she only matched once 14 years later in a December 2012 Bloomberg/Selzer poll).
But again, those ratings fell as Hillary started her career as a United States Senator, reaching an all-time personal LOW rating of 35/49% in a March 2001 NBC poll (matched by a Rasmussen Poll taken in the heart of the Democratic Primary by Rasmussen in March 2008, giving her a 42/56% rating).
Her net favorability remained in the low to mid-single digits for most of her time as Senator, dipping slightly again as she ran for President in 2007 and 2008, before reaching the record highs she enjoyed throughout her four years as Secretary of State.
The dip in Hillary's overall popularity detected by the charts of her monthly and yearly favorability ratings could simply be a blip, or the start of a lasting trend. There's ample evidence in Hillary's voluminous polling history to support either suggestion. But as 2016 speculation intensifies, and more sharp and partisan scrutiny falls on 'private-citizen Hillary,' one can't help but notice the sudden fall occurs as Hillary steps off the diplomatic stage, perhaps preparing to return to battle.