By David Lauter, Tribune Washington Bureau (TNS)
WASHINGTON — The fight over her use of a private email account while secretary of State may have dominated political news, but it does not appear to have significantly damaged Hillary Rodham Clinton’s standing with the public, two new polls have found.
A new CNN/ORC poll, conducted after the news conference Clinton held last week where she answered some questions about her email use, found that 57 percent of Americans said she was someone they would be “proud” to have as president, compared with 42 percent who disagreed.
A slim majority, 51 percent to 47 percent, say that Clinton “did do something wrong” by using a personal email account for official business as head of the State Department. But by 52 percent to 46 percent, those polled said the “way Clinton handled her email while serving as secretary of State is not relevant to her character or her ability to serve as president.”
Americans were evenly divided on whether Clinton is “honest and trustworthy.” That could be a problem, but it’s not a rating that has changed much in recent years. A CNN poll taken at the outset of her last presidential campaign, in October 2007, found a similarly close division, with 51 percent saying yes and 46 percent no.
Responses to that question divided overwhelmingly by party, with Democrats by 83 percent to 15 percent calling Clinton trustworthy while Republicans by 85 percent to 15 percent said she was not. Independents divided almost evenly.
On a somewhat related question, 58 percent of Americans said that Clinton says “what she believes,” while 41 percent said she says only “what she thinks voters want to hear.” That figure also has changed little from 2007.
Nor has the share of Americans who view Clinton favorably changed much. In the current survey, 53 percent had a favorable view of Clinton and 44 percent viewed her unfavorably. That’s slightly lower than the CNN poll found in November, but almost identical to the numbers the poll found 10 months ago, indicating more of a random fluctuation than any clear trend.
Clinton’s husband, former President Bill Clinton, continues to enjoy remarkably high favorability, with Americans expressing a positive view of him by about 2 to 1.
The former president has held that high level of favorability almost throughout President Barack Obama’s tenure. The percentage of Republicans who view him favorably is much higher now than it was when he was in office, perhaps in part because Republican leaders often contrast him with Obama, saying that Clinton as president was more moderate and willing to compromise.
Asked whether Hillary Clinton’s email practices were a serious problem, just under a third of those polled said they were “very serious” while a quarter called them “not a serious problem at all.” The remainder were closely divided between “somewhat serious” and “not too serious.”
Not surprisingly, views on the issue showed a sharp partisan divide. Only 9 percent of Democrats said they viewed the issue as “very serious” while two-thirds said it was either not a problem at all or not too serious. Republican views were even more lopsided in the other direction, with 9 percent saying it was not a problem at all, 55 percent saying the problem was “very serious” and another 20 percent calling it “somewhat serious.”
Just over a quarter of Democrats said they thought Clinton had done something wrong. Among Republicans, three-quarters said so. Among Democrats, 3 in 10 said Clinton had not done enough to explain her conduct. Among Republicans, that number jumped to 8 in 10.
Meanwhile, although some liberal activists have longed for someone to challenge Clinton from the left in the Democratic primaries, the poll showed little opening for that kind of contest. Among self-identified liberals, 78 percent had a favorable view of Clinton, as did 86 percent of self-identified Democrats.
Even larger numbers, 83 percent of liberals and 89 percent of Democrats, said they would be proud to have her as president. Women expressed that view 64 percent to 35 percent, while men divided almost evenly, 50 percent to 49 percent.
Separately, a YouGov survey found that the percentage of Americans paying close attention to the email issue had grown over the last two weeks and the response to it had become more partisan.
In the week before Clinton’s news conference, just over half of Americans, 53 percent, said they were following the issue closely. Afterward, just short of two-thirds, 65 percent, said they were, the poll found. The increase came mostly from Democrats, who had not been following the story closely but now were more likely to.
But with that greater attention came greater partisanship. Asked if the issue was “serious” or not, the share of Republicans saying it was grew from 44 percent before the news conference to 60 percent in the latest poll. Among Democrats, however, the pattern was reversed — the share calling the problem serious dropped from 17 percent before the news conference to 8 percent after.
Just over half of Republicans in the latest survey said media outlets were “not making enough of a big deal” about the email controversy. By contrast, 71 percent of Democrats said the media were “making too big a deal” about it. Overall, 43 percent of Americans said the media paid too much attention to it, 27 percent said not enough and 20 percent said the amount of attention was “about right.”
The CNN/ORC poll was conducted Friday through Sunday. It interviewed 1,009 adult Americans and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. The two YouGov surveys were conducted March 4-6 and March 11-13. The YouGov survey questioned 1,000 American adults using an online panel weighted to reflect U.S. demographics. The results have a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
Photo: Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the 2014 Harkin Steak Fry in Indianola, IA. (Gregory Hauenstein/Flickr)