Some eye-popping numbers from a pair of recent polls on Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign have made headlines this week and caused some Democrats to express concern. However, Team Clinton has a different read on the numbers.
Business Insider had a lengthy conversation about Clinton’s poll performance with a campaign spokesperson on Wednesday. The spokesperson, who asked to remain anonymous in order to discuss polling and strategy, pointed out there have been several surveys in addition to the two that generated much of the handwringing, which came from CNN/ORC and The Washington Post and ABC News. Both of those polls showed Clinton’s popularity is down with about 50% of voters saying they have an unfavorable impression of her.
The other recent polls cited by the campaign spokesperson came from The New York Times and CBS News, the Des Moines Register and The Wall Street Journal and NBC News. The spokesperson noted that all of the recent polls show Clinton well ahead of her Democratic primary rivals. Additionally, she is leading in head-to-head matchups with all of her presumed and announced Republican opponents.
While touting Clinton’s lead on her prospective opponents, the spokesperson argued her standing has remained strong in spite of what they described as a period of sustained recent media scrutiny.
In the weeks surrounding Clinton’s April campaign launch, there has been extensive press coverage on a series of controversies involving her personal finances, family charitable foundation, and her use of a private email address while she was Secretary of State. Along with bad headlines, the spokesperson noted these flaps have fuelled attacks from Clinton’s Republican rivals.
Clinton’s campaign believes there is one number that shows she has weathered the recent scrutiny.
The Des Moines Register poll, which surveyed Democratic voters in Iowa’s influential early primary, contained a specific data point that the spokesperson said her team sees as evidence Clinton wasn’t badly hurt by the recent controversies and scrutiny. That poll showed at least 70% of Democratic primary voters in Iowa are not bothered by the questions about Clinton’s emails or foundation. According to the spokesperson, the campaign believes that proves various controversies that have emerged around Clinton won’t factor into the into the Iowa caucus — and potentially other states’ primaries.
One of the main negative numbers from the CNN/ORC and Washington Post/ABC poll concerned Clinton’s trustworthiness. The CNN poll found 57% of voters do not think Clinton is “honest and trustworthy. According to the Washington Post/ABC poll, 52% of voters don’t see Clinton as “honest and trustworthy.”
The spokesperson pointed out the CNN poll did not ask voters whether they found any of the likely Republican candidates trustworthy. Because of this, they said there was no point of comparison for Clinton’s numbers.
Furthermore, the spokesperson said Clinton’s campaign believes a more important question is asking voters who they trust to address the issues they care about. They described this question as more finely tuned whereas a question about general trustworthiness can be more subjective. Additionally, the spokesperson said this is the key question Clinton is trying to address with her campaign, which is designed to brand her as the candidate who can serve as a champion for Americans who will improve the economy.
The Clinton campaign spokesperson pointed out the Washington Post/ABC poll showed Clinton is doing eight points better on the more finely tuned question of whether she “understands the problems of people like you” than the general trustworthiness question. In that poll, they noted she was doing nine points better than one of her top Republican rivals, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R), on the more specific trustworthiness question.
Still, in spite of these arguments, there’s no denying Clinton’s favorability numbers have declined in recent polls.
The spokesperson suggested this was a natural part of Clinton’s transition from being secretary of state, to becoming a more apolitical figure, and then re-entering the political fray. They said the American public is sceptical of the government and politicians. As a result, they argued anyone who made themselves an official 2016 candidate would have issues with trustworthiness and would not be able to avoid some decline in their numbers.
In the end, though they said Clinton’s team is satisfied with where she is sitting in relation to her rivals, the spokesperson forecast the number of people who say they trust her to confront the issues they care about will improve. They identified this question as the key one her campaign is designed to answer and predicted it will begin to do so as Clinton begins unveiling more specific policies following her relaunch event next week.
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