Yesterday’s CNN poll on Hillary Clinton presents a confused picture of the electorate’s response to her e-mail scandal, but not too much of it is unalloyed good news. CNN leads with the rise in unfavorable views and mistrust, but also note that a majority would be “proud” to have her as President. Fifty-one percent say the e-mail issue is serious, and 51% think she’s revealed enough about them.
None of this, though, is a ringing endorsement:
Unfavorable views of Hillary Clinton are on the rise and perceptions of her as “honest and trustworthy” have dropped following the revelation that while serving as secretary of state she used a personal email address and home-based server to conduct State Department business.
But questions about Clinton’s email practices may not harm her chances if she makes a run for the White House in 2016, as a new CNN/ORC poll finds 57% of Americans say she’s someone they’d be proud to have as their president.
Overall, 51% in the poll call Clinton’s use of a personal email system rather than a government provided one a very or somewhat serious problem, 48% say it’s not too serious an issue or no problem at all. And the public is similarly split over whether Clinton did something wrong by using the personal system; 51% say she did, 47% that she did not.
Her overall favorability numbers remain positive at 53/44 for a +9 rating, but that’s not exactly good news either. That’s her lowest favorability since June 2008, which was the last month in which she was a candidate for electoral office, and by that time was all but out of contention for the presidential nomination. When she was still in contention in the 2008 race, 53% was her ceiling. The drop in favorability from this scandal would have occurred anyway, but getting to this level now suggests the possibility that the ceiling will be lower than 53% when she starts running again.
Anyone expecting the conundrum over Hillary and the e-mails to be resolved in the demographics are doomed to disappointment. They’re just as confused as the toplines; it’s not just Democrats wavering back and forth that drives these confused outcomes. Asked whether Hillary says what she believes and not what voters want to hear, the overall sample is 58/41 in her favor, with independents giving a similar 56/43. The very next question is whether Hillary is honest and trustworthy, and it drops to 50/49, and 48/51 among independents.
Similarly, the e-mail issue gets just as confusing. A slight majority (51/46) think Hillary hasn’t done enough to explain why she used a private e-mail system, which is almost identical to independents on the question (50/46). The very next question asks whether she’s revealed enough about the e-mails, and 51% believe that she has — as do 50% of independents. When asked if the e-mail scandal is indicative of Hillary’s character, 52% say no, as does 49% of independents, even though 51% overall think she did something wrong, as does 53% of independents.
Interestingly, CNN didn’t poll on the scandal surrounding the Clinton Foundation and the donations from foreign governments during Hillary’s tenure as secretary of state. Perhaps the issue is difficult to craft into polling questions, but it would have been intriguing to see how much penetration that has made into the public consciousness. The e-mail scandal seems to have saturated the electorate; there are very few “no opinion” answers, which seems unusual for a controversy that Hillary supporters insist is just a Beltway process story. The problem is that those who do have an opinion seem to have difficulty in deciding what exactly their opinion is.