Benghazi Threatens Clinton's Popularity

Benghazi Threatens Clinton's Popularity

According to a new Quinnipiac poll released Friday, Hillary Clinton is the most popular political figure in the US. 61% of voters have a favorable view of Clinton, against 34% with an unfavorable view. These are her best polling numbers in years, but they mask a clear vulnerability. Looking deeper into the numbers suggests fallout from the Benghazi terror attacks could jeopardize her future political ambitions. 

Among voters with a favorable view of Clinton, 45% cited some iteration of her doing a good job as Secretary of State. With the nation’s voters focused, and agitated, with domestic issues, Clinton was well served to retreat to the international arena. Throughout 2007 and 2008, when she was running for President, her favorability was mired in the mid-40s and usually matched her unfavorable ratings. 

For those voters with an unfavorable view of Clinton, a full 21% cite Benghazi as the reason for their low opinion of her. Keep in mind, when voters are asked for their reasons behind their views, these are open-ended questions. The voter offers up their reason, rather than picking from a list. No other single reason comes close to Benghazi in shaping voters views. This suggests that questions about her leadership in relation to the attack are hardening with a block of voters. 

Also keep in mind that almost half of those with a favorable view of Clinton hold that view because of an impression that she did a good job as Secretary of State. It is possible these voters are fully aware of the Benghazi attack and have absolved her of any culpability. It is more likely, however, that the details of the attack last year have receded from their minds or they are unaware of them. 

The Quinnipiac poll was conducted the first week in February, before Defense Secretary Panetta testified to Congress that neither President Obama nor Clinton were available the night of the terror attack in Benghazi. The shocking admission reveals, it turns out, that neither Obama nor Clinton picked up that theoretical 3am call. 

Clinton’s current popularity is based largely on the fact that, for the past four years, she has avoided all the nettlesome domestic issues that have dominated politics. Because she is better known that any other politician, save Obama, she has a natural advantage over any other in a poll. A lot of her current popularity, though, is also based on a perception that she did a good job as Secretary. As more details of the terror attack emerge and voter’s views of her, at least, partial responsibility, that perception isn’t likely to last. 

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