Hillary Rodham Clinton’s public standing has plummeted following recent reports of her involvement in Whitewater and the travel office affair, with a new poll showing a record 54 percent of Americans regard the first lady unfavorably.
The poll indicates, however, that her problems have not rubbed off on the president. President Clinton enjoys a 56 percent favorable rating, with 42 percent of the public viewing him unfavorably. Even at the president’s lowest standing in the polls - last February - his unfavorable rating of 49 percent was not as high as that now recorded by Hillary Clinton, according to the poll by the Pew Center for the People and the Press.
The survey also includes a presidential trial run that shows Clinton with a 12-point lead, 53 percent to 41 percent, over Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole of Kansas, the Republican front-runner.
The poll, although very early in the presidential sweepstakes, reinforces fears many Republicans have expressed that Clinton would be elected if Dole is the GOP nominee. It shows that support for Dole is surprisingly soft.
Even among Republicans, 18 percent say they would consider voting for Clinton, while only 9 percent of Democrats said they would consider supporting Dole. Clinton holds a 15 percentage point lead over Dole among independents.
Half of Dole’s supporters said they were motivated primarily by their dislike of Clinton. Of the president’s support in a head-to-head contest with Dole, only 28 percent said they preferred him because they disliked Dole.
Dole’s favorability ratings - another indication of soft support - have remained flat in spite of his position as the GOP’s front-runner and his prominent role in the federal budget debate. Among Republicans he has a 78 percent favorable rating, but only 11 percent of party loyalists view him as “very favorable.” By contrast, 85 percent of Democrats rate Clinton favorable - and 25 percent “very favorable.”
Clinton’s poll ratings have been helped substantially by a much improved public impression of his conduct of foreign policy. Approval of his foreign policy went from 39 percent last June to 52 percent, even though Americans are evenly divided on his decision to send 20,000 U.S. troops to join a 60,000-member international peacekeeping force in Bosnia.