Hillary Clinton’s Approval Numbers Return to Earth — WSJ/NBC Poll - Washington Wire - WSJ - Liar Liar!
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Hillary Clinton’s Approval Numbers Return to Earth — WSJ/NBC Poll - Washington Wire - WSJ

The latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll found 43% of registered voters view Hillary Clinton positively, compared with the 41% who harbor negative views. That’s a steep drop from February 2009

The more Hillary Clinton looks like a candidate, the less invincible she appears.

The former first lady and New York senator enjoyed sky-high approval ratings during her tenure as President Barack Obama’s secretary of state, but her numbers have returned to earth since she traded her perch as the nation’s top diplomat for her current role as the Democrats’ top presidential prospect in 2016.

The latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll found 43% of registered voters view Ms. Clinton positively, compared with the 41% who harbor negative views. That’s a steep drop from February 2009 when 59% viewed the newly confirmed secretary of state positively and just 22% held negative views. The numbers suggest Americans are far less charitable about Ms. Clinton when she is seeking office or, in this case, merely considering it than they are about other politicians who retire from public office.

A case in point: Ms. Clinton’s husband, former President Bill Clinton, and his successor, former President George W. Bush. The public views both much more favorably than when they left office. The latest Journal poll found 56% of registered voters view Mr. Clinton positively, compared with the 21% who view him negatively. That’s a sharp improvement from March 2001, right after he left office, when 52% of adults viewed him negatively.

Mr. Bush has witnessed a somewhat more surprising revival since he left office to the cheers of even some Republicans. In the new poll, registered voters split almost evenly on the former president, with 37% viewing him positively and 38% viewing him negatively. That’s a big improvement from April 2009, a few months after he retired from the Oval Office when the economy was still in free fall and roughly two out of three Americans viewed Mr. Bush negatively.

One of the biggest reasons Ms. Clinton has lost some of that glow from 2009 when she played the good soldier by joining her rival’s cabinet is that Republicans now hold a much dimmer view of the former secretary of state. Roughly one-in-four Republicans viewed Ms. Clinton positively in 2009. That number fell to 14% in the latest poll, while those who harbor negative views jumped 18 percentage points, from 52% in 2009 to 70% this month.

But Ms. Clinton has also fallen out of favor with some Democrats and independents, as well. In 2009, 87% of Democrats viewed her positively, compared with a meager 3% who viewed negatively. In the latest poll, 72% of Democrats view Ms. Clinton positively, while 13% harbor negative views. Independents were twice as likely to view her positively as negatively in 2009. Now, they are more evenly split, with 40% holding positive views and 35% viewing her negatively.

Despite that erosion, Ms. Clinton remains more popular than many of the Republicans she could face in a presidential showdown in 2016. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush – three Republicans mentioned as potential White House hopefuls in 2016 – are all viewed more negatively than positively. Only Florida Sen. Marco Rubio garnered as many positive views as he did negative ones, with registered voters split evenly at 21%-21%.

Click to see more poll charts and data.

The poll revealed a potentially difficult trend for Mr. Paul, who has called for a less interventionist foreign policy, as Republicans grow decidedly more hawkish in the face of a growing threat posed by Islamic militants destabilizing the Middle East. Some 61% of the poll respondents said it would be in the country’s national interest to take military action against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, a view shared by Mr. Paul. Nearly half of Republicans went a step further to say they would favor sending combat troops to the region to battle the group directly.

But perhaps more striking is that self-identified Republicans in the September survey wanted the U.S. to be more involved in world affairs, by a margin of 41%-34%. That’s a big jump from a Journal poll conducted in April that found 45% of Republicans wanted the U.S. to be less active in the world, and just 29% wanting the country to be more involved. If the shift continues, Mr. Paul may face more pressure to articulate foreign-policy views that run counter to many of his supporters – or to the Republicans currently outside his fold.

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