A year’s an eternity in politics. 20 months is an eon. That’s what 2009 year-end polls are showing when it comes to Hillary Clinton’s image.
We’ve talked with campaigns for years about how much likability matters. Voters can disagree with you on a number of issues, but you can win on election day if they like you and trust you more than your opponent.
George’s W. Bush’s first term is an example of this. The last 4 years of Ronald Reagan’s presidency are a testament to it. It was the foundation of Barack Obama’s campaign.
When you look at at a few of the year-end polls measuring popularity and admiration for national figures, the results are interesting.
The President’s numbers are respectable in the CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll with 58 percent having a favorable view (40 percent unfavorable). Not the Mother Teresa-style ratings he enjoyed in the early days. But numbers George W. Bush would have killed for in his last years and levels many Governors covet now.
President Obama is the best-liked man in the federal government. But his former Democratic presidential rival has gained in popularity again too.
After suffering bruising hits during her presidential run, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton now rates as the most popular official in the President’s administration with an approval rating of 64 percent in the CNN poll (30 percent negative). Only First Lady Michelle Obama beats Clinton with 68%, but it’s easier to be popular in that less controversial role.
Secretary Clinton’s turnaround is impressive when contrasted with her anemic 37 percent favorability rating heading into the final showdown primaries in 2008.
But Hillary’s not the only woman from the 2008 election whose numbers have been moving.
Hillary Clinton was the most admired living woman in the eyes of Americans in the year-end Gallup poll (16%) for the 14th time. But she barely edged out Sarah Palin this year by just 1 percent on the open-ended question. The former Alaska Governor came in second place at 15% and bounced up 4 points over her first appearance on the list last year.
But Palinites getting ready to measure the drapes in the Oval Office shouldn’t get too excited.
Her favorabilty numbers have dropped consistently since her high of 53% after the 2008 GOP Convention. In the last Gallup poll testing favorability, Governor Palin was at just 40%. Most importantly, more people dislike the former VP nominee than like her. 50% of respondents had a negative opinion of her.
Right now, the only thing Palin’s supporters care about is that she is popular among Republican voters and could convert that into a run for the GOP nomination.
In the end, likability matters.
Sarah Palin’s negative ratings have doubled since her national debut. She will need to do more than Go Rogue to turn things around with Democrats and Independents and have a chance to win in November 2012.
At least that’s how it looks at the end of 2009… But that election is more than a political eternity from now. It’s light years away.
Happy New Year!