Hillary's High Water Mark

Can polling data this early tell us anything about Hillary’s prospects in November 2016?  Hillary is an old political figure who has been in the public eye for the last 23 years.  Americans can learn very little new about Hillary, and the bland, familiar political rhetoric about new ideas and change and progress are so dull and predictable that few voters could possibly be influenced that that sort of glop.

Americans have formed an opinion of Hillary Rodham Clinton, and it is hard to see how anything can change that opinion in the next 18 months.  While polls taken months or years ago are unserious in the sense that only the truly politically wired think about elections that far away, recent polls show that  most Americans do not intend to vote for Hillary in 2016.

The relative jockeying of the potential Republican nominees tends to hide this fact.  So when polls show that Hillary runs ahead of most Republicans today, that appears to reflect a marginal shift in poll results among the particular Republican candidates, most of whom are not really familiar to Americans today.  Ignore the poll results for these Republicans and look only at the support for Hillary in these trial heats, and something interesting emerges: Hillary’s polling percentages are never a majority of respondents.

Quinnipiac’s two latest polls, May 28 and April 23, show Hillary in races against seven different Republican candidates.  Her percentage in these polls scarcely varies at all.  The mean average of her support in the April 23 Quinnipiac poll is 46.0% and in the May 28 Quinnipiac poll is 46.4%.  Mean averages can be deceptive, but not in these instances.  Her highest numbers in any of these 14 matchups is 48% and her lowest is 45%.

Fox News has published trial heat polling data for May 14 and for April 24.  The May matchups include eight Republicans, and the April matchup includes only four Republicans, but the average Hillary polling data remains very consistent.  Hillary’s mean average in the May 14 poll is 47.4%, and her mean average in the April 24 poll is 46.0%.  Again, the statistical mean accurately reflects the limitations of Hillary’s appeal in these polls.  The closest she came to getting a majority of the respondents was against Carly Fiorina, and that was only 49%.

Rasmussen’s April 14 trial heat against Republicans has only two GOP candidates, Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, but Hillary in both of these matchups received 47% of the vote.  NBC/WSJ polling data of May 4 against four different Republicans actually shows her reaching 50% against Scott Walker, but her statistical mean is 48.7%. 

Have the myriad scandals made this unappealing woman even less appealing to voters?  A review of the statistical mean of her support in polls against Republican challengers suggests so.  The mean average of her support in the February Quinnipiac poll was 46.7% (compared to 46.0% and 45.4% in the later polls).  The Fox News poll in January 2015 had Hillary with 48.0% (compared with 47.4% and 46% in the later polls).  What these results suggest is that Hillary is becoming marginally more unpopular with Americans generally as they think about the election more seriously and as they ponder the duplicity of the Clinton gang again.

If Hillary cannot push beyond the 47% to 48% range in attracting American voters, what can save her in the 2016 election?  Demonizing the Republican candidate, of course, is the first approach she will take, along with trying to motivate Democrats to turn out for the “first woman president.”  Can either of these succeed?

Actually, trying to demonize the Republican nominee could backfire, at least for most of the candidates who are not famously rich like her or Washington establishments like her and did not grow up in affluent white Chicago families as she did.  Besides, Republicans know what is coming and will not be as ham-handed as Romney and McCain were in dealing with this sort of attack. 

What about “energizing” female voters?  After eight years of Obama, energizing any voters to defend the status quo, which is what Hillary represents, can excite no one.  Male voters – half of the electorate – are as likely to be energized to turn out against an over-the-top appeal to female voters as female voters are to turn out for a familiar establishment figure like Bill Clinton’s wife, Mrs. Clinton.

Hillary has reached her high water mark in electoral appeal, and even at that point, most Americans did not want her as president.  Things, for her, are just going to get worse.