Americans are looking to make history again in 2016, at least according to a new Gallup survey released on Friday, March 21, 2014, this time by electing the first female president. According to the new survey part of what excites Americans about former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's potential presidential campaign in 2016 is that they want her to be the first women elected president. In 2008 the country was not yet ready for a women president, instead Americans were looking to elect the first black president, and then Barack Obama won the presidential election.
In the new poll Gallup asks potential American voters "what would be the best or most positive thing about a possible Hillary Clinton presidency" and the answer by the majority of respondents stated was that Clinton "would be her serving as the first female president in the nation's history." According the results 1 in 5 or 18 percent of respondents gave that response.
Democrats, women and millenials aged 18 to 29 are the ones most excited about the prospects of Clinton presidency, with "22% of women, 27% of 18- to 29-year-olds, and 30% of Democrats" responding that the best and most positive of a Clinton presidency would be that she would serve as the first women president.
Democrat, Republican or Independent voters all saw the history making aspect of electing the first women president as a plus, but the importance varied according to party affiliation. Democrats listed it at 30 percent, Independents 17 percent while only 7 percent of Republicans listed it as a positive and in second place on their list.
According to the editor in Chief of Gallup Frank Newport; "Hillary Clinton's greatest selling point going into the 2016 presidential election, should she decide to run, would be the historic fact that, if elected, she would be the first female president in the nation's history."
The survey asked about the positives and negatives, the best and worst things of a potential Hillary Clinton presidency. The results of the survey were decisively partisan with Republicans not finding many positives to say about a Clinton presidency and Democrats finding less negatives to say in response to second question of what would be the worst thing about a possible Hillary Clinton presidency.
Except for the top response the rest of the answers regarding the "best" aspects of a Clinton election polled in the single digits. Generalized personality traits interested respondents rather than specific policy areas. Coming in second place is her experience including foreign policy experience at 9 percent. Though political reasons did factor in with 9 percent answering her presidency would be a change from the Obama and Bush administrations, but contradicting that response 6 percent say Clinton would continue the Democratic agenda and platform.
The rest of the responses that made Gallup's list included; "best choice" at 5 percent, "capable, competent, qualified" at 3 percent, "intelligent, smart, educated" at 2 percent and "Bill Clinton would be back in the White to help, advise her" at 2 percent. More respondents found Bill Clinton's presence in the White House a negative at 3 percent. The remainder three answers only garnered one percent including; "like her, want her to win," "open, honest government," and would be good for the common people."
The major policy issues were not much of a factor in respondents' mind, with healthcare number one with 3 percent, jobs and employment, "agree with her politics, approve of her actions," and the economy only garnered 2 percent each. All the rest only received only percent including; balancing the budget and ending wars.
Democrat, Republican or Independent voters each had a different priority list of the positives in a potential presidency in addition to Clinton being the "first female president." For Democrats at number 2 it's her experience at 16 percent, Democratic agenda at 13 percent, followed by "best choice" and "change in administration" 10 percent each. The positives for Democratic leaning independents are close to those of Democrats, with experience at number 2 with 8 percent, "change of administration" 5 percent, and "best choice" and immigration reform both at 4 percent.
It is a rarity that any Republicans are actually having a positive view of a potential Clinton presidency, but still some found some aspects of one. Showing how much Republicans dislike the Obama administration at number one is a "change in administration with 11 percent, followed by experience at number three with 4 percent, healthcare policy at 3 percent and the economy and "capability and competence" at 2 percent each.
Looking at the negative side of a potential Clinton presidency the responses mostly came from Republican and Republican leaning independent voters and their responses were far more varied than the positives and reflected repeated Republicans views of Hillary Clinton in general, her tenure as Secretary of State, Bill Clinton, Clinton era scandals returning and disdain for Democratic policies.
The top response was related to her personality with 6 percent thinking she is not qualified, followed by not wanting a woman president at 4 percent; the same amount think a Hillary Clinton presidency in itself is a negative. Responses on her dishonesty, not liking her and Bill Clinton were given by three percent of voters, and his past scandals allotted by another 2 percent, as was being "too liberal," and her past. Only one percent found Clinton's age a negative, born in November 1947, by the time she would sworn in as pesident she would be 69, and a only a few months younger than the country's oldest serving president, Republican Ronald Reagan when he was sworn in as president in 1980.
Surprisingly only 2 percent listed her "handling" of the 2012 Benghazi, Libya terror attacks as a negative, considering the Conservative media's constant criticism on the issue, it should have ranked higher, which shows it is not that important to Republican voter in whole bigger picture.
On the policy issue front, the list of responses all getting 3 percent or less was a laundry list of general Republican concerns about a Democratic president and would be the same for any Democrat who would run and win the presidency in 2016. In fact those same concerns and criticism plague President Obama. The issues include; health care 3 percent, foreign policy 3 percent, "government spending and the deficit" 2 percent. The remaining received only one percent; immigration, "views on wars," welfare and social policy, bad economy, raise taxes, not create jobs, gun control and then finally being pro-abortion.
General political issues and the differences between Republicans and a Democratic president received some of the larger portion of support on the negative side of a Clinton presidency, including continuing Obama's policies at 6 percent, that she is a Democrat at 4 percent, her general views and agenda at 3 percent, and partisanship at 2 percent.
The survey received the largest response for neither positive or negative answers, with 27 percent finding nothing positive about a Clinton presidency and 22 percent finding nothing negative about the potential presidency. Just as large of response were the no opinions either way with 50 percent in total. Gallup broke it down further, with 59 percent of Democrats finding nothing negative about a Clinton presidency and much more passionate Republicans at 72 percent finding nothing positive about a potential tenure.
Like the positive aspects of a Clinton presidency the negatives opinions were divided by partisan lines with Republicans being negative as expected, but this time independents are aligned in their views more like Republicans. Both Republicans and independents found the worst part of a Clinton presidency the fact that she would continue with policies of the Obama administration, with 11 percent of Republicans stating that, with 7 percent of Independents feeling the same way. The Republicans' problem continues to be her "election in the first place" 9 percent, followed by "not qualified" and being a Democrat both at 8 percent and dishonesty at 7 percent. While independents place in their negative column not being qualified at second with 6 percent, then healthcare, political agenda, Bill Clinton, and dishonesty all at 4 percent.
Democrats also found negatives with a possible Clinton presidency mostly due to Bill Clinton flashbacks, and the scandals associated with presidency from 1993 to 2001. At the top of the negative list as with the positive one 6 percent do not want a female president, matching independents at number two is Clinton not being qualified enough at 5 percent, Bill Clinton weighed heavily with his return to the White House and scandals at 4 percent and 3 percent, partisanship 4 percent.
Gallup's survey delved into a potential Hillary Clinton presidency as if it is a done deal. With Clinton at the top of every poll for the Democratic nomination, many Democrats voters consider the nomination clinched to the dismay of many Democrats who would have wanted to run in 2016 including Vice President Joe Biden. As long as Clinton does not announce her plans, she will remain at the top of the polls for the Democratic nomination. Besides Clinton, comes out as the most qualified and experienced candidate, which everyone else pales in comparison.
Analysts agree with Gallup, Americans want to make history again with the next presidential election. The director of policy at the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress Dan Mahaffee spoke to CNN and expressed that "There certainly is that dynamic for there to be a historical president, to feel part of that is certainly a strong driver." While Nathan Gonzales, the deputy editor of The Rothenberg Political Report said "I think voters could be driven by this sense of history."
The need to make history is based on Hillary Clinton's own words from her speech to the 2008 Democratic National Convention, Americans want to finally see a women break the "glass ceiling" Clinton referred to. Clinton expressed at the 2008 convention; "As we gather here today in this historic, magnificent building, the 50th woman to leave this Earth is orbiting overhead. If we can blast 50 women into space, we will someday launch a woman into the White House. Although we weren't able to shatter that highest, hardest glass ceiling this time, thanks to you, it's got about 18 million cracks in it.... and the light is shining through like never before, filling us all with the hope and the sure knowledge that the path will be a little easier next time."
CNN seems to believe that Clinton is adding to the myth and hype towards electing the first female president through her recent speaking engagements where she mixes analysis of current policy issues with discussing empowering women to leadership in the workplace and politics. Chris Cillizza writing in the Washington Post believes that selling the first female presidency is the best angle for the 2016 and what was missing in the 2008 campaign, instead she became the "politics as usual" candidate.
In 2008 Clinton's campaign thought the aspect would hinder her candidacy, while the Obama campaign relished in and exploited it. Now Clinton is the one exploiting the history making aspect and according to the Gallup survey that is the aspect Clinton has going for her more than anything, even her experience. Now it only remains if Clinton will announce her almost inevitable candidacy, and according her coy responses, we all have to wait until after the midterm elections for that announcement.
- Hillary Clinton's Top Selling Point in 2016: First Female President, Gallup, March 21, 2013
Bonnie K. Goodman is the Editor of the Academic Buzz Network, a series of political, academic & education blogs which includes History Musings: History, News & Politics. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies, both from McGill University, and has done graduate work in Jewish history at Concordia University as part of the MA in Judaic Studies program. Her specializations are US, Canadian & Israeli politics.