The Hits Just Keep Coming: Clinton’s Favorability Ratings Are in a Free Fall

The hits just keep coming for Team Hillary. Last week we reported on a dumbfounding poll that showed Hillary Clinton trailing three top GOP candidates in the crucial swing states of Colorado, Iowa, and Virginia. This week, it’s a series of polls showing that Clinton’s favorability ratings have been in an utter free fall over the past several weeks.

The first comes from Gallup, which finds that Clinton’s favorability ratings are now upside down with 43 percent of respondents saying they view her favorability and 46 percent saying they view her unfavorably. In just the past year, Clinton’s favorable rating has fallen 12 percent and her unfavorable rating has risen by 10 percent. That’s not a sustainable trend, especially since the drop comes solely from Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents (a 5 point drop) and non-leaning independents (a 9 point drop) rather than Republicans and Republican leaners (no change).

Hillary Clinton, Recent Favorability Trend

The second comes from a new CNN poll, which also finds that Clinton’s favorability ratings have fallen to a net negative of 45 percent to 48 percent. Although CNN’s poll does not show as steep of a drop–her favorability has fallen 8 percent and her unfavorable have risen 4 percent–the results confirm that the electorate’s view of Clinton is rapidly eroding.

Predictably, Democrats are falling all over themselves to explain away the results. For instance, Slate’s Jamelle Bouie argues that it is far too early to care about polls and questions whether we learned anything at all in the last election:

The big thing is that this early in an election cycle, polls don’t tell us anything. They aren’t predictive or especially useful. For example, at roughly this point in 2011, Barack Obama was a goner. With a net negative job approval rating, he was behind in key swing states and losing to a generic Republican in a nationwide matchup. But the election came, and the picture changed: Discontented Democrats returned to his corner, and the race tightened to a virtual tossup. With economic growth on his side, Barack Obama won, with a victory that matched those fundamentals.

And the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza argues that these results shouldn’t really come as a surprise to anyone:

As Philip Bump noted in this space over the weekend, some of Clinton’s poll erosion is to be expected. Clinton (and every politician) is always more popular when she is either out of politics or in a job (like secretary of state) that is regarded by many people as non-political. If you thought Hillary Clinton was going to have favorable ratings in the high 60s for the entirety of her 2016 presidential bid, then you know nothing about modern-day U.S. politics.

Although there is a kernel of truth in Bouie and Cillizza’s arguments, this race and these polls feel different, and it all boils down to the fact that Hillary Clinton is not Barack Obama. She’s not the fresh, young upstart who can leave crowds spellbound. Sure, she may not engender the same levels of vitriol as Obama, but if anything it’s because she doesn’t inspire much passion at all. In some ways that’s because Clinton is not mysterious, she’s a known commodity who has spent decades of scandal-plagued time in the national spotlight. We know her to be methodical, calculating, combative, private and intelligent. And because we know her so well it’s going to be difficult to move the needle on her likability or favorability in any direction but down. So although these polls may not be a surprise, the speed and depth to which they have already fallen should be.

Can Team Clinton pull their way out of this mess? Absolutely. There is still a lot of time between now and Election Day. But the fact remains, they have months to improve on the public perception of a persona that was built over decades.