CBS Poll: Clinton Fatigue?

President Bill Clinton addresses the Business Council, Thursday, 2.24.00 re China trade AP

President Bill Clinton continues to enjoy high approval ratings as his tenure draws to a close. So are Americans holding the door for him to leave, or will they be sad to see him go? According to the CBS News/New York Times poll, it's a little of both.

In the twilight of his presidency, Mr. Clinton receives a 59 percent job approval rating from the American public - 11 points higher than former President Ronald Reagan received at the same point in his presidency.

CBSNEWS - New York Times Polls
Presidential Job Approval

 ApproveDisapprove
Clinton - Now

59%

33%


 ApproveDisapprove
Reagan - 5/88

48%

39%

CBSNEWS Polls


The American public believes that Mr. Clinton still has the desire to be president, and would run if he could. Given a hypothetical scenario in which there is no 22nd amendment to the Constitution, 66 percent of American adults say that Mr. Clinton would run for office again.

They are less sure, however, about his chances for success in such a scenario. Only 32 percent of Americans think he would win another term in office, while 56 percent think he would not. Democrats are divided: 43 percent think he would win, 46 percent think he would not.

CBSNEWS - New York Times Polls
What If Clinton Could Run Again?

 YesNo
Would he run again?

66%

30%


 YesNo
Would he win?

32%

56%


 YesNo
Would you consider voting for him?

39%

57%


Even though we asked people to suspend the reality of the 22nd amendment in these questions, it is unclear that they can actually do so: the last time a hypothetical third-term question was asked about a two-term president - Ronald Reagan - Americans answered in much the same way they do about Mr. Clinton. When asked whether they would consider voting for Mr. Clinton for a third term, nearly four in ten say they would, but over half say they would not. When asked in an April 1988 Associated Press Poll whether they would vote for Reagan if he could run again, 32 percent said yes.

What If?
Exactly eight months from Saturday, Bill Clinton will cease to be president of the United States. But if it were not for the Constitution, things might be very different, CBS News Correspondent Mark Knoller reports.

"Most days I'm okay about not being on the ballot," Clinton recently joked. "And the other days that I'm not okay about it, you have the Constitution to protect you."

By that, the president meant the 22nd amendment. Ratified in 1951, it states that "no person shall be elected to the office of the president more than twice…"

But is there any doubt that this president would be seeking re-election were it not for the 22nd Amendment?

"Let me just say this: I love this job. I love it. Even on the bad days," Clinton has said.

No—not much doubt at all.
THE BETTER CANDIDATE?

Despite the public's protestations about voting for Mr. Clinton for a third term, some measures indicate that he would do better than they admit. On presidential character issues, Mr. Clinton ranks with the stronger candidate on both leadership (George W. Bush) and caring (Al Gore). Only on honesty and integrity does the president come up short.

Voters think Mr. Clinton combines the best qualities of Bush and Gore. Clinton matches Bush on leadership qualities: 63 percent of voters say Clinton has strong qualities of leadership, and 63% say the same about Bush. Fifty-nine percent of voters feel that Mr. Clinton cares about the needs and problems of people like them, similar to the 61 percent who say Gore cares.

Not surprisingly, it's on honesty and integrity that Mr. Clinton falls behind: only 23 percent of voters think that he has moe honesty and integrity than most people in public life. In contrast, 39 percent say the same about Bush and Gore respectively.

THE CLINTON LEGACY

At this point in time, Mr. Clinton's biggest accomplishment and his biggest failure are pretty clear. Americans say the economy is the Clinton administration' biggest success: 34 percent mention the economy while no other mention reaches double digits. Foreign policy comes second at 5 percent.

Clinton's biggest failure remains the scandal surrounding his impeachment: 17 percent cite morals and the sex scandal as his administration's biggest failure, and another 6 percent cite dishonesty and corruption. In addition, 5 percent mention the damage that he did to his image, and the image of the presidency - bringing scandal-related mentions to a total of 28 percent. But this number is down some: in October of last year, 37 percent cited some sort of scandal-related answer.


This poll was conducted May 10-13, 2000, among a nationwide random sample of 947 adults interviewed by telephone. The error due to sampling could be plus or minus three percentage points for results based on the entire sample. The error for subgroups is larger.

  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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