Poll: Clinton Leaves With High Marks

President Bill Clinton will leave office this week holding some of his most favorable job evaluations ever. Most think he has made the country a better place, and say he has been a better than average president.

But opinions of Mr. Clinton the individual are at two extremes. Views of him as a strong leader are at their peak, and his ability to relate to and empathize with most Americans is still a strong suit. But at the same time, the public says his moral values are seriously out of touch with those of most Americans.

Now, 68 percent approve of the job Bill Clinton has done as president over the last eight years, and 30 percent disapprove.

CBSNEWS - New York Times Polls
CLINTON'S JOB RATINGS

 Now2/995/93
Approve

68%

73%

37%

 Now2/995/93
Disapprove

30%

25%

49%

CBSNEWS Polls

Mr. Clinton's current approval rating, while high, doesn't quite match his highest rating. That came in February 1999, following his acquittal by the Senate. Then, 73 percent approved of the job he was doing as president. His lowest approval rating occurred early in his first year, in May 1993, when only 37 percent approved of his presidency. At that time, the public had lost confidence in Mr. Clinton's economic program.

Public approval of Mr. Clinton's presidency equals that of another two-term president, Ronald Reagan, just before he left office. It surpasses ratings of outgoing single term presidents Bush and Carter, both of whom lost their bids for reelection.

CBSNEWS - New York Times Polls
PRESIDENTIAL APPROVAL RATINGS

 Clinton, 1/01Bush, 1/93Reagan, 1/89Carter, 1/81
Approve

68%

54%

68%

44%


 Clinton, 1/01Bush, 1/93Reagan, 1/89Carter, 1/81
Disapprove

30%

40%

26%

44%

CBSNEWS Polls

Unlike many other presidents, Mr. Clinton's job performance ratings rose during his eight years and were highest in his second term. However, ratings of Mr. Clinton's presidency did not run to the extremes of the Bush presidency, which fluctuated from a high of 88 percent to a low of 31 percent.


CLINTON THE PRESIDENT

Evaluations of the type of president Mr. Clinton has been are also high: 59 percent say he has been either a very good or good president, 30 percent say he has been average and 11 percent say he has been a poor president. Ratings of his presidency far surpass evaluations of his predecessor, President George H. W. Bush, just after he lost to Mr. Clinton. Then, 40 percent rated Bush's presidency as ver good or good, and 48 percent said it was average.

Part of the reason for Mr. Clinton's positive evaluations has to be the transformation of the economy during his tenure. When Mr. Clinton took office in 1993, just 35 percent thought the economy was in good shape. Since 1996, more than 70 percent have believed that. So it isn't surprising that 53 percent say that as president Bill Clinton has made the country a better place. Only 11 percent say he has made it a worse place, and 33 percent say it isn't much different.

Yet another reason for these ratings is that the public believes Clinton has done much of what he set out to do. Eighty-three percent say he has kept at least some of his campaign promises. This is better than was expected when he first took office. In 1993, 74 percent expected him to keep at least some of his campaign promises. As he began his second term, 66 percent said he had kept at least some of his promises.

CLINTON THE INDIVIDUAL

One of President Clinton's great skills has been his ability to communicate with average Americans. As he leaves office, this remains true. Sixty-four percent say that Mr. Clinton cares about the needs and problems of people like them; 52 percent think he has the same priorities for the country as they do.

In addition, views of Mr. Clinton's leadership skills are at their peak: 75 percent think he has strong qualities of leadership - up from 64 percent last May. In fact, this represents his highest leadership rating since he took office.

Mr. Clinton also receives one of his highest favorability ratings ever recorded by this poll. Now, 57 percent have a favorable view of him, and 35 percent are unfavorable.

But Mr. Clinton's weaknesses are well known. Only 34 percent believe he shares the moral values of most Americans. Although in the first four years of his presidency most Americans viewed Mr. Clinton's moral values as closer to those of most people, the 1998 scandals distanced him morally from mainstream America, and he has remained there ever since.

CBSNEWS - New York Times Polls
DOES CLINTON SHARE MORAL VALUES OF MOST AMERICANS?

 Now1/983/96
Yes

34%

41%

59%


 Now1/983/96
No

60%

51%

34%

CBSNEWS Polls

As has been true throughout his presidency, people believe Mr. Clinton is somewhat of a panderer. Only 32 percent think he says what he believes, and 64 percent think he mostly says what he thinks people want to hear.

This poll was conducted by telephone January 15-17, 2001, among 1,086 adults nationwide. The error due to sampling could be plus or minus three percentage points for results based on the entire sample. Sampling error for subgroups may be higher.


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  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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