Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is now receiving her most positive ratings since coming on to the national political scene nearly two decades ago. As she heads to London for the G-20 summit, a recent CBS News Poll conducted March 12-16 finds that 58 percent of Americans have a favorable opinion of her – the highest percentage since CBS News started asking about her in 1992 and a significant improvement from when she was a candidate for president.
Throughout much of Clinton's campaign for president, voters' opinions were divided and often slightly more negative than positive, but since ending her presidential bid and being named Secretary of State, favorable opinions of her have risen. In fact, one year ago, just 39 percent of voters held a favorable view of Clinton.
FAVORABLE VIEW OF HILLARY CLINTON
*among registered voters
During her time as first lady, Clinton's favorable ratings were mostly in the 30s and 40s. Views of her were more positive during her husband, Bill Clinton's, second term as president than his first, reflecting public support for her during the Monica Lewinsky scandal.
As first lady, Clinton received her highest favorable rating (55 percent) in January 1999, shortly after the House of Representatives voted to impeach then-President Bill Clinton. Hillary Clinton's lowest favorable rating while first lady (31 percent) occurred in August 1995, following weeks of Congressional hearings on the Clintons' Whitewater land deal.
FAVORABLE VIEW OF HILLARY CLINTON -- THE FIRST LADY YEARS
While serving as U.S. senator from the state of New York, Americans' opinions of Clinton were mixed. In June 2003, amid publicity surrounding her autobiography, Living History, just 24 percent of Americans said they had a favorable opinion of Clinton – the lowest number she has ever received on this measure in a CBS News Poll. It should be noted, however, that this question gives respondents the explicit option of saying they are undecided or don't know enough about Clinton, and a larger percentage than usual in the June 2003 poll – 41 percent - took that option.
FAVORABLE VIEW OF HILLARY CLINTON -- THE SENATE YEARS
Even though opinions of Clinton nationwide may have been mixed during her years as Senator, solid majorities of New Yorkers approved of the job she was doing as U.S. senator.
Today, Clinton is viewed positively by many demographic groups. Both men (55 percent) and women (61 percent) now hold favorable opinions of her. Throughout her presidential campaign and much of her tenure as first lady, men generally viewed Clinton more negatively than positively. Americans of all ages and income levels hold positive opinions of the Secretary of State.
As expected, Democrats (87 percent) and liberals (80 percent) give Secretary of State Clinton high favorable ratings. 54 percent of independents also hold positive opinions of her. Republicans and conservatives have unfavorable views of Clinton; as do white evangelicals.
FAVORABLE VIEW OF HILLARY CLINTON BY DEMOGRAPHIC GROUP
Under age 45
45 and older
So how does Clinton stack up against other recent secretaries of state?
At 58 percent, Clinton's first favorable rating while Secretary of State is higher than that of her immediate predecessor, Condoleezza Rice. The CBS News Poll took its first favorability measure of Secretary Rice in October 2005, nearly a year after she was appointed. Then, 41 percent of Americans held a favorable opinion of Rice but about as many – 40 percent -- were undecided or had not heard enough about her.
Clinton's marks are comparable to those of Secretary of State Colin Powell at a similar point in time during his tenure as Secretary of State: 59 percent held a favorable view of Powell in April 2001. Just five percent viewed him unfavorably, and a third was unable to offer an opinion of him.
Unlike many secretaries of state, Hillary Clinton was a familiar face to most Americans. For instance, Madeleine Albright, the first woman to become secretary of state, was unknown to a majority of Americans early on: 74 percent were undecided or hadn't heard enough about her in May 1997, four months after she assumed the office. Back then, 20 percent viewed her favorably and five percent viewed her unfavorably. Currently, only 17 percent are undecided or haven't heard enough about Clinton to have an opinion of her.
FAVORABLE VIEWS OF SECRETARIES OF STATE – FIRST MEASURES
Rice 10/05 (11 months)
Powell 4/01 (3 months)
Albright 5/97 (4 months)
Jennifer De Pinto is manager of election and survey information for CBS News.