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What Americans think of Hillary Clinton's email practices

By Sarah Dutton, Jennifer De Pinto, Anthony Salvanto, and Fred Backus

Most Americans (65 percent) say their opinion of Clinton has not changed in the wake of the email controversy, but 29 percent say their opinion of her has grown worse. Forty-nine percent of Republicans say their opinion of her is worse, as do 28 percent of independents.

More generally, 26 percent of Americans now have a favorable view of Hillary Clinton, while 37 percent view her unfavorably; another third are undecided or don't have an opinion of her. As Clinton weighs a presidential bid, her favorable views are 12 points lower than they were in the fall of 2013, just months after leaving her position as secretary of state. Her unfavorable views have ticked up slightly, but the percentage that is undecided about her has risen eight points.

McCarthy: Hillary Clinton should come clean with Benghazi emails 02:13

Clinton's highest favorable rating in CBS News polling occurred in March 2009, early in her tenure as Secretary of State, when 58 percent of Americans viewed her favorably. Clinton received her lowest favorable rating - 24 percent - in June 2003, soon after the publication of her memoir Living History.

Negative views of Clinton have risen among Republicans. Seventy-two percent hold an unfavorable view of her today, compared to 60 percent almost two years ago. Also, the percentage of independents who view Clinton favorably is now half of what it was in the fall of 2013. Many independents now say they are undecided or don't know enough about Clinton to have an opinion. Most Democrats (55 percent) continue to hold favorable views of Clinton but that percentage has dropped eight points since November 2013.

Hillary Clinton: Qualities and Characteristics

When asked to evaluate Hillary Clinton on some key characteristics, the public gives Clinton her most negative marks on honesty. Fewer than half - 42 percent- say she is honest and trustworthy, while more - 47 percent - don't think she is.

Clinton gets more positive assessments on leadership and empathy. Fifty-seven percent says she has strong qualities of leadership, while 38 percent don't think she does.

More than half of Americans (56 percent) think Clinton cares about the needs and problems of people like themselves, but that includes just 22 percent who say she cares a lot.

Top Democrat says Hillary Clinton cooperating with Benghazi panel 01:32

Democrats are especially likely to view Clinton positively on these attributes, while Republicans take the opposing view. Most independents think Clinton is a strong leader and half say she cares about their problems, but just 34 percent describe her as honest and trustworthy. Also, women hold more positive opinions of Clinton on these measures than men.

The Email Controversy

More than six in 10 Americans do not think it was appropriate for Hillary Clinton to use a personal email address and server for work-related matters as secretary of state. Democrats divide on whether it was appropriate for Clinton to do this, but majorities of 80 percent of Republicans and 64 percent independents do not think her actions were appropriate.

Members of Clinton's own party - 65 percent - say her motivations for using a private email were about convenience, but 62 percent of Republicans think Clinton was trying to keep information from becoming public.

Along similar lines, the public is divided on whether they find Clinton's explanation regarding her use of personal email and server for work satisfactory. Democrats are satisfied with her explanation, but Republicans are not. Independents are split.

A majority of Americans have heard or read at least some about Hillary Clinton's use of a personal email address and server for her work as Secretary of State, although Republicans are more likely than Democrats or independents to have heard or read about it.


This poll was conducted by telephone March 21-24, 2015 among a random sample of 1,023 adults nationwide. Data collection was conducted on behalf of CBS News by SSRS of Media, PA. Phone numbers were dialed from samples of both standard land-line and cell phones. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus three percentage points. The error for subgroups may be higher. Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish. This poll release conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

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