The past week of polling illustrates the central challenge of Hillary Clinton’s candidacy – she is exactly the kind of candidate a majority of Americans say they don’t want to vote for.
A CNN/ORC poll released Monday found 95% of voters believe it is either “very or “extremely” important that the candidate they support be honest and trustworthy. Last week, a majority of voters in Iowa, Colorado, and Virginia told Quinnipiac that Clinton, the Democratic front-runner for the presidential nomination, is neither of those things.
That result isn’t new and may be difficult to change. About half of voters nationwide called Clinton dishonest around the time she launched her campaign, with the number describing her as “honest and trustworthy” dropping to 42% in a June CNN/ORC poll. An NBC/Marist released Sunday reflects the same dynamic in Iowa, where Clinton’s favorability is underwater by 19 points, while only 7% said they didn’t know her well enough to have an opinion. In comparison, more than a third of Iowa voters have yet to decide what they think of her Republican rivals Scott Walker and Marco Rubio.
In another troubling sign for the former senator and secretary of state, the CNN poll shows an electorate broadly dissatisfied with the Washington establishment and hungry for an authentic, unconventional leader. Only three in ten Americans told pollsters that their views are represented in Washington, while 76% said it was at least somewhat important that their candidate be something other than “a typical politician.”
Those numbers help explain the ascent of Donald Trump in the Republican presidential primary, but they also show how Clinton exacerbates her party’s greatest challenge in 2016 – the country’s desire for a change in leadership amid continued economic dissatisfaction and widespread political disaffection.
The party seeking a third consecutive presidential term has lost seven of the last nine elections where that outcome was possible. Democrats haven’t won a third consecutive term since Franklin Roosevelt’s victory in 1940. And with her long career in politics and famous last name, Clinton would be vulnerable to attacks on a different kind of incumbency – Sunday’s NBC poll found majorities of voters in both New Hampshire and Iowa agreeing with the statement “We’ve had enough of Bushes and Clintons and it’s time to give someone else a chance.”
Clinton’s experience and name recognition have gifted her an enormous advantage in the Democratic presidential primaries. The same NBC poll that found Clinton netting a 19-point unfavorable rating in Iowa nonetheless has her 29 points ahead of her closest challenger in the state, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders – a candidate that 44% of Iowans say they know almost nothing about.
But if recent polling holds up, the fame propelling Clinton toward her party’s nomination could sink her once the coronation is complete.