Question: Given Hillary’s low favorability, wouldn’t Bernie have been the better candidate for establishment Democrats to get behind to secure a presidential victory?
Response: I don’t think so. I’d say that the two factors that have impacted Hillary the most are implicit bias against women in leadership roles and the attacks that come along with running for any high-level political office.
Now, consider that, at the time Democratic leadership was deciding which candidate to get behind, Clinton was clearly the easiest choice:
And, consider that Clinton’s worst favorability in the past, besides during the Whitewater investigation (which, incidentally, came to nothing) were during her bid for the senate and during her first bid for the presidency. As Nate Silver put it back in December of 2012, “Over the course of her long career, the public’s views of Mrs. Clinton have shifted along with her public role. When she has been actively engaged in the hand-to-hand combat that characterizes election campaigns and battles in Congress, her favorability ratings have taken a hit, only to recover later”:
In the same article, Silver also correctly predicted, “if Mrs. Clinton runs for president in 2016, one thing is almost certain: she won’t be as popular as she is right now.”
To my thinking, implicit bias against women in leadership is sufficient to explain Hillary’s this dip in popularity, especially when we consider that her numbers aren’t outrageously different from figures for the Democratic party itself. Silver, though, suggested back then that her favorability suffered when running for office because that’s when she was being most attacked by various opponents.
If that’s the case, then we should expect this to have happened to other candidates. In fact, it looks like it did happen to Obama to a degree:
Bush’s figures are pretty much downward except for 9/11. Interestingly, though, he seems actually to have experienced an uptick immediately leading up to the 2004 election:
I haven’t been able to find enough data on other female candidates to try to tease out how political attacks and gender affect bids for political office. Still, I feel fairly satisfied that Hillary’s issues, which don’t seem extraordinary compared to other politicians’, are probably not the source of her favorability figures.
One final thing I’d point out are PolitiFact’s ratings of candidates’ truthfulness:
When I compare these figures, the only systematic (though, not scientific) study of candidate honesty, I can’t help scratching my head over why Hillary has been so widely singled out for dishonesty. Clearly, the fact that not one of these three candidates do better than 51% in truthfulness is, to quote the silver-tongued Trump, “sad.”
A CNN poll from last month found that, “Trump has his largest edge of the campaign as the more honest and trustworthy of the two major candidates (50% say he is more honest and trustworthy vs. just 35% choosing Clinton).” Huh?
An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, also from last month, yielded a rating of 31% for Hillary and 41% for Trump for “being honest/straightforward.” Huh?!
Now, finally, compare the candidates in this YouGov poll from February:
Notice that, despite having the same record for producing honest statements by PolitiFact’s lights, Hillary and Bernie are basically the inverse in terms of perceived dis/honesty. Only Trump approaches Hillary’s degree of perceived dis/honesty despite the fact that he only apparently tells the truth by accident.
It’s tempting for me to regard this as further evidence of sexism in the US public, conscious or unconscious. However, there’s also the fact that the Republican attacks on Hillary have chiefly targeted her honesty and transparency in the interminable Benghazi investigations.
So, maybe Nate’s right….