Many have defined Hillary Clinton as ‘unique’, a ‘one off’, or ‘special’ and now we have confirmation. Over the past quarter century, the favorability ratings of losing presidential candidates generally have increased after the election, however, as Gallup’s latest poll shows, seven months after her failed bid for the presidency, she remains as unpopular now as she was then.
Typically, losing candidates’ favorable ratings improve because political independents and supporters of the opposing political party grow to view the candidate more positively after the election.
However, this has not happened for Clinton. Her current ratings among Republicans (11%) and independents (33%) are just as low now as last November before she lost to Trump. Democrats maintain a mostly positive view of Clinton, with 79% viewing her favorably.
November’s election was unlike any other before it, with both major party candidates having some of the lowest favorable ratings of any candidates in Gallup’s history. This situation has had unique consequences for the losing candidate as well as the winner.
Seven months after her loss, Clinton’s image remains near its record low since 1992 — even though prior losing candidates’ images improved after their defeats. Trump, like previous winners, did get an increase in favorability shortly after his win, though his current 40% favorable rating remains low in an absolute sense.
Some former Clinton supporters have been openly resentful of the failed candidate, calling her toxic and divisive, and unhelpful in any efforts to resist Trump and his agenda. Republicans, meanwhile, haven’t softened to Clinton in the way they did to Gore after his 2000 loss, or the way Democrats did to Romney and McCain. To some degree, that may be an outcome of the increasingly partisan political environment, but it may also reflect Republicans’ long-held and deep-seated antipathy toward Clinton.
At this point, then, it is unclear when or if Clinton’s image will recover. Americans have liked Clinton most when her role was less political — such as secretary of state or first lady weathering her husband’s public scandal — and her ratings have suffered each time she has run for office. If she doesn’t seek to run again, her favorability is far less relevant and frees her from the constraints of public opinion.