WASHINGTON (AP) — Hillary Rodham Clinton’s standing is falling among Democrats, and voters view her as less decisive and inspiring than when she launched her presidential campaign just three months ago, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll.
The survey offers a series of warning signs for the leading Democratic candidate. Most troubling, perhaps, for her prospects are questions about her compassion for average Americans, a quality that fueled President Barack Obama’s two White House victories.
Just 39 percent of all Americans have a favorable view of Clinton, compared to nearly half who say they have a negative opinion of her. That’s an eight-point increase in her unfavorable rating from an AP-GfK poll conducted at the end of April.
The drop in Clinton’s numbers extends into the Democratic Party. Seven in 10 Democrats gave Clinton positive marks, an 11-point drop from the April survey. Nearly a quarter of Democrats now say they see Clinton in an unfavorable light.
“I used to like her, but I don’t trust her,” said Donald Walters of Louisville, Kentucky. “Ever since she’s announced her candidacy for the presidency I just haven’t liked the way she’s handled things. She doesn’t answer questions directly.”
While Clinton’s approval rating fell, Obama’s stayed constant at 46 percent since April. More than 8 in 10 Democrats have a positive view of the president.
At least part of Clinton’s decline may be due to questions about her character, a topic Republicans have been trying to make central to the 2016 campaign. In ads, stump speeches and online videos, they paint her as a creature of Washington who flouts the rules to get ahead.
While Clinton has spent decades in the public eye, she’s focused in recent months on creating a more relatable — and empathetic — image. In public events, she frequently talks about her new granddaughter, Charlotte, and references her early career as a legal advocate for impoverished children.
The survey suggests that voters aren’t sold on her reinvention: Only 4 in 10 voters say they view Clinton as “compassionate.” Just 3 in 10 said the word “honest” described her either very or somewhat well.
Stephanie Bergholdo, a Democratic voter from Oak Park, California, says she finds Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren far more sincere in their liberal views — though she’s likely to vote for Clinton should she become the party’s nominee.
“She’s piggybacking on some of the things they’ve been talking about,” said Bergholdo. “I don’t think she comes across very genuine. She just seems a little stiff to me.”
The percentage of respondents calling Clinton at least somewhat inspiring also slipped from 44 percent to 37 percent.
Even the number of voters saying Clinton is at least somewhat decisive, previously a strong point for the former New York senator, fell from 56 percent in April to 47 percent in the new poll.
“She’s pretty much a run-of-the-mill Democrat,” said Mark Oldenburg of Madison, Wisconsin. “I don’t know that there’s anything particularly special about her.”
Other polls released this week show contrasting results. A Washington Post-ABC News survey found an uptick in Clinton’s favorability, while a Suffolk University-USA Today poll showed a slightly net negative rating.
That means the downturn for Clinton could be a result of random differences in survey sampling or a troubling trend for the dominant Democratic candidate, underscoring the undefined nature of the crowded early presidential campaign.
Democrats argue that a drop in her numbers is a predictable result of Clinton’s return to the partisan fray after years in the less overtly political position of secretary of state. Republicans, meanwhile, attribute the drop to questions about the financial dealings of Clinton’s family foundation and her use of an email account run from a server kept at her New York home while serving as secretary of state.
Clinton’s bad marks weren’t unique: Nearly all of the Republican candidates surveyed in the poll shared her underwater approval ratings. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, a leading GOP candidate, saw his unfavorable ratings rise to 44 percent from 36 percent in April.
By LISA LERER and EMILY SWANSON