Clinton's Approval Rating At Highest Mark Since '93
By Richard Morin
The survey also found that large majorities of Americans doubt that the scandals that follow Clinton into his second term will significantly weaken the president politically or interfere with his ability to govern.
And more than half of those interviewed -- 56 percent -- said they expect the president to do a better job over the next four years than he did during his first term.
Overall, the Post-ABC News poll found that 60 percent of those interviewed said they approve of the job Clinton is doing as president. That is his best showing since his first month in office and 16 points higher than in December 1994 as the president prepared to face the newly elected and energized Republican majority in Congress.
Among the keys to Clinton's resurgent popularity: prosperity at home and peace abroad. More than six in 10 survey respondents -- 61 percent -- approve of the job Clinton is doing "handling the nation's economy" -- his strongest rating in his four years as president and 16 points higher than his standing a year ago. Likewise, 54 percent approved of the way Clinton was handling foreign affairs, up from a low of 37 percent in September 1994.
In particular, the survey suggests that Clinton has prospered with the economy. Among those who approved of the way Clinton has handled the economy, eight in 10 also approved of the overall job he's done as president. But among those who don't like Clinton's record on the economy, seven in 10 disapprove of his presidency.
A total of 1,206 randomly selected adults were interviewed Jan. 13-15 for this survey. Margin of sampling error for the overall results is plus or minus 3 percentage points.
The Post-ABC News survey suggests that Clinton's popularity extends across virtually every major demographic group. Among women, 63 percent said they approve of the job he is doing as president, a view shared by 57 percent of men. Eight in 10 blacks approve of Clinton's performance, as do 55 percent of all whites interviewed.
Clinton's appeal appears to have increased even among white men, a group that favored Republican challenger Robert J. Dole over Clinton in last November's election. In the poll, more than half -- 52 percent -- of all white males expressed approval for the job Clinton was doing.
The survey suggests that after four years, Americans have become intimately familiar with the considerable strengths and the equally glaring weaknesses of their president.
Seven in 10 say Clinton has a "vision for the future of the country." Just as many say he has "new ideas" and "stands up for what he believes in," his best showing on both these measures since he took office.
But more than half -- 54 percent -- of those interviewed said Clinton is not honest and trustworthy, and an equally large majority don't believe he has high personal and moral ethical standards -- percentages unchanged since the summer.
The survey also found that most Americans appear to have a wait-and-see attitude toward the latest developments in the scandals that surround the Clintons and the Democrats.
Americans have not yet made up their mind about charges of sexual harassment leveled by Paula Corbin Jones against Clinton, allegations that a majority regarded as serious. Nearly half -- 47 percent -- said they didn't know enough yet to say, while 29 percent said they doubted that Jones was harassed and 24 percent said her charges against Clinton were probably true.
Those interviewed are divided over whether the Jones court lawsuit against Clinton should be postponed until after the president leaves office, a matter under consideration by the Supreme Court. According to the poll, 50 percent favored postponing the case, while 47 percent said it should proceed.
The growing scandal over campaign finance has yet to touch Clinton in the eyes of voters, the survey suggests. Six in 10 say they think disclosures that the Democratic Party indirectly received campaign contributions from foreign companies and individuals are an important issue. But seven in 10 said they didn't expect the scandal to limit the president's ability to "serve effectively as president."
More than two out of three said they didn't expect the Whitewater scandal to interfere with Clinton's second term. And unlike the Jones lawsuit or growing contributions scandal, Americans are divided generally along partisan lines over the seriousness of the allegations against Clinton, with 51 percent saying Whitewater is an important issue but 45 percent disagreeing.
BETTER THE SECOND TIME AROUND? RESULTS OF A NEW WASHINGTON POST-ABC NEWS POLL ON CLINTON
Q. Do you approve or disapprove of the way Bill Clinton is handling his job as president?
Q. Do you think Clinton will do a better job as president in his second term than in his first term, a worse job or what?
NOTE: Figures are based on a Washington Post-ABC News telephone survey of 1,206 randomly selected adults conducted Jan. 13-15. Overall margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points. Sampling error is, however, only one of many potential sources of bias in this or any other public opinion poll. Interviewing conducted by Chilton Research of Radnor, Pa.
© Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company