Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are some of the most unlikeable candidates in political history. But how do they compare with other presidents, politicians and beloved government agencies like the IRS? We used net favorability — in other words, positive favorability minus unfavorability — to plot people, places and things on the same scale and compare their popularity over time.

Monica

Lewinsky

scandal

More

popular

After

Secretary

of State

Hillary

Clinton

Bill Clinton

first term

2008

primaries

2016

Senate

1999

Less

popular

Donald Trump

After serving as

secretary of state

Hillary

Clinton

Monica Lewinsky

scandal

2013

41%

Bill Clinton

first term

1998

36%

2008

primaries

2016

election

Senate

1992

6%

Oct. 2016

-22%

2003

-3%

1996

-8%

2011

-8%

2000

election

Oct. 2016

-22%

Donald

Trump

March 2011,

start of ‘birther’

conspiracy

2015

-51%

1999

-52%

After serving as

secretary of state

Hillary Clinton

Monica Lewinsky

scandal

2013

41%

Bill Clinton

first term

1998

36%

2008

primaries

2016

election

Senate

1992

6%

Oct. 2016

-22%

2003

-3%

1996

-8%

2011

-8%

2000

election

Oct. 2016

-22%

March 2011, start of

‘birther’ conspiracy

2015

-51%

Donald Trump

1999

-52%

Hillary Clinton has been in the public eye for more than 25 years. During her years as first lady, her popularity varied before climbing while she served in the Senate and as secretary of state. Recent polls have shown her underwater. 

[ Post-ABC Tracking Poll: Trump 46, Clinton 45, as Democratic enthusiasm dips]

Donald Trump has always been viewed more negatively, though the latest Post-ABC poll finds their ratings are nearly the same among registered voters. The earliest polls, when he was considering a presidential run in 1999, showed him with a net favorability of -52 percent according to the Washington Post polling archive. Recently, his numbers have improved, although they are still well below zero.

The legend of Reagan grows

Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and that’s certainly the case with America’s views of President Ronald Reagan. Just before he left office in August 1988, he polled at 7 percent net favorability, the same as the IRS in 2010 and Bill Clinton in January 1998 (just as the Lewinsky scandal was starting). However, as time went on, Reagan’s net favorability increased by 33 points, to 40 percent when people were polled in 2001.

Barack

Obama

Ronald

Reagan

2001

40%

1988

24%

Hillary

Clinton

2014

-6%

Donald Trump

2009

61%

2001

40%

Hillary

Clinton

1988

24%

Barack

Obama

More

popular

2014

-6%

Less

popular

Donald Trump

2009

61%

2001

40%

1988

24%

Barack Obama

More

popular

Ronald Reagan

Hillary Clinton

2014

-6%

Less

popular

Donald Trump

Contrast that to President Obama, whose first poll after he won the presidency in 2008 had him at 61 percent net favorable. Since then, it’s been downhill. Most recent polls measure Obama’s job approval ratings, which are not comparable to favorability ratings.

Congress keeps digging a deeper hole

Reagan’s favorability aged like a fine wine, but the same cannot be said for Congress. The lawmakers on Capitol Hill have consistently dropped in favorability since 2001, polling as low as -50 percent net favorability in March of last year based on polling data from Pew Research.

Congress

2001

41%

Hillary

Clinton

1990

35%

2001

39%

2016

4%

Democrats

Republicans

2016

-20%

Donald Trump

2015

-42%

2001

41%

1990

35%

2001

39%

Hillary

Clinton

Congress

More

popular

2016

4%

Democrats

Less

popular

Republicans

2016

-20%

2015

-42%

Donald Trump

2001

41%

1990

35%

2001

39%

Congress

Hillary Clinton

More

popular

2016

4%

Democrats

Less

popular

Republicans

2016

-20%

2015

-42%

Donald Trump

Although Congress as a whole is viewed quite poorly, the major parties are doing slightly better. The Democrats are in the positive with a net favorability of 4 percent while Republicans have polled more unfavorably with a rating of -20 percent according to a Post survey from last year. That said, both parties have trended down since their respective highs marks of 39 and 35 percent net favorability.

[ Election maps are telling you big lies about small things]

Putin and China used to be our friends

Nothing lasts forever. And America’s once-fuzzy feelings about Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin have soured. Putin, whose highest favorability was 23 back in 2002, polled at -59 percent net favorability in February of last year, according to a Gallup survey.

March 1989

59%

Hillary

Clinton

1979

39%

China

2002

23%

Vladimir

Putin

2015

-6%

Aug. 1989

-20%

Donald Trump

2015

-59%

March 1989

59%

1979

39%

2002

23%

Hillary

Clinton

China

Vladimir Putin

More

popular

2015

-6%

Less

popular

Aug. 1989

-20%

Donald Trump

2015

-59%

March 1989

59%

1979

39%

2002

23%

Hillary Clinton

China

Vladimir Putin

More

popular

2015

-6%

Less

popular

Aug. 1989

-20%

Donald Trump

2015

-59%

While Putin has seen a constant slip in American favorability, China has been a rollercoaster. Despite having a net favorability of 39 percent in 1979, a decade later the country received its highest (59) and close to lowest (-20) ratings over the span of a few months. Most recently, the nation was last polled at -6 percent. 

 

Trump and Clinton may not poll as favorably as, say, Olympic dressage or ghosts of presidents past, but even after this seemingly never-ending election cycle, they’re still more popular than Congress.

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