You wouldn't know it from the ardent conservative opposition to outgoing Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., but most Americans don't know much about the man who has been attorney general for nearly six years.
Among those who do, though, Holder ends his tenure in very negative territory.
An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll this month showed 15 percent of Americans have a positive view of Holder, while 32 percent have a negative one. About four times as many have a "very negative" view (22 percent) as have a "very positive" view (6 percent). In other words, while Holder engendered some pretty passionate opposition, he didn't really galvanize much in the way of strong supporters.
The lion's share were either neutral (16 percent) or offered no opinion (37 percent). But among all the people and things tested by NBC/WSJ -- including parties and presidential contenders -- Holder's -17 image rating was better than only one thing: the tea party.
These new numbers for Holder are slightly worse than a May 2013 Quinnipiac University poll -- but only slightly. Back then, Holder earned the approval of 23 percent of Americans and the disapproval of 39 percent -- a negative-16 split. About four in 10, again, offered no opinion.
That makes Holder arguably the most obscure recent attorney general. At the tail end of his contentious term, for example, Alberto Gonzales had a similar two-to-one negative image rating, but he was much better known. Gallup in 2007 showed 25 percent of people approved of Gonzales, while 48 percent disapproved.
Gonzales's superior name ID -- but not image -- was due in large part to controversies that included the U.S. attorney scandal, his defense of "enhanced interrogation techniques" -- what some saw as torture -- and warrantless wiretapping. Holder has endured plenty of controversy too, but nothing on the scale of these last two.
Gonzales's predecessor under President George W. Bush, John Ashcroft, was also something of a lightning rod for the opposition. But he ended his term in very positive territory -- 49 percent favorable and 28 percent unfavorable, in a Fox News poll in late 2004.
Bill Clinton's longtime attorney general, Janet Reno, ended her tenure about evenly split-- 45 percent approval and 46 percent disapproval -- after the Elian Gonzalez saga came to a close, according to Gallup.
So, in comparison to his most recent predecessors, it's clear Holder leaves a legacy that might not be so fondly remembered. The data suggest he's about in line with Gonzales at this point -- though not as contentious.