On Tuesday, a federal judge ruled that several top aides to Hillary Clinton during her time at the State Department were required to testify under oath about whether exclusively using a private email server while serving as secretary of state amounted to a deliberate attempt to shield information from the public.
This is the latest in a series of developments regarding Clinton’s email server — and her decision to exclusively use it during her time as the nation’s top diplomat. (Clinton is the first and only secretary of state to only use a private server for her correspondence.) Almost weekly now, there is some news in one of the three ongoing investigations — two at State, one by the FBI — into Clinton. And the drip, drip, drip effect of these now-regular revelations continues to have a major impact on how Clinton is viewed by the voting public.
Gallup released a fascinating bit of data Tuesday that speaks to Clinton’s trust problem. They asked people to offer up the first word or phrase that came to mind when the name “Hillary Clinton” was mentioned. Here’s what the results of that open-ended question looked like:
One in five people — unprompted by the poll taker — offered up some version of Clinton as “dishonest” or a “liar.” That's somewhat remarkable given that these open-ended questions typically produce a gigantic muddle of something like 25 words or phrases — all of which garner somewhere between 5 and 8 percent support.
That 21 percent of people unaided said something about the “trust thing” in regards to Clinton tells you how deeply the impression that she is not fundamentally honest has sunk into the electorate. Now, some of this can be directly attributed to the fact that Republicans do not like and do not trust the Clintons. Never have, never will. “Overall, 77 percent of Republicans’ top-of-mind impressions of Clinton are negative, with their most frequent responses focusing on views of her as dishonest and crooked,” write Gallup’s Frank Newport and Lydia Saad.
But, that’s not it. Sure, Republicans view Clinton negatively. But, as I’ve noted time and again, Clinton’s seeming belief that this whole trust issue surrounding her is simply the result of a right-wing smear job is inaccurate. Again, the Gallup data: A bare majority — 52 percent — of Democrats have some sort of positive first impression of Clinton; one in four (27 percent) have a negative one.
Conclude Newport and Saad:
Unfortunately for Clinton, the negative associations currently outnumber the positive ones by a sizable margin, and even among Democrats, the negatives are fairly high. Throughout her more-than two-decades-long career in the public eye as first lady, U.S. senator, secretary of state, two-time presidential candidate and bestselling author, she has acquired a fairly well-developed image among Americans — for better and for worse.
The Gallup duo are right that impressions about Clinton are deeply held — particularly among partisans. But that doesn’t make the email story immaterial. Rather it reminds many people — Republicans, yes, but also independents and some Democrats — of what they don’t like or trust about the Clintons. The longer the email story stays in the news, the more chances to affirm peoples’ fundamentally negative perception of Clinton that she is just not great at telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
For Clinton to escape that negative spiral, she needs some form of complete exoneration in the matter. (Worth noting: Clinton herself has not been named as a target in any of the trio of investigations.) Short of that — and if this pattern of drips and drabs of the story coming out continues — the trust problem is going to continue to dog Clinton all the way through the November general election.