Poll: Obama More Popular Than Any of the Top 2016 Candidates

The president is the only politician who was viewed more positively than negatively in a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

Decorah was one of the scheduled stops on Obama's three-day bus tour through the Midwest.
National Journal
Adam Wollner
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Adam Wollner
May 5, 2015, 8:38 a.m.

As American voters prepare to move on from President Obama in next year’s election, a new poll suggests they actually like him better right now than any of his most likely replacements.

In the latest NBC/Wall Street Journal survey, pollsters asked whether people felt positively or negatively toward Obama and six candidates or potential candidates to replace him: Republicans Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, and Scott Walker, plus Democrat Hillary Clinton. While 47 percent of adults said they viewed Obama positively compared with 40 percent who view him negatively, none of the 2016 candidates scored better than even.

Clinton broke even in the poll, with 42 percent viewing her positively and 42 percent viewing her negatively. And each of the Republican candidates—who also comprise the top-five most likely GOP nominees in Hotline‘s latest Presidential Power Rankings—had at least as many people viewing them negatively as positively.

That’s not all great news for Clinton. The former secretary of State, who announced her candidacy for president on April 12, suffered a notable uptick in unfavorable views of her since NBC and The Wall Street Journal last tested people’s opinions about her in March. At that point, 44 percent of Americans viewed Clinton positively and 36 percent viewed her negatively.

The Republican candidates are less-known and potentially have room to grow. More than half of people expressed no opinion about Rubio (22 percent positive, 23 percent negative) and Walker (15 percent positive, 17 percent negative), for example. At this point, 23 percent of people view Paul and Bush favorably, but 28 percent and 36 percent, respectively, have negative views of them. And Cruz had the widest spread between his positive ratings (17 percent) and negative ones (32 percent).

As White House aspirants formally enter the race or explore a bid, they begin to come under much greater scrutiny from their political opponents and the media alike, which often hampers their popularity even as they are getting better-known. Plus, on the Republican side, they are fighting among themselves in a primary, while much of the Democratic Party has already unified behind Clinton.

Still, as NBC’s First Read pointed out, there is welcome news for Clinton despite her declining personal numbers. Not only is her net favorability rating higher than that of her potential GOP rivals, Obama is in a much better position than George W. Bush was at this point roughly eight years ago. Currently, 48 percent of Americans approve of the job Obama is doing as president, while 47 percent disapprove. In April 2007, just 35 percent approved of Bush’s job performance, compared with 60 percent who disapproved. Those numbers were like an anchor around John McCain’s own polls in 2008.

The NBC/Wall Street Journal poll of 1,000 adults was conducted from April 26-April 30 and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

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