Hillary Clinton's image is dented, but she still leads all challengers in polls

Hillary Clinton's image is dented, but she still leads all challengers in polls
Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks at the U.S. Conference of Mayors' annual meeting in San Francisco. (Mathew Sumner / Associated Press)

Hillary Rodham Clinton weathered an intense period of scrutiny this spring that has left her public image dented, but it has done little to diminish her strength as a presidential contender, several recent polls indicate.

The latest numbers come from a new Wall St. Journal/NBC poll, which indicates that Clinton continues to hold a vast lead over her rivals for the Democratic nomination, with the support of 75% of voters surveyed who said they planned to take part in the party's primaries.


An even larger share of Democratic voters polled, 92%, said they could see themselves supporting her as the party nominee. By contrast, 40% said they could see themselves supporting her closest rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, with just under one-third saying they could not see supporting him and about a quarter saying they did not know.

The Wall St. Journal/NBC survey is overseen by two leading polling firms, one Democratic and the other Republican.

Over the last month, half a dozen polling organizations have found Clinton with the support of about two-thirds of Democratic voters surveyed nationwide. Clinton's standing is lower in two recent polls of New Hampshire, the site of the next winter's first primary. There, the most recent surveys show her with support of just under half of Democratic primary voters polled, with Sanders about 15 points behind.

New Hampshire, however, has advantages for Sanders that he lacks elsewhere -- not just geographic proximity to his home state, but also an overwhelmingly white electorate. Sanders, who represents a mostly white, rural state, has few ties to the minority communities that make up large shares of the Democratic vote in other states.

The Wall St. Journal/NBC poll also found Clinton continuing to lead the major Republican presidential prospects by between 8 and 14 points.

This far in advance of the election, specific head-to-head contests don't mean much. What is more significant is the trend: Clinton's leads over the GOP candidates in surveys by several organizations have not changed significantly since April. That steadiness comes despite two months of negative publicity surrounding her use of a private email server while secretary of State and scrutiny of donations to the Clinton Foundation.

Clinton's image has worsened, particularly on questions regarding whether she is honest and trustworthy. To date, however, that has not translated into declining support for her election -- in part because many of those who say they don't trust her are Republicans who were already planning to vote against her.

One other number from the Wall St. Journal/NBC poll could be telling. Since the 1996 election, the survey has asked voters whether they would feel "optimistic," "satisfied," "uncertain" or "pessimistic" if a particular presidential candidate won the White House.

In the current survey, 49% said they would be in one of the two positive categories if Clinton won, while 50% said they would be on the negative side. For Bush, the only Republican tested, the reaction was gloomier, 37% positive and 61% negative.

In each election since 1996, the candidate with more positive responses to that question at this stage of the campaign went on to win.

For more on politics and policy, follow @DavidLauter.