MSNBC's Norah O'Donnell wrongly claimed that, in a hypothetical presidential campaign between President Bush and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, Bush would win because Clinton has "a question about likability and authenticity and a sense of trust." In fact, public opinion polls indicate that Clinton has a higher favorability rating and is viewed as more trustworthy than Bush, and their likability ratings are roughly equal.
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While discussing a hypothetical presidential campaign between President Bush and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) on the July 2 edition of the NBC-syndicated Chris Matthews Show, MSNBC chief Washington correspondent Norah O'Donnell wrongly claimed Bush would win because Clinton has "a question about likability and authenticity and a sense of trust." Bush, O'Donnell continued, would be in a stronger position because people "know where he stands on an issue, and he is a wisecracker." In fact, public opinion polls indicate that Clinton has a higher favorability rating and is viewed as more trustworthy than Bush, and their likability ratings are roughly equal.
Contrary to O'Donnell's assertion, more people view Clinton favorably than Bush. For instance, a recent Gallup poll (subscription required) asking respondents whether they viewed Bush and Clinton favorably or unfavorably found that 51 percent said they viewed Clinton favorably compared with 40 percent who said they viewed Bush favorably. The poll was conducted June 23-25. Additionally, a Diageo Hotline poll (subscription required) conducted June 22-25 found Clinton to have a higher favorability rating than Bush, 49 percent to 42 percent, respectively.
Polls have also shown that the public finds Clinton more honest and trustworthy than Bush. An ABC News/Washington Post poll conducted May 11-15 asked respondents whether the statement "she is honest and trustworthy" applied to Clinton, and 52 percent of respondents said it did. By contrast, an ABC News/Washington Post poll conducted March 2-5 that asked the same question about Bush indicated that only 44 percent said that Bush was "honest and trustworthy." A more recent USA Today/Gallup poll conducted April 28-30 which asked a similar question indicated only 41 percent said Bush "[i]s honest and trustworthy." A CNN poll conducted April 21-23 yielded similar results, with 40 percent indicating the label "honest and trustworthy" applied to Bush.
Further, Bush does not appear to be viewed as significantly more likeable than Clinton. A March 6-8 Associated Press/Ipsos poll indicated 59 percent of those surveyed found Bush to be likable. Comparatively, the aforementioned May 11-15 ABC News/Washington Post poll asked respondents whether they regarded Clinton as an "open and friendly person;" 58 percent responded affirmatively.
From the July 2 edition of the NBC-syndicated Chris Matthews Show:
MATTHEWS: OK, if an election were held today, same ballot, George W. Bush versus Hillary Clinton, who would win?
O'DONNELL: My hunch is George W. Bush.
CLARENCE PAGE (Chicago Tribune columnist): That's my hunch, too.
KATHLEEN PARKER (syndicated columnist): Bush.
DANA MILBANK (Washington Post staff writer): Sorry, it's W.
MATTHEWS: Why is there such a dichotomy between people's prospects right now in this room, this weekend, that Bill [Clinton] would win but Hillary would lose? Norah.
O'DONNELL: Because I think, ultimately, what people look at in a commander in chief is not only their policies, but there is a question about likability and authenticity and a sense of trust that you get. And I think that that is one of the biggest challenges that Senator Clinton has.
MATTHEWS: So even with Monica [Lewinsky] and all the rest, Bill Clinton still comes off as a guy who's sunny, upbeat, likable --
MATTHEWS: Optimistic and truthful, in a way.
O'DONNELL: Yes, and, you know, there has always been this thing about President Bush, is that people love him and people hate him, but they know where he stands on an issue. And he is a wisecracker, and that gets him something.