They went into the 2016 election with the lowest favorability ratings of any two presidential candidates in recent history, and in an upset victory that shook political insiders, the news media and pollsters, the one with the worst of the worst negatives won.
But with 2017 rapidly coming to a close, despite unprecedentedly bad press coverage, President Donald Trump has gained the edge on Hillary Clinton in the popularity race.
While his numbers are nothing to tweet about, Trump's 41% favorablity rating in Gallup's final 2017 poll (Dec. 4-11) ended up being 5 points higher than Clinton's, who was viewed positively by only 36% of responders. Trump beat her by the same margin in unfavorability: 56% viewed him unfavorably, while 61% viewed Clinton negatively.
When it first reported on Clinton's new low, Gallup provided some context for her numbers. Her previous low, 38% favorability, came in late August/early September 2016, which matched her prior low back in April 1992. Her highest rating was 67% in December 1998, "just after the House of Representatives voted to impeach her husband, then President Bill Clinton." While she served as secretary of state (2009-2013) — a stint which likely hurt her candidacy more than it helped — she enjoyed ratings averaging in the mid-60s.
In the poll, Clinton's favorability among Democrats slipped from 87% at the end of 2016 to 78%, around where it's been since June. Meanwhile, Republicans have soured even more on her: Only 5% said they had a positive view of her (down from 11% in June). Independents' views of her likewise darkened: In June, 33% of independents viewed her favorably; in December, only 27% did.
Why is Hillary's image on the decline, rather than experiencing the post-election bump that most other candidates enjoy? Gallup notes some obvious factors, including her never-ending blame game for her historic loss and the impact of #MeToo on the Clintons, who are both seeing their favorables tanking in recent months:
Since losing to Trump, Clinton's favorable ratings have not improved, in contrast to what has happened for other recent losing presidential candidates. In fact, her image has gotten worse in recent months as Democratic leaders, political observers and Clinton herself have attempted to explain how she lost an election that she was expected to win. Meanwhile, controversy continues to swirl around Clinton given continuing questions about the fairness of the 2016 Democratic nomination process and her dealings with Russia while secretary of state. There has also been renewed discussion of Bill and Hillary Clinton's handling of past sexual harassment charges made against Bill Clinton in light of heightened public concern about workplace behavior.
As for Trump, he's still struggling in the polls, with his job approval effectively stuck at around 40%. However, he has seen a recent uptick in some surveys, including Rasmussen, which currently shows 46% of likely U.S. voters approving of his handling of the presidency, while 53% disapprove, an 8-point gap.
Rasmussen also continues to find that more people feel strongly negative about Trump's handling of the presidency than those who feel strongly positive. "The latest figures include 29% who Strongly Approve of the way Trump is performing and 44% who Strongly Disapprove," Rasmussen reports. "This gives him a Presidential Approval Index rating of -15."
Real Clear Politics' average of the national polls currently gives Trump a -16.9 approval rating (39.3 - 56.2).