How many times do we have to hear about polls that tell us Hillary Clinton, Gallup’s most admired woman for 20 years, is unlikable? It’s almost as though the media and pundits want to convince us Hillary is disliked so they can excuse their own spin.
Another day, another poll about how allegedly “unlikable” Hillary Clinton is.
I understand that measuring likability is a traditional part of U.S. politics, and it’s not something that was invented just for Hillary Clinton. But there’s a very particular way in which likability polling seems to be used against Hillary, in a way that it isn’t against other candidates.
Donald Trump, for example, gets poor likability ratings, but they are filtered through a media that have spent an enormous amount of time treating his disgusting campaign of bigotry and braggadocio like a summer parade down Main Street. When Trump’s low favorable ratings are mentioned, it is almost a curiosity. “He’s very unlikable—but he’s still crushing it!”
Hillary’s likability, on the other hand, is rarely discussed within the framework that she’s winning, despite leading the Democratic primary by more than two million votes. Instead, the numbers are regurgitated in a recursive loop of “conventional wisdom” that she isn’t likable.
Here is a poll in which 40% of people find Hillary unlikable. Here is a segment on cable news discussing that poll. Here is a segment in which we ask if Hillary’s a she-devil. Hey, we’re not saying she’s a she-devil! We’re just asking. Here is another poll in which 51.3245% of people find Hillary unlikable. Huh—wonder why that is! Must mean she’s unlikable! Here is a segment discussing that new poll…
And on and on it goes.
Someone less charitable than I am might suggest the media love discussing Hillary’s likability, sans a modicum of self-interrogation about their own role in the “unlikability” narrative, to justify their own dislike of her. Ahem.
Certainly, they would say they are merely reporting the facts without bias—but a curious thing happens when people get to see Hillary unfiltered, like during her epic 11-hour Benghazi testimony. They like her more.
My own experience, as I have documented in this space, is that deep-diving into Hillary’s public record, outside the filter of the media, fundamentally changed my perception of her.
In 2008, I took a family friend, then a teenager, to see Hillary speak at a local union hall on the campaign trail. His observation, after seeing her in person for the first time, was: “The way the media represent her is a complete lie; they might as well say she stabbed someone onstage, which would be just as truthful as the way she is represented.”
The reporter seated directly in front of us reading The Drudge Report through most of her speech would no doubt have been nonplussed by his observation.
This stark dichotomy doesn’t happen by accident. And it is no coincidence that when asked what it is, exactly, they find unlikable about Hillary, lots of voters don’t cite policy positions with which they have legitimate grievances, but some nebulous sense they have about her. Often they will say that she seems inauthentic—another favorite topic of discussion in the media.
The same media that deliver information about Hillary through a filter of unlikability then wonder why people say they find her inauthentic. Why could it be that the Hillary they see packaged on the evening news doesn’t match the Hillary they see testifying before Congress or debating opponents?
Just goes to show you why she’s so darn unlikable!
It’s a metric so vague it encapsulates all manner of (supposed sins)—from valid criticism to ideological difference to indistinct unease to complaints that are little more than sexist dogwhistles routinely wielded against women who dare to take up space in public view. Too strident. Too ambitious. Too loud. Too bossy.
It’s frankly tough to imagine that any woman running for the U.S. presidency could be found “likable” based on these standards. (Or the lack thereof, as the case may be.)
I wonder how long Elizabeth Warren would remain “likable” once she indicated her intention to take up more space—and once the larger picture of her as she was scrutinized came filtered through the prism of a media obsessed with “likability.”
Or ostensibly obsessed with “likability,” anyway. After all, the media don’t seem very interested in the millions of people who find Hillary likable — and who express their positive feelings in the voting booth. They do, however, seem very interested indeed in those who don’t.
Gee, I wonder if that matters.
(Photo: Barbara Kinney for Hillary for America)