Poll: Benghazi Is Hillary’s Biggest Negative, but Not by Much

Could Benghazi be a problem for Hillary Clinton’s presidential aspirations in 2016?

Hillary Rodham Clinton, holding her hand hear her face, speaks to a group of supporters and University of Miami students, Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014, at the university in Coral Gables, Fla. (AP/J Pat Carter)

A new national survey of U.S. adults found it’s her biggest negative — more so than her husband, former President Bill Clinton, and the Monica Lewinsky scandal — though not by an overwhelming amount.

Respondents in the joint Pew Research Center-USA Today poll were asked to name in their own words most positive and negative things they thought about the former secretary of state and first lady. Benghazi ranked as the No. 1 most negative, cited by 15 percent of those surveyed, followed by Bill Clinton and the Lewinsky scandal at 9 percent. Other responses included Hillary Clinton’s Democratic politics and her perceived dishonesty.

Topping the list for the most positive aspects about Clinton was her tenure as secretary of state, cited by 12 percent of respondents — a smaller percentage than the Benghazi factor.

The poll was by no means all bad news for Clinton – particularly on likability, which was a problem for her when she ran for president in 2008. Her Democratic primary opponent Barack Obama delivered one of the most memorable lines of the election year when he declared, “You’re likable enough, Hillary.”

“Fully 67 percent of Americans approve of the job she did as secretary of state, while majorities say she is tough (69 percent) and honest (56 percent),” the poll results stated. “The public also rejects the notion that Clinton is unlikable – a change from the 2008 Democratic primary campaign.”

“Today, just 36 percent say Clinton is ‘hard to like,’ a majority (57 percent) says that phrase does not describe her,” it stated. “During the 2008 primary season, about half of voters found Clinton hard to like (51 percent in March 2008).”

Still, just a slim majority of respondents — 51 percent — said they actually want to see her run for president, despite the air of inevitability that has enveloped another Clinton candidacy. A significant 43 percent said they do not want to see her run for president.

The survey of 1,002 adults was conducted between Feb. 27 and March 2.

Media outlets including National Journal seized on the Benghazi results.

“Democrats have adopted a dismissive, almost bemused posture when it comes to the conservative fixation with the 2012 attack on the diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya, confident in the knowledge that the facts bears little resemblance to what they see as the right’s conspiracy theories,” National Journal’s Alex Seitz-Wald wrote. “But Democrats are in denial if they think Benghazi won’t be an issue in the 2016 presidential race, should Hillary Clinton run.”

The Obama administration initially stated that the deadly attack was a spontaneous reaction to an anti-Muslim video, but later admitted it was a preplanned terror attack. In front of a Senate committee in 2013, Clinton famously asked, “What difference at this point does it make,” when asked about the competing narratives.

“When she ran last time, she made the case that she was the one who could take that 3 a.m. phone call. Well, that 3 a.m. phone call came for her, from Benghazi, and I’m not sure that was a particularly strong moment for her as secretary of state,” former Mitt Romney campaign aide Katie Packer Gage told National Journal.