Hillary Clinton follows Key in popularity stakes, despite bad publicity

7 May 2015

For the last three months, Hillary Clinton has been the subject of major negative publicity. But instead of dropping in the popularity stakes, she keeps going up.

Two issues have been responsible for the bad publicity. These were an email scandal (where she admitted to using her personal email account when Secretary of State) and issues around funding for her foundation. Despite this her approval rating has jumped 9 points in those three months, while another 8 percent think she is a strong leader.

This is similar to John Key. Despite all the so-called scandals he has faced recently, his popularity has hardly been affected.

So why have both leaders not suffered?

Firstly, just because the media call something a scandal doesn’t mean the public agrees. Voters in the US may not think using a personal email address is as serious as the media make out. The same could be said about Ponytail Gate. While most people saw this as inappropriate, few saw it as a hanging offence.

Secondly, apart from die-hard Republicans in the US and staunch Left Wing voters in NZ, people like Clinton and Key. They have already made up their minds about that. They think they are hard-working and successful people who are clearly not in it for the money. Both also come across well on Television. This is vital because it’s the only place 99 percent of the population ever see them.

What does this mean?

This means their political opponents need to change their strategy. They have tried to gain popularity by attacking the two leaders. But it clearly doesn’t work. It’s almost as if they lose votes themselves whenever they attack one of these popular leaders. At the very least, it doesn’t appear to damage them. 

My advice to their opponents is to come up with a clear message that doesn’t focus on the man, but the ball. When they get that message, focus on it consistently. That’s the only way people will understand and remember it. People remember very little of the information put before them. Voters are far more likely to support a candidate if they know what that person stands for and how he or she will make their life better. This is a far better strategy than trying to get elected by attacking a popular opponent who has a clear policy position.

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Filed under Media Training

Written by

Pete is a leading New Zealand media trainer and regular blogger for his company, Media Training NZ . He has helped leaders from all sectors of society communicate with the media and other stakeholders. Pete is a former daily newspaper reporter and press secretary in the New Zealand government. From these roles, he understands the media process from both sides of the camera.

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