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Release: Immediate

UI Heartland Poll: Hillary Clinton more popular than ever

(Editors note: Copies of the 1998 Heartland Poll, as well as charts and graphs supporting the data in this release, are available by contacting University News Service, 319/384-0011.

Arthur Miller is available for interviews at 319/335-2328 or at home at 319/338-3373.)

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- When First Lady Hillary Clinton visits Des Moines for a Democratic Party rally Saturday, Oct. 31, she will be perceived more favorably by Iowans than at any time since she emerged on the national political scene in 1992. This finding is based on comparisons of the Heartland Poll surveys conducted by the University of Iowa Social Science Institute during the past four national elections.

During the fall campaign in 1992 Hillary Clinton's personal popularity (measured on a scale of 0 to 100, where 0 is most negative and 100 is most positive) stood at 51.2 whereas currently she has reached an all time high of 56.1. While the President's personal popularity (different from his job approval rating) has plummeted from a high of 57 in 1992 to a low of 44 in the current Heartland Poll in the wake of the Clinton/Lewinsky affair, Hillary's popularity has soared.

In 1994 and 1996 the First Lady was rarely seen on the campaign trail, but this year she has been making many more appearances for Democratic candidates. While many Democratic candidates seem wary of having President Clinton stump for them, they have no reservations about sharing the podium with the First Lady.

"Clearly they are hoping that her newfound popularity will spill over to help them on election day, Nov. 3," said Arthur H. Miller, director of the Heartland Poll and a UI professor of political science.

Hillary's current popularity, however, rises only among Democrats and Independents, according to the Poll. Democrats, on average, rate Hillary at 72 whereas Republicans in the Midwest are predominantly negative toward the First Lady, giving her an average rating of only 35. Among Democrats and Independents, however, the First Lady enjoys far more personal popularity than either her husband or Vice President Al Gore (they are rated on average at 62 and 68 respectively among Democrats, 48 and 53 among Independents). Overall, Hillary Clinton is also much more popular on average than are Newt Gingrich, Kenneth Starr or Monica Lewinsky.

The 1998 Heartland Poll is the seventh in a series of surveys of the attitudes and opinions of individuals in Iowa and its six surrounding states: Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. It contains various questions relating to the political campaign of 1998 as well as other topics of national and regional interest, such as the economy. The Poll is conducted in election years by the Iowa Social Science Institute.

The decline in the public's assessment of President Clinton's moral character has also not affected how the people evaluate Hillary Clinton's moral integrity. In 1996 slightly more than half (51 percent) of Midwesterners (60 percent of Iowans) saw President Clinton as an individual of high moral integrity. In the current Heartland Poll only 28 of Midwesterners percent perceive him as moral.

While the President's moral standing was perceived to have declined between 1996 and 1998, Hillary's actually increased. In 1996, some 64 percent Midwesterners rated Hillary as a person of high moral integrity. Currently three quarters (74 percent) of Midwesterners see the First Lady as a very moral individual. Women are more likely to see Hillary as moral (79 percent) than are men (68 percent). Also, Democrats overwhelmingly see her as moral (89 percent) whereas barely a majority of Republicans (52 percent) see the First Lady as someone with a high degree of moral integrity.

Hillary's current popularity and perceived moral standing may be the result of public sympathy for her plight in the aftermath of the Lewinsky revelations. Most Midwesterners (77 percent) feel that Hillary has been a victim in the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal, and 87 percent of those sympathetic towards the First Lady feel that it was not her fault that the President had an affair with Monica Lewinsky. Moreover, a significant percentage of Midwesterners (44 percent) believe that the media's treatment of Hillary Clinton has been more negative than the treatment previous First Lady's have received from the media.

This year's Heartland Poll is based on interviews conducted from Oct. 5-19 with 825 respondents. The average interview lasted 24 minutes, and the poll had a 74.7 percent cooperation rate. The margin of error is +/- 3.4 percent.