Why does Bill Clinton (D) poll better than Barack Obama (D) in Kentucky?


by Joe Arnold


Posted on September 2, 2014 at 7:00 PM

Updated Tuesday, Sep 2 at 11:34 PM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- While supporters of Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alison Grimes anticipate stretch run campaign support from the 42nd President of the United States, the 44th President is not expected in Kentucky anytime soon.

The latest WHAS11/Courier-Journal Bluegrass Poll explains why.

Asked of 647 registered voters
Margin of Sampling Error for this question = ± 3.9%
Is your opinion of Barack Obama ... 
29%    Favorable
57%    Unfavorable
12%    Neutral
2%    No Opinion

President Barack Obama's favorability rating is "Minus 28" Among Kentucky voters in the poll.  Only 29 percent of poll respondents have a favorable opinion of Obama, while 57 percent have an unfavorable view.

The under water rating is fueled by Republican disdain.  Only seven percent of GOP voters in the poll reported a favorable view of Obama. 

Within his own party, 35 percent of Democrats said they had an unfavorable view of Obama.  49 percent have a favorable view.

Leading up to Obama's reelection in 2012, the uncontested incumbent President could not even garner 60 percent of the Kentucky Democratic primary vote.  42 percent of Kentucky Democrats voted for "uncommitted" convention delegates rather than the standard bearer of their party.

"By any standard, Barack Obama has been a disaster for our country," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told the Fancy Farm crowd on August 2. 


McConnell's net favorability in the poll is "minus 10," up from "minus 20" six months ago. Grimes' net favorability in the poll is "plus 1," down from her "plus 8" rating in May.


As McConnell's reelection campaign highlights his opposition to the Obama administration's policies, particularly on EPA regulations and the health care expansion, it has also worked from the beginning of Grimes' candidacy to define her as an Obama enabler.

"She's going to have to find a way to break through with the message that she will be an independent Democrat," said Bob Gunnell, a veteran Democratic strategist in Louisville.  "And that she's not going to be a rubber stamp for President Obama."

Grimes has repeatedly said just that, yet faces a constant barrage of campaign ads to the contrary.

Her antidote is a family friend, former president Bill Clinton, who since appearing in a videotaped big screen message at Grimes' campaign kickoff one year ago, has campaigned alongside her twice in 2014.

"I am a Clinton Democrat!" Grimes shouted at Clinton's appearance with her in Lexington last month. It was as much an insistence as a proclamation.

Asked of 647 registered voters
Margin of Sampling Error for this question = ± 3.9%
Is your opinion of former President Bill Clinton... 
53%    Favorable
26%    Unfavorable
18%    Neutral
3%    No Opinion

Bill Clinton's favorability rating in the WHAS11/Courier-Journal Bluegrass Poll is the highest of anyone mentioned, a "plus 27."  53% of Kentucky voters view him favorably.

"I really do love Kentucky," Clinton smiled at the Lexington event. 

His favorability rating in 2014 outpaces his success on the ballot in Kentucky.

The Bluegrass state's eight electoral votes went to Clinton in both of his elections, 1992 and 1996.  In the first election, Clinton garnered only 44.5 percent of the Kentucky vote to President George H.W. Bush's 41.3 percent.  Independent candidate Ross Perot was the difference maker, siphoning off 13.6 percent of the Kentucky vote.

Clinton performed only slightly better in 1996, with 45.8 percent of the vote versus Republican Bob Dole's 44.8 percent.  Perot was again a factor, with 8.6 percent of the vote.

WHAS11's Facebook page asked for viewers' opinions why Clinton is more popular than Obama in Kentucky.

"Since they generally agree on political matters, I just wonder what the difference is... hmmmm" wrote one commenter

The most common answer to that rhetorical question in subsequent comments referenced that Obama is African-American while Clinton is white.

"Sadly because Clinton is white," wrote one woman.

Black Kentucky voters
Is your opinion of Barack Obama ... 
61%    Favorable
25%    Unfavorable
15%    Neutral
0%    No Opinion

Though African-American voters make up only six percent of poll respondents in the WHAS11/Courier-Journal Bluegrass Poll, a statistically less significant sample, the poll indicates that Obama enjoys much broader support among blacks than whites in Kentucky.

61 percent of black Kentucky voters in the poll have a favorable opinion of Barack Obama, 25 percent unfavorable.

White Kentucky voters
Is your opinion of Barack Obama ... 
27%    Favorable
60%    Unfavorable
11%    Neutral
2%    No Opinion

Among white voters, those numbers flip -- with 60 percent of white voters holding an unfavorable opinion of the President.

"'Good ole boys' gotta stick together and there is a BUNCH of them in KY," one woman wrote.

Yet, others took exception to the racially motivated conclusion.

"Because Clinton actually worked with congress and got things done?" one woman commented.  "Racism is the easy and lazy answer."

"When Clinton was in office, everyone had a job and money," another woman wrote.

"Because Clinton made smarter decisions when he ran our country," one man posted.

Whatever the reason, don't expect to see Air Force One landing in Kentucky anytime soon.