Secretary of State Hillary Clinton? Surprisingly, a Large Number of Republicans Say "Yes"

12/22/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

With all the speculation regarding the possible appointment of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton to Secretary of State, one must wonder: What do voters think of this? What do they think Senator Clinton should do?

Using the new QESS methodology developed by, we designed an experiment to set out to answer these questions. Out of the representative sample, we differentiated those who voted in a Republican primary from those who voted in the Democratic primary. Those who voted Republican were offered a different set of questions from those who voted Democratic. Stay tuned, as we will address this group of voters in greater detail in a future post. For purposes of this post, only one of the questions is relevant: Do you think Hillary Clinton is a sound choice for Secretary of State?

To further segment the data, voters were asked to tell us who they voted for in the primaries. Within the Democratic pool, we distributed the sample into two groups.

- Group 1 was asked "If offered the position, should Hillary Clinton accept the appointment to Secretary of State"?

- Group 2 was asked "Should President -Elect Obama offer the Secretary of State to Hillary Clinton?"

Interestingly, the vast majority of respondents thought that President-elect Obama should offer the position to Senator Clinton (71%-29%), and that she should accept (64% vs. 36%). Individuals who voted for Obama in the primaries thought that both the offer and the acceptance by Sen. Clinton should be made at similar proportions (~65%).

Surprisingly, there was a significant difference between individuals that voted for Sen. Clinton in the primaries: while 93% of those that voted for Senator Clinton thought the position should be offered to her, only 70% of them thought she should accept. This difference could be attributed to the perception that by taking the appointment, Senator Clinton could be hindering a potential future run to the White House.

Even more surprisingly, 39% of republicans said that "Senator Clinton would be a good choice for Secretary of State." This is a large number for a voter segment that has traditionally seen Senator Clinton in a negative light. One may speculate as to why this may be. At least three possibilities arise: first, the endorsement by prominent Republicans of Senator Clinton for the position may have helped. A second possibility is that Republicans may believe that this appointment may hamper a future presidential bid. Third, as has been shown in the study of social movements, a more moderate alternative becomes acceptable in the presence of fringe candidates. Given conservative Republicans' beliefs that Senator Obama is a far left candidate, the more moderate (in their view) Senator Clinton may become more acceptable.

Overall, the commitment level to the questions was very high: 92% of the people had a high commitment index, indicating that they were highly in favor or against the appointment. This suggests that people have already made up their minds with respect to this appointment, and the answer is very clear: The vast majority of people -- whether Democrats or Republicans -- think Hillary Clinton should be the next Secretary of State.