Looks Like Email Non-Indictment Was A Polling Non-Event

After FBI Director James Comey announced he was not filing an indictment against Hillary Clinton for anything involving her State Department emails, some pundits claimed that the issue would dog her. Some even argued a non-indictment was worse news than an indictment.

However, a comparison of polls taken by the same pollsters before and after Comey's announcement show the whole thing was a nothing, polling wise.


All of these shifts are quite small and could be attributed to noise. Averaged together, they show one-quarter of one percent change toward Clinton, a difference too small to mean anything.

Why has been no change?

First of all, people have known about the email story for a long time and it's likely been included in their assessments of Hillary Clinton. That's true for people who oppose Clinton and those who support her.

Second, a non-indictment, given the way other purported Clinton scandals have collapsed and shown to be baseless, is not a powerful signal of a serious issue.

Third, U.S. politics is increasingly characterized by what political scientists call "negative partisanship," in which people's political (and particularly partisan) identities are focused around opposing the other party.

Republicans and Republican-leaning independents would be expected to see any Clinton news quite negatively because she represents the other party, while Democrats and Democrat-leaning independents would see her opponents, such as the House Republicans who called Comey to testify last week, as theirs.

Fourth, it's worth noting that pundits have been waiting a very long time for the public to turn against some Clinton over something that's come to light.

Back in 2001, my colleague Timothy Cole and I published a scholarly article comparing this phenomena to the ghost in Dickens' "Christmas Carol" that showed Christmas-yet-to-come. We argued this emphasis on hypothetical futures when the public would finally shift away from supporting Bill Clinton, sometimes expressed with great certainty, "delegitimized citizen views." Once again, there's been a lack of public response to something many pundits expect.