The Clinton Foundation Has a Perception Problem, Poll Shows

The Clinton family celebrates at the Democratic convention in Philadelphia. (Rob Kunzig/Morning Consult)

The Clinton Foundation’s decision to no longer accept donations from corporations or foreign entities if Hillary Clinton wins the presidency is one that most voters agree with, a new Morning Consult poll finds.

More than half of registered voters surveyed this week said the family nonprofit, which has come under rising scrutiny, say it should not accept such donations, especially from other countries. In the new poll, more than half of respondents (55 percent) said the foundation shouldn’t accept donations from companies based in other countries, and six in 10 voters said it shouldn’t take money from foreign governments.

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Voters are about as wary about The Clinton Foundation taking money from citizens in other countries (34 percent), as they are about it taking money from U.S. companies (35 percent). And almost a quarter of voters (23 percent) say the foundation shouldn’t accept donations from American citizens.

The public has heard quite a bit about The Clinton Foundation, founded by Bill Clinton in 1997 after he left the White House, and the perception is generally negative when compared with other well-known charities. More than half of voters (51 percent) have heard a lot or some about the foundation, and while one-third of voters view it favorably, almost four in 10 (38 percent) have an unfavorable view. By contrast, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is viewed favorably by almost six in 10 voters (58 percent) and almost half of voters (45 percent) have a favorable view of the Rockefeller Foundation.

Voters’ negative views of the foundation appear to be rooted in how it is perceived: While 29 percent of voters say the foundation’s purpose is mostly charitable in that it raises and spends money to provide help for those in need, almost four in 10 voters (36 percent) say it is a mostly political organization that raises and spends money to further the interests of the Clinton family.

Those perceptions are mostly split along partisan lines. More than half of Democrats (52 percent) said the foundation was mostly charitable, while six in 10 Republicans and almost four in 10 independents (38 percent) view it as a political organization aimed to boost the Clintons.

A fair amount of voters are also suspicious of the influence that foreign interests may have had on Clinton during her tenure as secretary of State. Half of all voters have heard a lot or some about foreign governments donating to the Clinton Foundation, and the same percentage of respondents have heard a lot or some about the nonprofit requesting “favors” from officials at the State Department while she led the Cabinet agency.

A little over one-third (34 percent) of respondents said she was influenced a lot by donors outside the U.S. when she was secretary of State, and about one-fifth (21 percent) said foreign donors had some influence on her. Even 43 percent of Democrats said they thought the nonprofit had a lot or some influence on her, while more than half of independents (53 percent) expressed that sentiment.

These views likely factor into why Clinton is perceived negatively by many voters. Earlier this summer, Morning Consult asked voters why they viewed her unfavorably, almost half (47 percent) of respondents said it was because they thought she was untrustworthy, and almost four in 10 (39 percent) said it was because they thought she was corrupt.

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The national Morning Consult survey polled 2,001 registered voters from Aug. 16-17 for a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points. See toplines and crosstabs.