11 July 2016

The New York Times may have a liberal bias but an article last week “A more personal Hillary Clinton tries to erase a trust deficit” pulled no punches in listing the leading presidential candidate’s acts and omissions that undermine the electorate’s confidence in her.  Polls suggest that she is considered about 8%  less trustworthy than Donald Trump.   The article concludes with an attribution to one of Mitt Romney’s Republican strategists, that “there are two things that drive us in politics: the head and the heart. Trust is a question of heart.”  An inference is that without regenerating her trustworthiness, Mrs Clinton will struggle in the general election. Even her supporters tell pollsters that they do not trust her.

Mrs Clinton recently acknowledged that she has “made mistakes” and will have to work at getting people to trust her.  This was emphasised when the FBI Director contradicted many of her explanations regarding her email use and said that she had been “extremely careless”.  Moderating what some see as her extreme hubris, she told an audience that “You can’t just talk someone into trusting you. You’ve got to earn it.”  But it still took her months after the email scandal broke before she conceded some fault.

The article reports a campaign adviser indicating that there is no magic set of words that will address the trust deficit head-on. Mrs Clinton cannot bluntly ask voters to trust her and wash away the past. “She will quell doubts once she has the job”… with her performance, and how hard she works for the people she represents.

Part of the trust problem is that voters are much more inclined to believe the bad things they hear about a political figure than the good things. Nearly twice as many polled voters when comparing Mrs Clinton with Mr Trump felt that Mrs Clinton said what she thought people wanted to hear most of the time, rather than what she believed.  “It’s more like she’s saying things because they’re politically correct or because they further her agenda, rather than because it’s coming from the heart,” one said. She may only capture the hearts of a majority of the electorate, their trust and their votes, if those voters can trust that she speaks from the heart.