BOSTON (CBS) – Oprah Winfrey for president?
If you laughed off the idea of President Donald Trump, chances are you’re not laughing at this one. So with a few caveats – we are a long way from knowing how key political factors will look come 2020 (state of the economy, military entanglements, the price of gas; who else might be seeking the Democratic nomination, etc.), and it is still unclear if there’s any change in Oprah’s adamant past denials of interest in running – let’s see what the numbers tell us.
The most recent national polling on Oprah dates back to last March. Quinnipiac pollsters found Oprah with a 52% favorability rating overall, driven by 72% approval among Democrats. (Republicans disapproved of her, 30-47%!).
That’s a healthy number, one the current incumbent would love to have. But it’s way down from 65% favorable rating she drew when Gallup last polled on her in late 2009.
Part of the drop may be tied to her emergence as a partisan advocate, campaigning hard for then-candidate Barack Obama in 2007-2008 and subsequently endorsing other Democrats. That connection surely alienated at least some Republicans. Her wildly popular daily television show ended in 2011, and while she has continued to be a visible and popular presence, her visibility isn’t what it once was.
But those Quinnipiac numbers suggest Oprah is still better liked by more people than any other potential candidate or than Trump was in 2015 when he started running.
Women approve of her, 58—19%; among men, the spread is 46-28%. Among white with college degrees, she’s a whopping 58-20%; white without college degrees, a.k.a. the Trump base, 42% approve while 34% do not.
Oprah would have work to do to energize younger voters. The poll gives her 56% approval with voters aged 18-34, but 30% say they “haven’t heard enough” about her, far more than in any other demographic category. The second biggest “haven’t heard of “ number? Non-white voters, 25%.
Oprah has said and done a lot of controversial things in her long public career. Some might help her navigate a Democratic primary, such as her early and vocal opposition to the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. Others might hamper her, like her association with vaccine skeptic Jenny McCarthy.
Expect all of that and more to be dissected in detail if she does run. Because make no mistake, this is no ordinary celebrity trial balloon, like The Rock’s flirtatious comments about running. We’re talking about a well-known, widely-admired, well-funded billionaire with all the necessary skills, other than previous elective experience.
And as we saw last year, that and $84.50 a month gets you a Zone1A commuter rail pass from the T.