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29% View New Defense Secretary Panetta Favorably

The United States continues to fight in Afghanistan, the nation’s longest-running war, but a sizable number of Americans don’t know enough about President Obama’s new secretary of Defense to have any kind of opinion about him.

Twenty-nine percent (29%) of Likely U.S. Voters hold at least a somewhat favorable opinion of Leon Panetta, most recently the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, while 32% view him at least somewhat unfavorably, according to a new Rasmussen Reports survey. This includes six percent (6%) with a Very Favorable view of Panetta and 12% with a Very Unfavorable one. But nearly four-out-of-10 voters (38%) have no opinion of Panetta. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

By comparison, 42% held a favorable view of Panetta’s predecessor Robert Gates when he stepped down as Defense secretary at the end of June, while 25% held an unfavorable opinion of the man who was Obama’s one Cabinet holdover from President George W. Bush’s administration.  But 34% had no opinion of Gates, who had been Defense secretary since late 2006.

Far better known is Hillary Clinton, the current secretary of State, who is seen favorably by 58% and unfavorably by 38%. This includes 27% with a Very Favorable opinion and 21% with a Very Unfavorable one, but just four percent (4%) have no opinion of the former U.S. senator and first lady. This marks virtually no change from September.

Clinton remains the most popular member of the Obama Cabinet. (See summary table.)  Her favorables have ranged from 53% to 60% since assuming the position at State in January 2009.

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The survey of 1,000 Likely Voters was conducted on November 30-December 1, 2011 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology.

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