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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Public Opinion and Scandalabra


A previous post examined public reaction to ScandalabraABC reports:
Americans in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll sharply reject special scrutiny of conservative groups by the Internal Revenue Service, suspect an administration cover-up of the Benghazi incident and express substantial distrust of the federal government more generally.
Yet the national survey also finds no backlash against Barack Obama, at least at this point. His job approval rating is stable, albeit at a tepid 51 percent; he’s aided by accelerating economic optimism as well as by comparison with the much less-popular Republicans in Congress.
See PDF with full results and charts here.
Longer-term impacts of contentious current issues remain to be seen, but there’s potential for significant damage to the administration. Americans by a vast 74-20 percent see the IRS’ behavior as inappropriate, with most feeling that way strongly – and 56 percent see it as a deliberate attempt to harass conservative organizations, not a mere administrative error.
The public divides on whether or not the administration is honestly disclosing what it knows about the IRS’ actions; 45 percent suspect a cover-up, 42 percent instead see full transparency. And more than a third overall in this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, think these actions not only are inappropriate, but illegal.
Further, on the attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, last fall, suspicions of a cover-up rise to a majority, 55 percent. And in this case only a third of Americans are persuaded that the Obama administration is disclosing honestly what it knows about what occurred.
Pew reports:
So far, public interest in a trio of controversies connected to the Obama administration has been limited. Roughly a quarter (26%) of Americans say they are very closely following reports that the IRS targeted conservative groups. About the same number (25%) are tracking the Benghazi investigation very closely, and even fewer (16%) are very closely following news about the Justice Department subpoenaing phone records of AP journalists.

The new survey by the Pew Research Center, conducted May 16-19 among 1,002 adults, finds that 37% of Republicans are paying very close attention to the IRS story, compared with 21% of Democrats and 25% of independents. And the Benghazi investigation continues to draw much greater interest from Republicans (34% very closely) than Democrats (18%).

A historical review of previous controversies involving White House or cabinet officials finds that these levels of public interest – and the partisan divide in attentiveness – are not necessarily new. Previous scandals – such as the Lewis “Scooter” Libby case during George W. Bush’s administration or the “Pardon-gate” scandal at the end of Bill Clinton’s second term – received similar levels of public attention, and were generally more interesting to those in the opposition party.