Majority Disapprove Of Decision Not To Charge In Clinton Email Case

A new poll suggests that the decision not to bring charges related to her use of a private email server will likely have only a minimal impact on Hillary Clinton's campaign.

Clinton CFR Speech

One of the first polls released in the wake of what was effectively the end of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server finds that a majority disapprove of the decision not to charge Clinton or anyone else in the matter, but that it is unlikely to have much of an impact on the race:

A majority of Americans reject the FBI’s recommendation against charging Hillary Clinton with a crime for her State Department e-mail practices and say the issue raises concerns about how she might perform her presidential duties, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Six in 10 voters say the outcome will have no impact on their vote this November, even as those who do largely say it discourages them from backing the presumptive Democratic nominee.

Last week’s decision by FBI Director James B. Comey resulted in the Justice Department’s decision that Clinton would not face criminal prosecution which could have derailed her presidential bid. But Comey’s sharp critique of Clinton’s email practices and systematic dismantling of her public defenses stocked critics with fresh ammunition for the general election campaign.

The Post-ABC poll found 56 percent disapprove of Comey’s recommendation against charging Clinton while 35 percent approve. The survey mentioned Comey’s reasoning that Clinton did not have criminal intent but that he found her actions were extremely careless handling e-mails.

Roughly 6 in 10 independents disapprove of the recommendation against charges (59 percent), rising to nearly 9 in 10 Republicans (88 percent) and falling to 31 percent of Democrats.

While Clinton has defended her practice as a matter of personal convenience similar to her predecessors, 57 percent in the poll say the issue worries them about how she might handle responsibilities if elected president, while 39 percent say it’s not related to how she would perform as president. Over 4 in 10 say they are “very worried” about the issue’s implications for Clinton’s performance as president.

The results resemble public opinion throughout the past year showing a majority of the public criticizing her answers to questions about the issue — a Post-ABC poll before the federal probe ended found 56 percent disapproving of her response.

One key factor behind the negative ratings is a substantial level of criticism for Clinton among fellow partisans and Democratic-leaning groups.

Over 3 in 10 Democrats disapprove of Director Comey’s recommendation against charges for Clinton (31 percent), and the same percentage says the issue makes them worry about Clinton’s presidential responsibility. Over 4 in 10 liberals say the issue raises concerns about how Clinton might handle responsibilities as president, as do 36 percent of non-white Americans and 56 percent of those under age 40.

Registered voters who oppose the decision to forego criminal charges are nonetheless split on whether the outcome makes them less likely to vote Clinton in November — 47 percent say it makes no difference in their vote while 45 percent say they’re less likely to support her (8 percent say they’re more likely to do so).

Among all voters, 60 percent say the outcome makes no difference in their vote choice, including an identical share of political independents. Republican voters are the most likely to say the outcome discourages them to support Clinton — 49 percent — though the vast majority of this group was already strongly opposed to her candidacy before the FBI’s announcement

There are several caveats to keep in mind in connection with this poll that may indicate it means far less than meets the eye. First of all, the fact that the vast majority of Republicans disapprove of the F.B.I.’s decision is hardly surprising. Anti-Clinton sentiment has long been an article of faith among the GOP, and especially among the hard-core base of the party. Even with the controversy surrounding the likely GOP nominee, it has always been unlikely that a substantial portion of Republicans would vote for Hillary Clinton in November in any case. Similarly, the fact that some 30% of Democrats say they disapprove of the decision does not mean that Clinton is in significant danger of losing as much as one-third of the Democratic vote, something that would be near-fatal to her campaign if it did happen. Instead, this is likely a side effect of the fact that Clinton has yet to get the full benefit of the race for the GOP nomination due to the fact that Bernie Sanders has yet to endorse her. That seems likely to change when Clinton and Sanders appear together in New Hampshire and that should help Clinton get most of the rest of the Democratic base behind her. With Trump on the ballot on the other side of the aisle, it’s unlikely most of those voters will abandon her over the email server story.

The best news for Clinton in this poll, though, is the fact that some 60% of respondents say that the decision not to charge Clinton will make no difference in their decision regarding who they will vote for. There is no partisan breakdown provided for this poll result, but it probably mirrors the results for the main question albeit in reverse. The fact that such a large number of people have essentially written off the story already is obviously good news for Clinton, especially since it’s likely that this number will most likely increase as we get further away from last Tuesday’s announcement. Absent any further news about the email issue, then, this suggests that its actual importance in the election is likely to be minimal at best.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2016, Hillary Clinton, Politicians, Public Opinion Polls, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. EddieInCA says:

    Proving once again that the media is quite capable of convincing the general public who doesn’t pay attention to detail of a narrative that isn’t consistent with the facts. Most career prosecutors and investigators – FROM THE BEGINNING – said there was no case there for prosecution. Yet, for months we’re heard “Clinton will be indicted.” “The FBI has 42 investigators working on the case. Hillary is toast”. “Hillary’s indictment is coming this week.”.

    All of it bu***hit.

    But hey…. gives cable news something to argue about.

    Sad. And pathetic.

  2. @EddieInCA:

    Or perhaps it’s because the public perceives that people with connections, as the Clinton’s most assuredly have, get treated differently (and better) than ordinary citizens.

  3. Mikey says:

    @EddieInCA:

    Proving once again that the media is quite capable of convincing the general public who doesn’t pay attention to detail of a narrative that isn’t consistent with the facts.

    One prime example of this is the numerous stories questioning why the FBI didn’t administer a “sworn oath” to Clinton when they interviewed her.

    The reason for that was…the FBI never puts someone under oath in that situation. Under oath is for court, not FBI interviews. It’s still a crime to lie to them regardless.

    But that didn’t stop the media dutifully repeating the narrative she had somehow received special treatment because the agents didn’t put her under oath, which further fed the overall “special treatment” narrative.

  4. Jen says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Sort of like delaying Trump’s fraud trial until after the election?

    I really don’t think there was any special treatment here, just an obvious realization that there wasn’t much there that rose to the level of criminal behavior. Thankfully we don’t rely on the general public to try and convict people, we leave that to prosecutors who deal with evidence not “gut feelings” or “where there’s smoke there must be fire” instincts.

    It’s time to move on.

  5. Tony W says:

    @Jen: I’m honestly surprised this has to be explained to a lawyer.

  6. Andrew says:

    The one very large issue the media is not covering concerning Mrs. Clinton is this:

    Does she in fact weigh the same as a duck?

    If she does weigh the same as a duck, she is made of wood.
    And therefore a witch!

  7. Todd says:

    Two groups of people hoped that Clinton would be indicted; Trump supporters and Bernie or Busters. Much as Mitt Romney was never going to win the 2012 election despite the confidence of those who believed that polls were “skewed”, Clinton was never likely to be indicted. I think a lot of the sentiment that the FBI decision was “unfair” is rooted in reaction to partisan Democrats (including the Clinton campaign itself) continued insistence that she did nothing wrong, or that it’s no big deal.

    Given the alternative, many who have legitimate concerns about Clinton’s ethics still hope she prevails in November. But any Democrats who think she will get anything resembling a post-election honeymoon (or even that her approval rating will ever get above 50%) are likely as delusional as those who believed an indictment was actually coming.

  8. Perspecticus says:

    Yeah? Well, roughly 66% of Americans cheered us into Iraq II: The Re-Bushening.

  9. Jen says:

    @Todd:

    But any Democrats who think she will get anything resembling a post-election honeymoon (or even that her approval rating will ever get above 50%) are likely as delusional as those who believed an indictment was actually coming.

    Maybe, maybe not. Clinton has a fairly established track record of plummeting in popularity when she’s running, but then securing much higher satisfaction scores once she’s in office/doing the job. So I do think that some measure of this negativity will go away–or, at least it should if her personal history/track record is any indicator.

    On the other hand, I’m just as certain that she’ll be on the receiving end of the same sort of Mitch McConnell treatment that President Obama received. Indeed, many of the Republicans I know have flat-out stated that their goal is to ensure she’s sufficiently weakened so they can defeat her in 2020. Most of them have already written this cycle off and are looking ahead.

  10. al-Alameda says:

    A two-year House investigation and an FBI investigation notwithstanding, perhaps there was no actual evidence that Hillary’s actions resulted in a national security breach, or that she leaked classified documents to unauthorized personnel? Just maybe that’s why Director Comey decided to not go after Hillary Clinton?

    Maybe there can be some polling on whether or not a majority of Americans believe: (1) it was fine for Condoleeza Rice and Colin Powell to run emails through private accounts, and (2) it was fine for Colin Powell to delete millions of emails?

  11. al-Alameda says:

    @Andrew:

    The one very large issue the media is not covering concerning Mrs. Clinton is this:

    “The media” has not been covering Hillary Clinton?

  12. James Pearce says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Or perhaps it’s because the public perceives that people with connections, as the Clinton’s most assuredly have, get treated differently (and better) than ordinary citizens.

    Well, sure, but this is hardly new. Mozart wouldn’t have played for the imperial court were it not for his Daddy. If the complaint is that “people with connections” get “special treatment” then the complaint is that we don’t live in a perfect meritocracy.

    And if we lived in a perfect meritocracy, your connections wouldn’t matter.

    And while I will acknowledge that the Clintons do have connections, I question what that has to do with this e-mail thing. She was let off the hook because there was no prosecutable case against her, not because she had connections.

  13. Kylopod says:

    @Todd: The hard-nosed certainty from the “Hillary will be indicted” crowd was really a wonder to behold. It recalls the Al Franken line, “Social scientists call the phenomenon ‘pseudo-certainty.’ I call it ‘being a f*cking moron.'”

  14. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Tony W: Not a lawyer, a partisan. That makes a difference every time. Note that Paul Ryan had the same issues.

  15. An Interested Party says:

    But any Democrats who think she will get anything resembling a post-election honeymoon (or even that her approval rating will ever get above 50%) are likely as delusional as those who believed an indictment was actually coming.

    If this email business had never happened, she still wouldn’t have gotten a post-election honeymoon…the Clintons are the bête noires of the GOP in general and conservatives in particular…they will likely oppose just about anything she wants to do once she is president…

  16. Andrew says:

    @al-Alameda:

    Not concerning the pressing matter of the possibility she weighs the same as a duck, no.

  17. SKI says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Or perhaps it’s because the public perceives that people with connections, as the Clinton’s most assuredly have, get treated differently (and better) than ordinary citizens.

    Or in this case, demonstrably worse.

  18. KM says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Or perhaps it’s because the public perceives that people with connections, as the Clinton’s most assuredly have, get treated differently (and better) than ordinary citizens.

    While there were undoubtedly considerations taken for her that John Q Public probably wouldn’t get (physical security, nicer surroundings, working around her schedule, etc), these would have been essentially courtesy nods and not substantial procedural changes/deviations. You’d be a fool to think there wasn’t coffee or water without requesting it, for example. The connected tend to get the nice interrogation room if the conference room was booked or someone could be arsed to give up their office. Hillary was not sitting in a concrete room on a crappy, wobbly chair in the FBI’s basement, that’s for damn sure. It’s not fair but the rich have never been treated like the rest of us by the law.

    However, cushier chairs do not necessarily mean softball questions or less intense investigative probes. If anything, her connections and name are incentive to dig deeper for many. It’s disingenuous to say the fact that she wasn’t treated as like your average junkie means she got an unfair pass on the whole thing somehow.

  19. Jenos Idanian says:

    One group of people delighted with the decision not to charge Hillary were lawyers representing people currently charged with violations of national security. Now they can go into court and argue that their client had no intent to endanger national security, so they should have their cases dismissed.

  20. Jenos Idanian says:

    @KM: While there were undoubtedly considerations taken for her that John Q Public probably wouldn’t get (physical security, nicer surroundings, working around her schedule, etc), these would have been essentially courtesy nods and not substantial procedural changes/deviations.

    Hillary’s interview was not recorded, either. Is that also standard FBI procedure?

  21. Ben Wolf says:

    @EddieInCA: No one involved in the investigation has said there is no prosecutable case against Clinton; to the contrary Comey’s testimony makes clear she committed multiple felonies by sharing classified information with people who did not have clearance (including family members and personal agents) destroying government property, lying to investigators and placing data on an unsecured server for which she had no authorization. Clinton isn’t being prosecuted because Comey and the DoJ feel ‘uncomfortable’ doing so, arguing the statute has been so rarely invoked (in itself an indication of how extraordinary Clinton’s actions were) they don’t want to be the ones pulling the proverbial trigger.

  22. Mikey says:

    @Jenos Idanian: That would make no difference. Almost always, an individual charged with an actual criminal violation has done something besides just letting classified info slip. They actively sought to disclose it, they realized they messed up and tried to hide or destroy it, they lied to the authorities when questioned about it, or a combination thereof. Any of these actions is mutually exclusive of an assertion of non-intent.

  23. Mikey says:

    @Jenos Idanian:

    Hillary’s interview was not recorded, either. Is that also standard FBI procedure?

    The individual interviewed has the option to request it not be recorded.

  24. Lit3Bolt says:

    Doug refuses to let go of ginned-up Clinton controversy. News at 11.

    Hillary Clinton can’t change her behavior in any way to please Doug and James. If she acts cautiously and carefully, then she has something to hide. If she acts conventionally like every other government official, it’s a blatant disregard for the rules that all of her State Dept colleagues seem to share, but mysteriously she’s the only one under investigation.

    Doug will never mention this and the Republican pathological hatred the Clintons and the numerous times Republicans have made wild and reckless accusations against the Clintons, with all the grace and aplomb of a monkey flinging poo. Eventually, a single charge stuck on Bill, and the political ramifications were laid bare: finally “get” the Clintons, at the price of ensuring President Gore’s election in 2000, since Gore would inherit the Internet boom and Clinton economy.

    Whoa Nelly! Suddenly all principles of holy matrimony and disapproval of extramarital sex flew out the window when Republicans realized it might cost them an election. And that’s what this is all about.

    So there you have it. Doug approves of Republicans and their policies, even though he doesn’t vote for them. He parrots their talking points, and delights in their attacks on Democratic candidates. As long as these attacks are electorally advantageous for Republicans, Doug will continue to advocate for them. Note that Doug and James have run with the E-mail Scandal of the Century against HRC, but not Benghazi as it was clear that was a political loser a long time ago. Doug and James have also been careful to steer clear of other Clinton fever-swamp claims, such as accusations of lesbianism and murder.

    Instead, Clinton is “untrustworthy” because she doesn’t want people like Doug and his fellow Republican operatives reading her entire email server. She acted recklessly by using a private server, instead of using the super-secure government servers which are hacked daily and which have hemorrhaged all of their data to the Chinese and Russians and Israelis, multiple times.

    Let us make it abundantly clear: if you’re judging Hillary Clinton on her use of e-mails and her compliance with State Department e-mail policy, you might has well declare that you don’t trust her because of the color of her clothes and or her fashion sense, or that the voices in your head declared that she was Satan. It’s an impossible standard which has been never been applied to any other politician ever in the history of United States.

    But the “majority” “believes” “Clinton” is “untrustworthy” because of Frank Luntz tested media narratives that have existed since 1992. You don’t even have to include the “email.”

    Sure, Doug. Whatever.

  25. Jen says:
  26. Tyrell says:

    @EddieInCA: This is why I
    do not generally watch the mainline news networks. Most of what they have is slanted, pre-scripted propaganda. A lot of real news is ignored. Look at what the “news” networks have been focused on: 1 – Trump. 2- e mails. 3 – demonstrations 4 – restrooms. 5 – Brexit (man, they really got their nose in a twister on that one – you would have thought it was the end of the world !) 6 – entertainers
    These are diversions from the important news.

  27. James Pearce says:

    @Ben Wolf:

    No one involved in the investigation has said there is no prosecutable case against Clinton; to the contrary Comey’s testimony makes clear she committed multiple felonies by sharing classified information with people who did not have clearance (including family members and personal agents) destroying government property, lying to investigators and placing data on an unsecured server for which she had no authorization. Clinton isn’t being prosecuted because Comey and the DoJ feel ‘uncomfortable’ doing so, arguing the statute has been so rarely invoked

    Ben, I don’t know who you’ve been reading but you should stop.

    Almost none of this is true.

    Comey himself said there was no prosecutable case.
    “Committed multiple felonies?” Without an indictment, you can’t even say she was accused of a felony, much less whether one was “committed.”
    “Destroying federal property?” By deleting e-mails?
    “Lying to investigators?” She cooperated. It’s one of the reasons why this whole thing, politically, has become a big nothingburger.
    “Placing data on an unsecured server for which she had no authorization” By sending e-mail?

    I’ve been upfront about my feelings on the e-mail server. It was unprofessional and dumb. The State Department would be wise to make sure no future political appointee is able to do such a thing.

    And the rest of us need to move on with our lives.

  28. David M says:

    @James Pearce:

    I’ve been upfront about my feelings on the e-mail server. It was unprofessional and dumb. The State Department would be wise to make sure no future political appointee is able to do such a thing.

    The law was changed after Clinton was no longer Secretary of State, and John Kerry became the first one to use a state.gov email address. So things have improved.

    I’m still unclear when it became normal to expect all a cabinet member’s email to be released after they left office.

  29. Hal_10000 says:

    As one of the few on this board who thinks Clinton got off easy, I have to say: who cares? Polls are manufactured news. We don’t decided who gets criminally charged based on polls. This is a complete non-story. The wheels of justice turned, Clinton will not be charged* and we accept that.

    (*Although I suspect some low-level people will be charged eventually; such is life with Clintons).

  30. Ben Wolf says:

    @James Pearce:

    Comey himself said there was no prosecutable case.

    No, he didn’t.

    “Committed multiple felonies?” Without an indictment, you can’t even say she was accused of a felony, much less whether one was “committed.”

    Yes, I can.

    “Destroying federal property?” By deleting e-mails?

    Those records are government property by statute.

    “Lying to investigators?” She cooperated. It’s one of the reasons why this whole thing, politically, has become a big nothingburger.

    This is false. Both Comey and rhe Inspector General’s report state Clinton, for over a year, lied about the content, security and authorization regarding her handling of classified materials and whom she shared them with.

    “Placing data on an unsecured server for which she had no authorization” By sending e-mail?

    Yes, apparently being in an email doesn’t make the breach less serious than if you printed it and handed it to your husband.

    “Aww, it was just emails” is perhaps the most foolish defense I’ve yet heard.

  31. Jenos Idanian says:

    @James Pearce: “Destroying federal property?” By deleting e-mails?

    Huma Abedin testified, under oath, that Hillary’s daily schedule was not retained as required, but routinely put in the “burn bag” and destroyed.

    Incineration seems, to me, to be a pretty good way of destroying papers. Including papers detailing who Hillary was meeting with, and when, and for how long…

  32. James Pearce says:

    @Ben Wolf: Forgive me for trying to reason with you.

    “No, he didn’t.”

    Comey: “Although there is evidence of potential violations of the statutes regarding the handling of classified information, our judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case.”

    Yes, I can.

    Sure, you can call your car a banana too. It’s a free country, after all. Just don’t assume that everyone else on the planet will also act as if words have no meaning.

    Those records are government property by statute.

    Yes, but understand this: If you’re charged criminally for deleting e-mails you were obligated to save, you will not be charged with destroying government property. “By statute?” Please.

    Both Comey and rhe Inspector General’s report state Clinton, for over a year, lied about the content, security and authorization regarding her handling of classified materials and whom she shared them with.

    No, Bill O’Reilly said that. And you believed him.

    Yes, apparently being in an email doesn’t make the breach less serious than if you printed it and handed it to your husband.

    What “breach?” Do you even understand this issue at all?

    Sorry, Ben, but your information is bad and your legal reasoning non-existant. I’m quite content for you to continue being wrong, and looking the fool.

    @Jenos Idanian: What does that have to do with Hillary’s e-mail server?

  33. KM says:

    @Jenos:

    Hillary’s interview was not recorded, either. Is that also standard FBI procedure?

    I’m not up-to-date with FBI procedures but considering this would have been discussing top secret information and security procedures in depth, is recording a good or even sanctioned idea? What would the relevant laws regarding it, from the lawyers in the crowd? I imagine Secret Service, Homeland Security, DoD, et al would have something to say about a recording that could just as easily be mishandled as the emails are claimed to be.

  34. Ben Wolf says:

    1) There’s a mile of difference between “no reasonable prosecutor” and “not prosecutable”, which you’d see were you not so emotional on this issue.

    2)

    Yes, but understand this: If you’re charged criminally for deleting e-mails you were obligated to save, you will not be charged with destroying government property. “By statute?” Please.

    Deletion is destruction and the prosecutor can charge whatever they like.

    3)You have not read the inspector general’s report or you are comfortable making false statements. It specifically and directly refutes Clinton’s claims that she was “absolutely” permitted to use a private server, that she fully complied with Department policies and procedures, that no classified emails had been on the server and that all relevant emails had been turned over, aka lies.

    4) No candidate is worth your integrity. Stop. And stop calling people names, it’s childish.

  35. steve s says:

    Remember when Republicans held hearings in 1998 about Bill Clinton’s Christmas card list? We are getting into that territory again.

    -kevin drum

  36. steve s says:

    Ben Wolf says:
    Tuesday, July 12, 2016 at 09:51
    1) There’s a mile of difference between “no reasonable prosecutor”

    there is a mile of difference between reasonable people in general, and your small fringe crowd. That’s why things never go your way.

  37. James Pearce says:

    @Ben Wolf:

    There’s a mile of difference between “no reasonable prosecutor” and “not prosecutable”,

    Okay, Ben, keep digging then.

    Bottom line is this: The investigators who looked at the evidence were not confident a case against Hillary Clinton would prevail in court, so they didn’t bring one.

    Disagree with that result all you want, but it doesn’t change the fact.

    And seriously, Ben, no name calling here, but you’re going to come at me with something like this ” the prosecutor can charge whatever they like” and still expect me to take you seriously? No prosecutor is going to charge someone with violating 18 USC 1361 when it would be more appropriate to charge them with violating 18 U.S.C. 2071. Now I know this might be a little too technical for a blog comment, but I assure you: that’s how it is.

    You want to talk about integrity? I am not a supporter of Hillary Clinton. I am dismayed and annoyed by her e-mail server. I absolutely do not want her to be president. (And will accept her only if presented with an even worse alternative, like Trump.)

    And yet I must acknowledge that this witchhunt has been, well, unsuccessful. It’s not that the arguments haven’t been heard. It’s that they aren’t persuasive. So let it go.

  38. Blue Galangal says:

    @Jenos Idanian: I’ve seen this narrative on RW sites for a while too, and John Cole said it best: what was DESTROYED was a PAPER copy of Hillary’s daily schedule, which was kept electronically and which records are still available to this day. When the schedule was printed out, that printed copy was destroyed. Her actual schedule was not destroyed, any more than the paper copy I print of my appointments for the week is “destroyed” when I throw it in the shred bin at the beginning of the next week.