Nearly Three-Quarters Of Americans See Benghazi Committee As Primarily Political

As the House Select Benghazi Committee continues to question Hillary Clinton, a new poll finds that the vast majority of Americans view its work as political rather than part of an objective investigation.


As the House Select Committee’s questioning of Hillary Clinton continues, and appears that it won’t wrap up until some time after 6pm Eastern tonight, a new poll from CNN indicates that the American people view the investigation to be entirely political, but they’re somewhat more concerned about Clinton’s use of a private email server:

Most Americans say the way Hillary Clinton handled her email as secretary of state is an important indicator of her character, a reversal since March when it was first revealed she used a private email server to conduct government business.

But a larger majority believe the committee investigating the Benghazi attacks is using that investigation for political gain, according to a new survey.

The new CNN/ORC poll comes as Clinton is set to testify Thursday before the House Select Committee on Benghazi, amid questions raised about the panel’s goals after a whistle-blower told CNN’s Jake Tapper its primary focus was exposing negative information about Clinton.

While most Americans say they are dissatisfied with Clinton’s handling of the Benghazi attack, an even larger majority feels the committee is “mostly using the investigation to gain political advantage,” rather than conducting an objective investigation.

Still, asked another way, 51% say the committee is handling the investigation “appropriately” and has not gone too far. All of these questions provoke massive partisan divides.

Overall, 54% say they think the way Clinton handled her email as secretary of state is an important indicator of her character and ability to serve as president, 43% say it isn’t relevant. That’s a reversal since March, when 52% said it wasn’t relevant.


Despite those concerns, 72% of all Americans say they see the Benghazi committee as mostly using its investigative mission for political gain, just 23% think it is conducting an objective investigation. Even Republicans are skeptical on this measure, with 49% saying the committee is trying to score political points vs. 47% who say it is conducting an objective investigation. Among Democrats, 85% see it as seeking political advantage and among independents that stands at 75%.

On the more general question of whether the committee has gone too far, opinions are more mixed. Women are more apt than men to say the committee has gone too far (48% among women, 31% among men), and Democrats are more likely to say it has overreached than Republicans (71% of Democrats think it has gone too far, 74% of Republicans that it has acted appropriately).

Dissatisfaction with Clinton’s handling of Benghazi is widespread, 59% are dissatisfied, 36% satisfied. Among Democrats, 63% say they are satisfied, but large majorities of Republicans (85%) and independents (65%) say they are dissatisfied.

So far, with some three or four hours of hearing left as I’m typing this post, it really appear that there will be anything major coming out of Clinton’s testimony today. All that it’s likely to do is reinforce the pre-existing opinions of people on either side of the political aisle, although a full assessment will have to wait until the day is over and there’s been time to digest the proceedings in their entirety. What this poll suggests, though, is that the American public as a whole likely isn’t paying a whole lot of attention to what’s going on today. The fact that nearly three-quarters of Americans, and even a plurality of Republicans, believing that the Committee is a little more than a Republican effort to score political points against Hillary Clinton strongly suggests that they are likely to heavily discount whatever might come out of today’s hearings specifically or the rest of the work of the committee. This would seem to be especially true given the fact that half of the questions from the Republican side of the aisle so far seem to be dealing with issues that the average voter is likely to find entirely obscure such as the fact that former Clinton Administration aide Sidney Blumenthal was spending Secretary Clinton seemingly regular emails on a wide variety of subjects, but specifically including Libya, despite the fact that he was not a State Department employee or contractor and despite the fact that Clinton didn’t necessarily seem to ask him to send anything at all. To be completely frank about, one doubts that the average American even knows who Sidney Blumenthal is, or why it would matter that he was sending things to the Secretary of State. At the very least, the Republicans on the Committee seem to have totally failed to lay the groundwork for many of the questions they’re asking today.

It’s not entirely surprising that the American public seems to view the Benghazi Committee as a political operation rather than a dispassionate Congressional investigation. As I said when the committee was established, it seemed fairly certain that this is exactly what was going on, especially given the fact that several other Congressional investigations, including one by the House Intelligence Committee, had spent the better part of the previous two years looking into the events of that day and came away concluding that, while the deaths of Ambassador Stevens and three other Americans were a tragedy, there was no evidence of wrongdoing. The partisan motives for the committee seemed to become more apparent when it became clear that the committee wasn’t even going to try to issue a final report until well into 2016 when Clinton would presumably be starting her campaign as the Democratic nominee for President. And if that didn’t make things clear the comments by Republicans such as Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and New York Congressman Richard Hanna, and the panicked manner in which Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy reacted to those comments, seemed to confirm that what we’re seeing unfold her was little more than a political circus.

If what we’ve seen so far is all the Republicans on the committee have, then it seems fairly clear that Clinton will emerge from this hearing relatively unscathed and, based on this poll, that the public will largely dismiss the whole thing as just another partisan Washington circus.

FILED UNDER: 2016 Election, Congress, National Security, Terrorism, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held 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 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. J-Dub says:

    HRC should thank the Republicans on the committe for hosting her coronation.

  2. J-Dub says:

    HRC should thank the Republicans on the committee for hosting her coronation.

  3. Modulo Myself says:

    No, they seem them as moronic and eighth-rate. ‘Political’ is now the catch-all term used by the political class eager to push people away from dwelling on how Trey Gowdy ever ended up known to humans other than his parents.

  4. Neil Hudelson says:

    I’m sending my Congresswoman, Susan Brooks, flowers for helping elect Hillary Clinton.

  5. gVOR08 says:

    Didn’t watch or check any live blogs. What was said is less important than what clips and quotes come out of it, and how the press treats them. Won’t really know anything about the effect of this ’til the next few polls come out.

  6. Argon says:

    “Nearly Three-Quarters Of Americans See Benghazi Committee As Primarily Political”

    The subtitle should be: “One quarter of Americans are idiots.”

  7. gVOR08 says:

    @Argon: Approximately 27%. Funny how that keeps showing up.

  8. David in KC says:

    3 quarters of the American people understand that water is wet and one quarter believes that if you splash it around enough you get a unicorn.

  9. David M says:

    The GOP refused to release the testimony from Blumenthal, which probably means there’s absolutely nothing there.

  10. David in KC says:

    @David M: I agree to the extent that there is nothing that helps their cause, but if it was worthless, I don’t see them not releasing it, makes me think that there is something, but it’s detrimental to their cause.

  11. Tyrell says:

    What is not a partisan issue are these facts: a well organized, armed terrorist group attacked US property, and killed US personnel without any provocation or threat. Many of those responsible have not been arrested even though various news media knows the identity of some of the perpetrators. We see one clearly in the photo above who should not be hard to identify.
    One person has been arrested, but has not been tried.
    Another question is whether the United States government (taxpayers) have been reimbursed for the destruction of US property.
    The people of the US are tired of these hearings. They are tired of no action to bring justice to those responsible. That is what they are tired of.

  12. jewelbomb says:

    Pretty sure this post is intended as penance for those two recent “Americans hate gun-control” hack-jobs. Fair enough. At least there’s a modicum of consistency unpinning Doug’s obsession with what the American people claim to think. That’s a lot more than can be said for most Republicans. (Wait…I forget. Is Doug a Republican or is he just one of those special Independents who only votes Republican?)

  13. michael reynolds says:


    Tell you what, Tyrell, if you’ll agree to fly to Libya and find and arrest the guys responsible, I’ll pay for your ticket. Hell, I’ll put you in first class.

  14. Guarneri says:

    I think you guys whiff on the main point. Of course there is a political component. It certainly is good to know that Democrats never play politics (snicker)

    But speaking of politics. Obama developed a big campaign theme of AQ on the run and the Libya effort only to have a premeditated attack occur. Hence the speeches, interviews and Susan Rice all over the place talking a video………..while Hillary tells her daughter and the Egyptians they instantly knew it was a terrorist attack. Of course they all knew. They aren’t stupid. But I guess that’s not political.

    In any event, I think it matters not. The total crass and incompetent aspects will be selectively left uncovered by most media. The people will remain comatose. The only thing that will really matter is if her various versions of events, email, representations cause a problem with the FBI. And then……

  15. PJ says:

    @David M:

    The GOP refused to release the testimony from Blumenthal, which probably means there’s absolutely nothing there.

    They didn’t seem to be that concerned about Benghazi when they questioned Blumenthal:

    Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) revealed Thursday during a public hearing of the Benghazi House committee what kinds of questions his Republican colleagues asked Hillary Clinton ally Sidney Blumenthal during closed door testimony earlier this year.

    Schiff said he couldn’t release the transcript of Blumenthal’s testimony himself, but could discuss “Sidney Blumenthal by the numbers.”

    “Republicans asked more than 160 questions about Mr. Blumenthal’s relationship with and communications with the Clinton Foundation,” Schiff said. “But less than 20 questions about the Benghazi attacks.

    “Republicans asked more than 50 questions about the Clinton foundation,” he said. “But only four questions about the security in Benghazi.”

    “Republicans asked more than 270 questions about Blumenthal’s alleged business activities in Libya but no questions about the U.S. presence in Benghazi,” Schiff said.

  16. grumpy realist says:

    Well, the Republican Party has just given a 6-hour, taxpayer-pays-all-expenses FREE ad for Hillary Clinton as possible POTUS and how she’d react under fire.

    I suppose they thought she was going to break down in tears and admit everything that they slung at her and that would be the end of her campaign. Instead, we have 6 hours of Hillary not suffering fools gladly, floundering like mad on the other side, and hysterical screaming from the wingnuts.

    Did anyone maybe point out to the strategy managers that this wasn’t that great an idea?

  17. Deserttrek says:

    @Modulo Myself: you are a sick piece of manure .. small children and animals are probably not safe around you

  18. michael reynolds says:

    Hillary has been spanking these moral and mental Lilliputians all day long. I’m going to have to send her more money.

  19. michael reynolds says:

    Mmmm, I love the smell of Republican desperation.

  20. Liberal Capitalist says:


    @Argon: Approximately 27%. Funny how that keeps showing up.

    It’s been the loyal W Bush percentage for some time.

    You’ve got to remember that these are just simple, heartland Americans. These are people of the land. The common clay of the new South.

    You know… morons.

  21. Jen says:

    I was just a kid in high school at the time, but I truly don’t remember George Schultz being grilled before Congressional panels following the Marine Barracks bombing (1983, killed 299, 241 of whom were Americans) and the U.S. Embassy bombing in Beirut (also in 1983, killed 63, 17 of whom were Americans).

    Same arguments existed then: lousy security, pointed out repeatedly by those on the ground, in a dangerous part of the world.

    Politicizing the deaths in Benghazi, which is exactly what this particular confederacy of dunces is doing, is frankly un-American. Had they any decency at all they’d be ashamed and pull the plug on this farce immediately.

  22. Paludicola says:

    Did Sidney Blumenthal use Saul Alinsky tactics to make government bigger?


    Libya has turned out to be kind of a big mess. Maybe it would have been a good idea to ask the person who was Secretary of State when the United States became involved about that.

  23. michael reynolds says:

    Yep, just sent another $250 to Hillary’s campaign.

    If I didn’t despise Republicans before today, I would now. This is contemptible. This is sickening. These people are absolute scum of the earth, turning the House of Representatives into a partisan witch-hunt, using taxpayer money to try and destroy an American citizen with the temerity to run for president.

  24. Grumpy Realist says:

    @Paludicola: considering that your side has spent millions of dollars so far on how many committees and come up with bupkis, don’t you think it’s time to call it a day?

  25. MarkedMan says:

    The Republicans have made this mistake so often with the Clinton’s it defies all reason. And they are doing it again. Take something that might, just might, have something to it. Ratchet it up higher and higher in the Fox News fact free zone until those Arakansas Devils are all but murdering puppies and chewing on their ears. Since the Repubs only talk to each other they get nothing but kudos for being more ridiculous, more fantasy based. And then when the voting public starts to turn away they just shout louder! Because if they only could get through to the public, they would see just how awful they are.

    And boom, they’ve inoculated whichever Clinton they have in their sights. Whenever they
    talk about Benghazi or Monica or Whitewater the majority of us just hear “blah blah blah”. And because the Repubs are convinced that if they could just grab those voters by the shoulder and lean in really close and put enough emotion into it, they will succeed in getting through, they never toss it aside for another issue. That’s exactly how Clinton won her Senate seat.

  26. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @michael reynolds: He said the exact same thing to gVORo8 on another post. I wonder if he has it on a macro so he can save time in his posts?

  27. rachel says:

    Recent Monmouth University poll suggests that a majority of Americans really are “tired of hearing about Clinton’s emails” (.pdf link, item 6). Maybe more hearings will change our minds.

  28. EddieInCA says:

    The floor on crazy is 27-33%. One third of the population is batcrap insane. I’d have to look it up, but the day he left office in disgrace, Richard M. Nixon had an approval rating around 28% I think.

  29. Matt says:

    @Tyrell: Look man I was talking to Sean on jabber the night of the attack. He was somewhat worried because one of the local security persons had taken some pictures earlier in the day but he wasn’t worried much beyond making a few jokes about it. Sean had been in Iraq for some time and had experience in the green zone which was surrounded by hostiles who would disapear after launching an attack (mortors etc). The attack itself wasn’t “well organized” it was some randoms and a couple local militias. He was only somewhat worried when he signed off because the violence had started.

    Those militias have been disbanded and were attacked by the friendly militia groups in the area after the fact.

    Pictures have almost no meaning in a country that has no real method of tracking or even counting people. It’s not like here in the USA where almost everyone has a SS card and stuff. EVen here in the USA finding people based off secondary information can be problematic.

  30. dazedandconfused says:

    Gowdy was shining with flop-sweat at the end. I suspect him of being intelligent enough to know how bad a career move this may prove to be.

    The GOP? They say ya gotta hit bottom before ya get better…but the real key is admitting ya have a problem….

  31. C. Clavin says:

    The vast right wing conspiracy has become 1/2 vast.

  32. Tyrell says:

    As usual, important questions remain unanswered. Why no counter attack or retaliatory attack ? Where was the president the whole time this was going on ? Why was no team sent in later to find and get those responsible ? What has been done to protect our overseas people and property to make sure this will not happen again ? A lot of information will remain as classified files, never to be released.
    “Payback time !” (Ventura, “Predator”)

  33. Jimbo says:


    The parallel between Benghazi and the Beirut bombing is laughably bad that it’s really a perpendicular example.

    1. Islamic Terrorism was new and didn’t have the long history that it does now.

    2. Stopping a hidden truck bomb is different from stopping an AQ militia that could be observed from the air.

    3. The 1800 Marines were stationed to provide defense vs 4 security officials for Stevens. Requests for additional security were denied.

    4. There was escalating violence against Embassy in Libya vs none directed at Americans in Beirut. Hezbollah was unknown then, even by the CIA, until after this attack.

    5. In Libya, it was known that terrorists like to attack on anniversaries, like September 11 but this was not known in 1983.

    6. In Libya, the attack was blamed on a video, which the White House knew was not correct. While this has never been explained, it would be logical to conclude this could be because the election was less that 2 months away. In Beirut, the attack was blamed on the real attackers, and that’s it.

    7. The investigation into Beirut didn’t have the look of a whitewash, whereas Libya did because key personnel were not interviewed. I couldn’t find anything about a Beirut attack intel scandal in my Internet searches. If there was, I’m sure Tip O’Neill and the Dems would have made sure everyone knew about it and exploited it, especially after his party lost bitter public opinion battles earlier in Reagan’s presidency.

    Other than that, sure, the arguments are exactly the same.

  34. Neil Hudelson says:


    Why no counter attack or retaliatory attack ?

    Retaliatory attack against whom? Yes, the terrorists who attacked the compound, but most terrorist groups work in cells. It’s not a matter of attacking a country, or even wiping out a city block. It’s about attacking a few individuals, which means more of a law enforcement/investigation route. I’m just guessing here, but a country in the midst of a civil war, with two counter governments and about a thousand small splinters probably doesnt’ have the most function criminal investigation infrastructure for us to work with.

    BUT, I will agree, I would like to see a plan or a forecast of how we are bringing those responsible to justice.

    Where was the president the whole time this was going on ?

    In the White House most likely.

    Why was no team sent in later to find and get those responsible ?

    Here you go: Do you ever google your questions before you post them here?

    What has been done to protect our overseas people and property to make sure this will not happen again ?

    Again, google is your friend. I would point out that it hasn’t happened again.

    A lot of information will remain as classified files, never to be released.

    Umm, yes…your point?

    Allllllrighty then. (Ace Ventura, “Pet Detective”)

  35. Jen says:


    You may have missed my point.

    The argument that I see in your comment seems to boil down to “terrorism against Americans was new then, we couldn’t have known.”

    To which I say, nonsense. It’s probably relevant to this discussion that the high school I was attending at the time was overseas and connected to an embassy, in relatively “safe” country. We knew the risks. As a teen I was instructed to not open any mail that wasn’t from a known sender, because letter bombs were a frequently used tool. I was also instructed to be very aware of my surroundings, and to pay attention to anyone who appeared to be following us when I went out with friends, because kidnappings were also a frequently used tool. So please don’t talk down to me about how we just didn’t know about the threat, because that’s simply not true.

    My point is this — those who choose to serve our government in any capacity overseas know the risks. They do so anyway. Their lives should be honored, not turned into partisan hack shows.

  36. Joe says:

    I can’t believe 75% of Americans would even recognize the word Benghazi, let alone have an opinion abut the hearings (that I would bet more than 50% are unaware of until a pollster explains it) in Congress (that many are only vaguely aware exists because of high school civics class). I don’t know how this poling is done, but I refuse to believe 75% of John/Jane Q Public have any opinion or idea at all about what is going on here.

  37. jukeboxgrad says:


    Hence the speeches, interviews and Susan Rice all over the place talking a video


    the attack was blamed on a video


    “what brought the militia members out of their homes or barracks at that particular time on that particular night appears to have been none other than the ‘anti-Islam video’.”

    Daniel Pipes and John Rosenthal are both conservatives.

  38. Matt says:

    @Tyrell: Counter attack a mob of faceless people that have already dispersed? What you want to just randomly bomb people that are within a set distance of the compound?

    The rest of your post is fantasy completely disconnected from the reality of the situation there.