Public Not Viewing Benghazi As A Scandal, Poll Shows
Public Policy Polling is out with the first new poll of public attitudes regarding the political firestorm surrounding the terrorist attack on U.S. diplomats in Benghazi last September and, so far, it doesn’t look like Republicans are winning this battle:
PPP’s newest national poll finds that Republicans aren’t getting much traction with their focus on Benghazi over the last week. Voters trust Hillary Clinton over Congressional Republicans on the issue of Benghazi by a 49/39 margin and Clinton’s +8 net favorability rating at 52/44 is identical to what it was on our last national poll in late March. Meanwhile Congressional Republicans remain very unpopular with a 36/57 favorability rating.
Voters think Congress should be more focused on other major issues right now rather than Benghazi. By a 56/38 margin they say passing a comprehensive immigration reform bill is more important than continuing to focus on Benghazi, and by a 52/43 spread they think passing a bill requiring background checks for all gun sales should be a higher priority.
While voters overall may think Congress’ focus should be elsewhere there’s no doubt about how mad Republicans are about Benghazi. 41% say they consider this to be the biggest political scandal in American history to only 43% who disagree with that sentiment. Only 10% of Democrats and 20% of independents share that feeling. Republicans think by a 74/19 margin than Benghazi is a worse political scandal than Watergate, by a 74/12 margin that it’s worse than Teapot Dome, and by a 70/20 margin that it’s worse than Iran Contra.
So basically what we’ve got is another “scandal” that is only a scandal if you are viewing it through a certain ideological lens, much like many of the “scandals” of the Clinton era. The main reason that this isn’t resonating with the public, I think, is that the GOP hasn’t been clear on exactly what was done wrong here. They’ve covered the low security at the Benghazi outpost, the fact that requests for additional security were ignored, the fact that no assets were sent into Benghazi while the attack was going on, and, now, they’re talking about the talking points and the changes made to them in the days after the attack. Leaving aside that they are fighting this battle on the foreign policy front, traditionally an area where voters tend to give Administration’s the benefit of the doubt, the GOP simply hasn’t made out a case for why this is anything other than a case of incompetence and error rather than one of wrongdoing. The story is staying alive at the moment thanks in no small part to the White House’s own ham-handed responses to questions about it, but I can’t see it having much staying power unless there’s some kind of smoking gun out there.
Of course, there’s also this factor:
One interesting thing about the voters who think Benghazi is the biggest political scandal in American history is that 39% of them don’t actually know where it is. 10% think it’s in Egypt, 9% in Iran, 6% in Cuba, 5% in Syria, 4% in Iraq, and 1% each in North Korea and Liberia with 4% not willing to venture a guess.
By contrast, I suspect that the public is going to view the IRS political targeting story much differently.