Washington Scandals Just Barely Capturing The Public’s Attention

The American public doesn’t seem to be following the latest round of Washington scandals with the amount of interest we’ve seen in the past, according to a new poll:

A majority of Americans are following both the controversy over the attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi and the brewing IRS scandal – but at levels below historic averages, according to a new poll.

Fifty-four percent said they are closely following the story of how the IRS unfairly targeted conservative groups, according to the Gallup survey on Thursday, and 53 percent are closely following Benghazi. For both stories, 22 percent were following “not too closely” and 24 weren’t following at all.

“The level of attention being paid to each is below the average 60 percent of Americans who have closely followed more than 200 news stories Gallup has measured over the past several decades,” Gallup editor-in-chief Frank Newport wrote in an analysis of the poll.

Republicans are more likely to be paying attention to both controversies. Two-thirds of the GOP say they are following both scandals. Only 40 percent of Democrats are following the IRS story, with 45 percent keeping a close eye on Benghazi.

Indeed, even independents don’t seem to be following the stories that closely:

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Most likely, I’m guessing that the reason Americans aren’t paying attention is because they’re viewing it is just another example of Washington engaging in a partisan fight, something that has become all too common in recent years. Perhaps the IRS scandal will resonate at some point, but so far it’s not clear that this will happen. One thing this poll does suggest, though, is that it the political impact of these stories may be far less than what Republicans might be hoping for. Of cour

FILED UNDER: Public Opinion Polls, Quick Takes, 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. Mark Ivey says:

    I like watching the “riff-raff” in the GOP base yell “Benn-gazzi!” though..

  2. JKB says:

    Well, when did they take that poll? The IRS scandal has only been “in the news” for less than a week and was purposely released last Friday to blunt the public’s awareness.

    Benghazi is a competence scandal and of most import, which Democrats were able to blunt, in the election as it goes less to malevolence and more to competency for office. Well, that ship sailed and is in the rocks.

    Now, lack of competency by Obama, and we must add the cream of the Democratic party, is the theme, as proffered by Axelrod, as to why Obama couldn’t know or be responsible for the IRS politicization and abuse of disfavored groups.

    The government is so big how can Obama be expected to govern it or see that it is properly run, even with any Democratic operative he wants to help him. Now, here is our plan to make government even larger and have more control over your life.

    That’s a very confusing theme for the Democratic party. To big for us to handle but let’s make it bigger. At some point the voters might notice that the people they hired to run the government are constantly arguing that they aren’t competent to run something so big and unwieldy so can’t be responsible when it turns out no one is actually managing the government.

  3. george says:

    @JKB:

    That’s a very confusing theme for the Democratic party. To big for us to handle but let’s make it bigger.

    Just as confusing for the Republicans, who also want a big government, though they say otherwise (unless that claim is what you’re talking about). The military is part of the government (unless they’re now being funded privately), the war on drugs is nanny state big government, the Patriot Act is nanny state big government, being against gay marriage is nanny state (why should the government be involved in marriage at all?) … its a long list.

    Really, both parties have been for big government since the end of WW2. They’ve just disagreed on which parts should be big, and how to pay for it.

  4. KariQ says:

    @JKB:

    It says on the bottom of the chart that it was May 14-15. Didn’t even have to click through.

    It’s probably a good thing for the Republicans that people weren’t paying attention since it turns out the the Benghazi emails that had the GOP all breathlessly for a while were, in fact, doctored.

  5. Latino_in_Boston says:

    I wouldn’t expect this to change.

    I’ve been following this closely and I still don’t know what I’m supposed to be so worked up about with Benghazi. The IRS scandal might have some legs, but it looks more and more like it had nothing to do with the White House. And more importantly, by claiming everything is worse than Watergate, the GOP is overplaying its hand, quickly becoming the boy who cried wolf.

  6. It’s the case of the boy who cried wolf. Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, et.al. have been calling everything this administration does as a scandal for so long, that now that they get something that really could be scandalous (IRS thing, not Benghazi) nobody pays attention anymore.

  7. michael reynolds says:

    Oh, there were never going to be legs on these. Benghazi is b.s., and no one cares. The AP thing is interesting, certainly an overreach, but it’s about big media so no one cares. The IRS thing is a genuine scandal, but no one thinks it involves Obama, so no one cares.

    Sorry, GOP, all you get out of this is a couple of weeks distraction.

  8. Franklin says:

    Agreed. The IRS targeting is the scandal here, but unfortunately I don’t think a lot of people are going to care because it’s the Tea Party. And the actual Tea Party members – well many of them were already over the edge and this will just drive them a bit crazier.

  9. Caj says:

    Of course the public aren’t tuned into these so called scandals, they are more concerned about getting a good paying job, or a job of any sort! The word scandal in these three latest issues lies only in the eye of the beholder and of course that would be the Republican Party. So desperate to pin something on President Obama they have forgotten that the American people even exist!! No jobs, who cares? No health care, who cares? No immigration reform, who cares? Haven’t got time to worry about any of that we must get Obama, our very lives depend upon it! John Boehner wants someone sent to jail! No clue yet who’s guilty of what but just put someone in jail, anyone will do just let it be so! To think this man is speaker is an embarrassment. The only people he speaks for and to are the Tea Party as he’s scared to death of them.

  10. @JKB:

    The IRS scandal has only been “in the news” for less than a week and was purposely released last Friday to blunt the public’s awareness.

    Hmmm…..so are you saying that people haven’t heard about it? Or that they just haven’t properly massaged by the media yet?

    I mean, I know the IRS scandal confirms all of the right’s worst suspicions about taxes, government overreach, and the aggrieved status of the right wing movement….but I can’t help but think a wait and see approach would be best. We’ve been down this road before.

    How many “scandals” have fizzled because because the right doesn’t look before they leap? Over the last decade or so, almost all of them….

    Benghazi is a competence scandal and of most import, which Democrats were able to blunt, in the election as it goes less to malevolence and more to competency for office.

    Nah…..what’s scandalous about Benghazi is that Republicans have been trying to use that attack for political advantage for almost a year now. Competence for office?

    You say that as if Mitt Romney didn’t try to blame the president when terrorists attacked us.

  11. Latino_in_Boston says:

    And to return to a point I made in another thread.

    I consider myself to be center left, but more than anything, I want a competent government, one that works, and that’s the reason I would never, under any circumstances vote for a Chavista Left, for example. So, if the GOP was like its Eisenhower version, or a Teddy Roosevelt like, I would certainly consider voting for it. When they obsess on these scandals, it’s pretty transparent to me, however, that whatever underlying problems there might be (Benghazi, security; IRS, dark money and neutrality; etc) no one is actually interested in solving those problems. If the GOP showed any inkling whatsoever of trying to fix actual problems, I would welcome their “obsession”. Instead, they’ve already brought Government to a halt, now I’m afraid we will be stuck in a continuous Benghazi!!!!! IRS!!! loop which they can use to tell us about how bad this Marxist usurper is. (Yawn)

    And again, I wonder if they are cementing their losses by this type of behavior.

  12. Stonetools says:

    Maybe the public has finally figured out that when Fox and talk radio call these kerfuffles a “scandal”-there are probably not scandals.
    Frankly, it’s going to be hard to take the Republicans seriously should an actual scandal comes along.
    What’s more serious to me is that Republicans are now lying in order to make these things more ” scandalous”. I guess that’s the next step-create these “scandals” out of whole cloth.

  13. gVOR08 says:

    Many of our Very Serious People beltway pundits are pointing out the danger to Obama of this stuff feeding a narrative of incompetence and disengagement. They might consider the flip side. This stuff also feeds a narrative of Republican overreach and mindless opposition.

  14. Argon says:

    There has to be a “boy who cries ‘Wolf!'” component to the disinterest.

  15. Gromitt Gunn says:

    Benghazi, the IRS thing, the AP things aren’t being treated as scandals because, well, they aren’t. An actual Presidency-killing scandal requires some sort of systemic coverup of malfeasance reaching up to the Oval Office or the Cabinet. If there’s an Inspector General’s Report, and that report gets into the media, and the Administration’s response is “Yep, there’s something here that we need to look into,” that’s not *scandal,* that’s an example of how governmental accountability is supposed to work.

    People are imperfect. They make mistakes and errors of judgement and try to cover their asses afterwards. That’s why we have a GAO and auditors and Inspectors General and convene Special Inquiries – because these things *will* happen. Its the reaction to their occurence – and the appropriateness of that reaction to the actual matter at hand (see: Clinton impeachment) – that determines whether it is a scandal or a mishap. So far all of the these “scandals” the GOP is flogging fall into the mishap category.

  16. C. Clavin says:

    Hard for the public to focus on somehting that exists only in the minds of do-nothing Republicanist Congress Critters and the Right Wing Entertainment Complex.
    Besides…everyone was distracted by the 37th vote to repeal Obamacare.

  17. C. Clavin says:

    JKB…
    Please provide a link for this…which you put in a quote box:

    “…The government is so big how can Obama be expected to govern it or see that it is properly run, even with any Democratic operative he wants to help him. Now, here is our plan to make government even larger and have more control over your life…”

    Or were you lying again?

  18. Cynic in me says the lack of public interest is even worse than the poll results indicated, because a lot of the respondents had no idea what the “IRS/Benghazi Situations” were, but said they were following them closely anyways, because they didn’t want to sound uninformed to the pollster.

  19. C. Clavin says:

    On the other hand…Republicans keep killing themselves…so it may be there just aren’t that many left to pay attention to the pretend scandals.
    http://www.thedenverchannel.com/news/front-range/federal-heights/witnesses-anastasia-adair-was-handing-assault-rifle-to-husband-when-it-fired-striking-her-in-head

  20. wr says:

    Maybe you really can’t fool all the people all the time.

  21. rudderpedals says:

    @C. Clavin: What a waste. Sad, sad news story.

  22. Spartacus says:

    @JKB:

    Benghazi is a competence scandal and of most import, which Democrats were able to blunt, in the election as it goes less to malevolence and more to competency for office.

    So now you tell us. I don’t know why I thought Benghazi was about Obama’s supposed refusal to label the attack “terrorism.”

  23. stonetools says:

    @rudderpedals:

    Yet another “responsible gun owner” responsibly handling their responsibly acquired firearms. Looks like the #GUNFAIL Twitter Thread will never lack for examples of gun owner “responsibility”.
    And while Republicans futz around with these fake scandals, 4,155 Americans have died by gun homicide since the Newton tragedy. It almost seems that the Republicans are deliberately distracting Americans from real problems like gun homicides, jobs, and immigration reform by kicking up dust about these “scandals”.

  24. C. Clavin says:

    JKB…

    “…Benghazi is a competence scandal…”

    Republicanists are incompetent policy makers so they look anywhere they can to creat fake scandals.
    For more see Darrell Issa…this generations Ken Starr

  25. michael reynolds says:

    @Spartacus:

    It was about cover-up until it turned out there was no cover-up. Now it’s about competency. And it was about Obama, but that wasn’t gaining any traction, so now it’s about Hillary. If that doesn’t work it may end up involving aliens.

  26. anjin-san says:

    As others have pointed out, Benghazi and the AP affair are not scandals, they are simply right wing hysteria. Attempts by Republicans to cripple the state dept. may be an actual scandal, they are trying to undermine the diplomatic arm of our government during a time of war. Aid and comfort to the enemy? You be the judge.

    There is a bit more to the IRS thing, but there is zero evidence that it reaches the White House. A government agency got a little out of control and is not being brought back under control.

  27. anjin-san says:

    @ JKB

    “…Benghazi is a competence scandal…”

    I think a lot of us would certainly that a competent majority in the house would not cut funding for embassy and consulate security in this era of terrorist attacks. Given the long record of such attacks during the Bush years, you would think it’s a no-brainer.

  28. @stonetools:

    It almost seems that the Republicans are deliberately distracting Americans from real problems like gun homicides, jobs, and immigration reform by kicking up dust about these “scandals”.

    Our current crop of Republicans only care about scandals in the Democrat years. When they’re in power, they start unnecessary wars, complain about stem cells and gay people, and give the rich a tax cut.

    I have to say……I prefer these bogus scandals.

  29. Caj says:

    Republicans love all this stuff. It stops them from doing the people’s work!! Yet we hear so often from them: what the American people want…..well, the American people want those lazy dumb fools to get to work and stop with all this nonsensical crap. To think these people are being paid for doing diddly squat except keep repealing Obamacare for the zillionth time! I tell you, Republicans live in a parallel universe where only they matter and the idiots who support them.
    How the country runs when the President only has fools like them to work with I’ll never know!!

  30. David M says:

    It’s the boy Party that cried wolf. How are people supposed to know when the GOP finally finds a real scandal, when they have been pushing nonsense for the several years?

  31. C. Clavin says:

    @ Michael Reynolds…
    It’s about Unicorns. And their tears.

  32. C. Clavin says:

    @ Stonetools…

    “…It almost seems that the Republicans are deliberately distracting Americans from real problems like gun homicides, jobs, and immigration reform by kicking up dust about these “scandals”…”

    Yeah…almost.
    Like the Hidenburg almost caught fire.

  33. stonetools says:

    If the Memeorandum front page is anything to go by:

    1. The AP issue has completely disappeared off the Memeorandum front page. I predict that by Monday it would have lapsed into near oblivion. Its over as a “scandal”.

    2. Commentary on the Benghazi issue is now focused on Republican dishonesty about White House emails. Understandably, right wingers don’t want to discuss this (note that Doug has yet to post on this). It appears that conservatives are now on the defensive about Benghazi for the first time. Unless there is some bombshell regarding Administration misconduct, Benghazi seems just about done as an issue that Republicans can exploit. They will continue to try of course, but then liberals can point out Republican lies and ask why should we take Republican allegations at face value.

    3. The IRS issue is the current right wing cause celebre. Yet this may create a problem down the line for Republicans. Do Republicans really want an investigation into whether these tea party groups, or Crossroads USA, are really “social welfare organizations” ? I don’t think most Americans view Crossroads USA as any such thing, and would say that they aren’t entitled to 501(C)4 privileges regarding donor lists. This “scandalization” of the IRS issue may backfire on Republicans.

  34. C. Clavin says:

    You know…the IRS thing is kinda funny…because all these tea baggers were up in arms about the black President…their organizations were rooted in discrimination…it was their raison d’etre…and now they are PO’ed because they were discriminated against.
    Where’s Tsar…he might grasp the irony.

  35. rudderpedals says:

    @stonetools: The facts in this article are just awful. They’re a beautiful couple, the young lady had her whole life ahead of her and just bought this thing at a gun show, had fun shooting the rifle the day before she died. Somehow this weapon left the range with a round chambered and at least two more rounds in the magazine (three shots were fired in the basement). This weapon, it sits in the house, loaded, and the now soused lady passes it down to soused hubby in the basement probably by holding onto the barrel with the damned thing pointing at her face. At least two people in that basement were clueless and totally without any idea as to best practices. I think you’re right however that there will not be regulation or reasonable competency requirements or anything because second amendment.

  36. stonetools says:

    @rudderpedals:

    I think you’re right however that there will not be regulation or reasonable competency requirements or anything because second amendment.

    As Dave Waldman says, a gun owner is responsible right up to time when… they’re not responsible. This tragedy drives home yet again the point that firearms are death machines and they are not forgiving of the kind of mistakes that humans are prone to make.
    Don’t worry, though, I’m sure that JKB and others will be along to tell us that lax gun safety regulation is working precisely as it should.

  37. rachel says:

    Ana Marie Cox:

    Republicans are not so much acting like the “boy who cried wolf” as the “boy who cried and cried and just wouldn’t stop crying”.