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Americans Skeptical Of Iraq, Starr

Public approval of Bill Clinton's performance as president remains high, with 64 percent saying they approve of the way he's handling the job. Just about as many, 62 percent, approve of the way he's handling the situation with Iraq.

And another week's worth of the investigation into the president's relationship with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky apparently has changed few minds about the president's role, or practices of Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr.

Clinton's 64 percent approval rating, while still high, has dropped from the 73 percent he received immediately following his January State of the Union address. Most of the president's job approval loss comes from Republicans, whose approval of Clinton's job performance has been above 50 percent in some recent polls. In this poll, 38 percent of Republicans approve of the way Bill Clinton is handling his job.

Iraq: Little Trust For Saddam
Nearly three-quarters of Americans favor the U.N.-negotiated agreement that allows United Nations weapons inspectors full access to Iraqi sites that may contain weapons of mass destruction. The public favors the agreement even though 82 percent don't expect Saddam Hussein to live up to it.

Americans appear to favor both the carrot and the stick in dealing with Saddam Hussein. A majority would favor lifting economic sanctions against Iraq, if Iraq complies with the agreement. But an even larger majority would support immediate U.S. bombing if Iraq doesn't comply.

But it's the U.S. military, not the United Nations, that gets most of the credit for Iraq's acceptance of the agreement. By nearly three to one, Americans say it was the U.S. military presence, not the diplomatic effort of the U.N. Secretary General, Kofi Annan, that made the difference.

Most Americans don't expect the situation to be resolved in the immediate future. In fact, more than half expect the U.S. military to have to remain in the Gulf area more than a year, just to ensure Saddam Hussein complies with the agreement he signed.

Lewinsky And Starr
Favorable ratings of President Clinton, which have ranged from a low of 34 percent when the scandal began to a high of 57 percent in the last two weeks, have slipped again. Now 44 percent express a favorable opinion. Again, much of the drop comes from Republicans.

While the public may have doubts about Clinton's personal character, they currently express great antagonism to Starr's tactics. Only 12 percent rate Starr favorably, and only 27 percent believe Starr is conducting an impartial investigation. And 55 percent, slightly higher than last week, think Starr should drop his investigation now.

Other measures show little change. Americans are more likely than not to think that Bill Clinton had an affair with Moica Lewinsky, but are divided on whether he encouraged her to lie about it under oath. By 49 percent to 35 percent, Americans think the While House has made things worse by its reactions. A majority [52 percent] think Clinton has a responsibility to be truthful about his sex life when asked in public about it.

But by 54 percent to 33 percent, the public also thinks that Clinton's political enemies, not Clinton himself, are more to blame for creating the situation. A majority continue to say that if all the allegations are true, Clinton should either apologize, or just go on and not leave office.

The Paula Jones Case
It was depositions taken for Paula Jones' sexual harassment case that began the latest crisis. Opinion about that case shifted only slightly in January. Now, 36 percent say Clinton is probably guilty, while 30 percent say he's probably not guilty. The rest continue to withhold judgment.
This poll was conducted among a nation-wide random sample of 782 adults, interviewed by telephone March 1-2, 1998. The error due to sampling could be plus or minus four percentage points for results based on the entire sample; the error on individual change is much smaller.

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