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CBS Poll: 73% Approval For Clinton

Saturday may have been an historic day, but even the vote in the U.S. House of Representatives to approve two articles of impeachment against President Bill Clinton did little to change the pattern of public opinion about the President and his future in office.

After the impeachment vote this weekend, CBS News and The New York Times re-interviewed 1,341 adults first interviewed the week before. Few minds were changed by the impeachment vote. Large majorities of Americans continue to approve of the way Bill Clinton is handling his job as President, reject calls for his resignation, and disapprove of the vote to impeach. In addition, there are now clearly negative opinions of the Republican Party and the partisan nature of the vote.

WHAT LIES AHEAD?

By more than two to one, Americans think it would NOT be better for the country if President Clinton resigned. In the wake of the vote, 31% think resignation is the preferred alternative. Those numbers have changed little since last week and have remained virtually the same since January. Moreover, the vast majority of the public takes Mr. Clinton at his word when he insists he will NOT resign. Only 5% think he will.


Clinton and Resignation
Resign
Should Happen
31%
Will Happen
5%

Remain In Office
Should Happen
66%
Will Happen
92%

The sentiment against resignation is echoed in the disapproval of the House vote to impeach (38% approve, 61% disapprove) and in the desire to avoid a Senate trial. Only 30% say they want the Senate to hold a trial, while 66% would prefer to have some compromise worked out before one egan. And if there IS a trial, the public rejects conviction and removal from office by a 68% to 27% margin. However, despite the majority preference to avoid a trial, 54% expect that the Senate WILL hold one. Less than a third expect the trial to end up with a conviction.


Senate Trial Or Compromise
Senate Trial
Should Happen
30%
Will Happen
54%

Compromise Before Trial
Should Happen
66%
Will Happen
37%

One reason Americans may oppose a Senate trial is that 55% believe a trial might have serious negative consequences for the country. But another reason is clearly because many people don't think a trial is necessary. By 58% to 39%, the public agrees with the statement that impeachment is punishment enough and the matter should now be dropped.

In fact, when four choices are given to respondents, most choose less punishment rather than more. Two in three favor a compromise or just dropping the matter, while a quarter want Clinton to resign before any Senate action. Only 9% favor a trial when given these four options.


What Should Happen now?
Compromise
37%
Drop The Matter
29%
Resignation Before Trial
24%
Senate Trial
9%

PRESIDENTIAL APPROVAL HIGH AMIDST HISTORIC IMPEACHMENT

Throughout most of this year, more than six in ten adults have approved of the way the President has handled his job. Approval has occasionally risen even higher, as the public rallies to Bill Clinton in times of crisis. This rally effect has happened in the wake of the impeachment crisis.

In this poll, 73% approve of the way he is handling his job, up five points since last week among these same respondents. This 73% approval rating is the same record-high rating President Clinton received in January immediately after his State of the Union address just days after the revelation of the Monica Lewinsky scandal. As for his continued effectiveness in office after being impeached, 68% say Clinton can still be an effective President.

Even Clinton's overall personal ratings have risen. In this weekend poll, 52% now say they have a favorable opinion of him, compared with 46% who said so last week.

REPUBLICAN WORRIES

More than six in ten think the Republican votes to impeach Bill Clinton were motivated more by a desire to weaken him and the Democrats than by the belief that he had committed serious crimes.

Other judgments of the Republican Party in this poll are equally negative. 63% view the Republican Congressional leadership as out of touch with the American public on the impeachment issue.

And the overall image of the Republican Party may have suffered because of this. 59% express an UNFAVORABLE view of the Republican Party, an increase from 54% among the same respondents last week, and the highest figure since CBS News and The New York Times began asking this question in 1984. By comparison, favorable opinions of the Democratic Party rose to 63% from 58% last week, the highest favorable rating for Democrats in the same period.

Overall assessment of Congress remains mainly unchanged. After the vote, 42% approve of the way Congress is doing its job; 53% disapprove.

TWO TO ONE MARGINS: THE REPUBLICAN AND DEMOCRATIC DIVIDE IN OPINION

For most of this year, there has been a consistent division among the public on the issues surrounding impeachmen. About twice as many adults have supported Bill Clinton's remaining in office as have wanted him to leave by either resignation or by removal from office. However, about three in ten Americans who want to see Bill Clinton resign or be removed from office is a significant minority.

There is a clear and consistent partisan division here. Republicans, by about two to one, oppose Bill Clinton on ALL questions. Democrats overwhelmingly support him. So do independents, though by a smaller margin.

Impeachment supporters, however, express more concern about this whole situation. Overall, 63% of the public say the impeachment issue is a matter of great importance to the country. But the number rises to 78% among those who approved of the House vote to impeach. Among those who disapproved of the impeachment vote, just 54% described the matter as of great importance to the country.


This poll was conducted among a nationwide random sample of 1,341 adults interviewed by telephone December 19-20, 1998. Interviewing began on Saturday afternoon AFTER the U.S. House of Representatives approved two articles of impeachment against President Clinton. These respondents were first interviewed December 13-15, and December 17, 1998. The error due to sampling could be plus or minus three percentage points for results based on the entire sample. The margin of error for sub-samples is higher.
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