While the allegations of sexual misconduct by the president may not be far from the respondents' minds, most do not specifically mention them when asked why they rate the president overall the way they do.
Those who approve of the way Bill Clinton is handling his job cite three main reasons: that he is continuing to do his job (mention by 35 percent of those who approve), that the economy is doing well (25 percent), and Iraq (11 percent). Those who disapprove point to concerns about Clinton's moral values (28 percent), his honesty (22 percent), and Iraq (11 percent). Less than one in 10 of those who disapprove of the way the president is handling his job specifically mention the current scandal (or other specific scandals) the main reason they feel the way they do.
In this poll, slightly more claim to be following news about the situation in Iraq closely (80 percent) than say they are closely following news about claims that Clinton had an affair with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky and then encouraged her to lie about it (71 percent). On nearly all specific questions about the scandal, there has been little change in opinion in the last week.
One possible reason for the lack of movement in opinion about this matter is that many Americans say that, whatever happened, it is something that the American people do not need to know about and that they personally do not want to know about. By two to one, they say the public does not need to know; by three to one they say they do not want to know.
In fact, one in three of those who think this is something the public needs to know about say that personally they do not want to know. This feeling is especially strong for women, and for those 65 and older. This finding agrees with earlier poll findings that suggest that Americans view this as a private matter, and the continuing poll findings that the public is willing to wait until the investigation is completed for the president to say more about it.
This poll was conducted among a nation-wide random sample of 484 adults, interviewed by telephone February 17, 1998. They had first been interviewed on February 8. 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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