CBS Poll: Clinton Still Favored

As proceedings for an impeachment inquiry get underway, President Bill Clinton's job approval rating remains high. In fact, findings from the most recent CBS News poll showed the lowest percentages calling for the President's impeachment and resignation of any such survey conducted this year.

A total of 67 percent still approve of the job the President is doing compared to the 28 percent that does not. And 50 percent still have a favorable opinion of Mr. Clinton. However, results also indicated that the public is not against dishing out some kind of Congressional slap on the wrist to the president.

Perhaps buoyed by his actions in last week's crisis with Iraq, Clinton's personal favorability rating, which had been negative since he testified before Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr's grand jury in August, is now clearly positive.

In contrast, by more than two to one, the public holds an unfavorable view of the independent counsel and describes his investigation as "partisan." That assessment of Starr, who has remained unheard by many in the public so far, could of course change as he presents his case to the House Judiciary Committee and to the American public.

Americans seem somewhat prepared to oppose the independent counsel as well as the Republican majority on the committee. Though Starr in his opening statement describes a pattern of obstruction by the White House beyond the Lewinsky matter, only 41 percent of the public agreed with him. A narrow margin of 49 percent preferred the impeachment inquiry be limited to the Lewinsky-related charges.

Skepticism about the motives for Thursday's inquiry match the public's skepticism about Kenneth Starr himself. A total of 56 percent think the Republicans in Congress are proceeding with the inquiry mostly to damage President Clinton and the Democrats. Only 34 percent think it is because the charges are serious enough to warrant the inquiry.

There are also continued public suspicions that partisan politics are to blame for the entire situation. While 46 percent blame Clinton himself, nearly as many, 42 percent, blame Clinton's enemies for creating the current situation.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry Hyde is little known among the American public. Nearly eight in ten don't have an opinion of the Illinois Republican. Those who do are evenly divided, favorable and unfavorable.

With the President's ratings so high, and with serious doubts about his accusers, there is even less appetite than before the election among Americans to seriously punish Clinton for his actions involving the Lewinsky matter. Only about 26 percent believe the charges are serious enough to warran impeachment. A total of 19 percent think it would be better for the country if he resigned. (These are the lowest percentages calling for impeachment and resignation in any CBS News Poll conducted this year.)

However, Congressional censure of the President is preferred by almost half, 49 percent, of the public.

In this poll, the First Lady maintains a two to one favorable opinion rating, which has been much the case since the early part of the year when the first allegations of the Lewinsky matter emerged.

A total 48 percent say they have a favorable opinion of Hillary Rodham Clinton. A total of 24 percent are unfavorable.

This poll was conducted among a nationwide random sample of 1,118 adults by telephone November 16-17, 1998. The error due to sampling could be plus or minus three percentage points for results based on the entire sample.
Our Full Coverage
of this Ongoing Story