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CBS Poll: No Executive Privilege

The White House claim of executive privilege is rejected by most Americans, but a majority also agrees that discussions between a president and his aides can be similar to lawyer-client discussions.
When the public has been asked directly about invoking executive privilege, whatever the circumstances, most have rejected it. In this poll, 54 percent want the White House to drop its claim of executive privilege for White House discussions and answer all questions about the allegations of sexual misconduct and lying.

Thirty-six percent support this claim of privilege. Similar percentages were recorded in 1986 by the Gallup Organization, which asked the questions when there were suggestions that the Reagan administration might invoke executive privilege in response to the Iran-Contra investigations.

Click here for an explanation of executive privilege by CBS News Legal Correspondent Kristin Jeannette-Meyers.


Should White House Claim Executive Privilege?

NOW

1986

Yes

36%

36%

No

54%

54%



The opposition to executive privilege may stem as much from the words themselves as from the concept of confidentiality between President and aides.

Fifty-three percent see a similarity between internal White House conversations and the lawyer-client relationship, agreeing that the confidentiality of discussions in both situations is similar. Thirty-six percent disagree with that.


Is Confidentiality of White House Discussions Like Lawyer Client Confidentiality?

Yes

53%

No

36%


This apparent conflict on the question of White House confidentiality is mirrored in the public's reaction to at least one other aspect of the scandal.

More than two-thirds say they are satisfied to wait for Bill Clinton to say more about the allegations about his relationship with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky until the investigation into those allegations is complete. And by nearly two to one, Americans view the situation more as a private than a public matter, having to do with the President's personal life and not with his job.

Still, most Americans think that honesty would be the best policy. By 53-43 percent, they say the president has a responsibility to be completely truthful in public when questioned about his sexual conduct.

KEN STARR AND THE CLINTONS

There has been little change in public attitudes towards Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr. Nearly twice as many people say he is conducting a partisan investigation as say his investigation is an impartial attempt to find out if anything illegal occurred.

Most want him to drop his investigation of the President's relationship with Monica Lewinsky. But only a third think he should drop the other Whitewater investigations.


Starr's Investigations

Lewinsky

Other Matters

Drop

57%

34%

Continue

37%>

50%


When the first allegations surfaced, approval of Bill Clinton's performance rose. Since then, his approval rating has remained fairly steady. In this poll, 64 percent approve of the way he is handling his job as President. Thirty percent disapprove.

Most of those who disapprove cite scandal-related reasons-- lack of morality, lying, and the scandal itself. But the biggest reason for approval of Clinton given by respondents is that he is doing his job in spite of the allegations - remaining focused and not being affected by the allegations. That reason for approval outpaces even the strong U.S. economy among respondent justifications.

In January, 41 percent said the issue was one of great importance to the nation. By February, that figure had declined. Now, only 25 percent describe the situation as one of great importance to the nation.

Opinions about the first lady had soared in response to the allegations and her reaction to them. In February, Mrs. Clinton's favorable ratings were her best ever -- 50 percent had a favorable opinion of her, 25 percent an unfavorable one.

Currently, her favorable ratings look more like those she received last December, before the scandal. And the gender gap is striking: by two to one, women view her favorably, while men are evenly divided.




This poll was conducted among a nationwide random sample of 823 adults interviewed by telephone May 6-7, 1998. The error due to sampling could be plus or minus three percentage points for results based on the entire sample.

©1998, CBS Worldwide Inc., All Rights Reserved

Opinion Of Hillary Clinton

 

NOW

2/98

12/97

Favorable

39%

50%

39%

Unfavorable

27%

25%

33%