In the first hours after the historic vote for two articles of impeachment against President Bill Clinton in the U.S. House of Representatives, American public opinion registered no change in sentiment about the president, about the process, and about whether or not President Clinton should finish his term in office.
CBS News and The New York Times re-interviewed a nationwide random sample of 499 adults (who were first interviewed last week) on Saturday afternoon, after the House vote but before the President's statement at the White House. Three in four of those interviewed had already learned of the vote to impeach before being interviewed.
However, few minds were changed from the opinions respondents had originally expressed last week. Only 5% said their opinions about impeachment were affected at all by the House debate.
On Saturday, immediately after the House vote, by more than two to one, respondents said they thought it would be better for the country if Bill Clinton finished his term as President. Last week, these same respondents gave almost identical answers on the question of resignation.
|Would it be better for the country|
if Bill Clinton resigned?
|After Vote||Yes - 31%||No - 66%|
|Last Week||Yes - 29%||No - 69%|
Last week, when asked hypothetically if articles of impeachment were sent to the Senate, 41% of today's respondents said last week that hypothetically it would be better for the country if President Clinton resigned in that circumstance. When interviewed after the House approved that action -- that is, when the hypothetical became real -- more than a third of them took the opposite view on resignation.
|Can Clinton still be an effective president?|
|Yes - 69%||No - 29%|
Looking Ahead To A Senate Trial
In the immediate wake of the House transferring the impeachment papers to the Senate, the public would like to avoid a Sente trial if possible. Nearly six in ten fear a trial would have serious negative consequences for the country. Perhaps because of this, 63% say they would prefer that a compromise, like censure or a fine, be worked out instead of holding a trial. However, just about the same number say they expect the Senate won't compromise and that there will be a trial.
Senate Trial or Compromise?
This poll was conducted among a nationwide random sample of 661 adults, interviewed by telephone on the afternoon of December 19, 1998, after the U.S. House of Representatives approved two articles of impeachment against President Bill Clinton. The respondents had first been interviewed December 13-15, and December 17, 1998. The error due to sampling could be plus or minus four percentage points for results based on the entire sample.
Note: Trend totals listed in the attached results represent what this group of 499 respondents said last week and are not the total results based on the full 1,992 December 13-17 sample.