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CBS Poll: Public Wants 'No' Vote

By 55 percent to 40 percent, Americans say they would prefer that their representative vote against beginning a formal impeachment inquiry, according to the latest CBS News poll. A majority of the public continues to oppose either resignation or removing the president from office, but 54 percent want to see the president punished in some way and would not be satisfied if no action were taken against him.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry Hyde has stated that he hopes to have the matter resolved by the end of the year, but most Americans do not believe that will happen. Two-thirds think the process will last beyond the year, and most of those would blame partisan bickering for the delay - not the difficulty of the overall matter.

How Should Your Rep. Vote?


There is no clear public sentiment on what an impeachment inquiry should cover. Forty-nine percent would like to see it limited to charges detailed in the independent counsel's report on the Monica Lewinsky matter, while 45 percent think it should include other matters as well. Most of those who favor an inquiry at all favor an expanded one.

Public support for an impeachment inquiry has much to do with how individuals view the entire situation. Forty-nine percent of the public would describe the whole situation as being mostly about sex, and this group overwhelmingly opposes an impeachment inquiry. But 42 percent say it is mostly about whether or not the president committed any impeachable offenses. This group supports an inquiry.


What Should Inquiry Cover?


There is evidence from a CBS News poll conducted last week that many Americans don't yet understand the impeachment process. Only 46 percent knew that a vote of impeachment by the House would not automatically result in the president's removal from office. Despite that, opinions seem hardened, and there has been little change in the proportions favoring or opposing various punishments over the last several months.

Another indication of hardening of opinion was the relatively low percentage that chose to watch the Judiciary Committee debate and vote on Monday. Only 24 percent said they had watched any of it, and most of those had seen less than half or just news stories about the debate. In contrast, two weeks ago, 70 percent reported having seen the president's videotaped grand jury testimony.

A majority of Americans would like to see the president punished in some way for his actions, but most of the public stops short of recommending he be removed from office. Only 43 percent say they would be satisfied if no action were taken against the president.

When asked about specific actions, less than a third say that Mr. Clinton's actions were serious enough to warrant his being impeached and removed from office. A similar percentage say it would be best for the country if he resigned. A majority say they would support censure.

One reason that most Americans want Mr. Clinton to continue in office may be that two-thirds continue to say that, despite it all, the president can still be an effective president.

This poll was conducted among a nationwide random sample of 471 adults, interviewed by telephone October 7, 1998. The error due to sampling could be plus or minus five percentage points for results based on the entire sample.
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