Clinton's Popularity Is Sky High

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President Bill Clinton's stature among the American public remains exceptionally high. In the latest CBS News Poll conducted Sunday, the president retains record-level approval and personal favorability ratings.

Seventy-two percent of the public approves of the way Clinton is handling his job; 51 percent say they have a favorable opinion of him.

A key factor in Clinton's strong showing appears to be the fact that most Americans regard the president's relationship with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky as a private matter.

Sixty-one percent view the relationship as private. Less than a third say the relationship is a public matter related to Clinton's job as president.

Another factor is the public's belief that partisan politics are to blame for much of this scandal. And people are now as likely to say frenzied media coverage is the thing that bothers them most about this situation as to say Clinton's lying bothers them most.

Other highlights of the poll include:

Public support for media coverage of the president's problems is dropping fast. In just four days, the number of Americans who say the media is doing a good job on the story has dipped from 68 percent to 54 percent. Seventy-three percent say the media is spending too much time on the matter.

A majority of Americans (55 percent) believe independent counsel Kenneth Starr's investigation of the president is mostly partisan. Only 30 percent say it is impartial. Among those who have formed an opinion of Starr, he is viewed unfavorably by a margin of almost 3-1. Last week, the margin was about 2-1.

First lady Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, maintained a favorable rating of more than 2-1.

A substantial majority (78 percent) think that Clinton is right to wait until Starr's investigation is completed before saying more about the allegations. Only 17 percent want the president to say more about the allegations now.

The public sees Clinton as more believable than Monica Lewinsky, but most Americans feel that both the president and the former White House intern are either hiding something or lying. Fifty-one percent said Clinton had been mostly truthful but was hiding something. Forty-three percent had the same opinion of Lewinsky.

The poll was conducted among a nationwide random sample of 620 adults by telephone February 1, 1998. The error due to sampling could be plus or minus four percentage points for results based on the entire sample.

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