Survey: Most Americans Want Independent Counsel
But a new poll also shows people trust Reno's judgment in the campaign fund-raising probe
By Keating Holland/CNN
WASHINGTON (Nov. 24) -- A majority of Americans want Attorney General Janet Reno to appoint an independent counsel to investigate President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore, but are willing to give her the benefit of the doubt if she decides against it, according to a new CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll.
If Reno does not appoint an independent counsel for Clinton, only 36 percent say that protecting Clinton would be the main reason for that decision. Instead, 57 percent say the main reason would be that she did not think it was necessary based on the facts in the case. For Gore, the numbers were almost identical.
Support for an independent counsel in either case has dropped somewhat since October; nonetheless about six in 10 Americans favor appointing one.
The numbers are based on interviews with 1,019 adult conducted Nov. 21-23, and the survey has a margin of sampling error of +/- 3 to 5 percentage points, depending on the question.
Here are the numbers:
When they were asked what they thought the reasons would be if Reno decided not to appoint an independent counsel to investigate the fund-raising practices of Clinton and Gore, these were the results:
Skeptical on Iraq policy
On another subject, the survey found the public thinks the U.S. response to Iraq has been too weak, and a majority thinks that Iraq won in the current crisis over U.N. weapons inspectors. Nonetheless, 54 percent approve of the way the situation was resolved.
What does the future hold? A majority believe that only military force will prevent Iraq from developing weapons of mass destruction; just a quarter say that the current arrangements will do so. And 86 percent predict Saddam Hussein will eventually provoke another crisis. Only one in 10 believe that he will comply with U.N. resolutions in the future.
No support for assassination
Despite those views, a majority of people surveyed now oppose assassinating Saddam Hussein (60 percent favored that option during the Persian Gulf War), and just 37 percent feel that the U.N. should maintain economic sanctions until he is removed from power. Fifty-five percent say that the sanctions should be lifted when Iraq complies with U.N. resolutions, even if Saddam is still running the country. Three-quarters, however, believe it was a mistake to end the Persian Gulf War before he was removed from power.
Clinton's approval rating stays steady
What about Bill Clinton? Fifty-nine percent approve of how he is handling the situation in Iraq, and 55 percent approve of how he is handling foreign policy overall. But that has not had a significant effect on his overall approval rating. In all, 61 percent approve of how Clinton is handling his job as president, an increase of two points since the first week in November. The 61 percent figure is only one point lower than Clinton's all-time high, which he reached just before his second inauguration.
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