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 TIME on politics Congressional Quarterly CNN/AllPolitics CNN/AllPolitics - Storypage, with TIME and Congressional Quarterly

Poll: Public skeptical about Senate Republicans

By Keating Holland/CNN

January 23, 1999
Web posted at: 12:03 p.m. EDT (1203 GMT)

WASHINGTON (January 23) -- Most Americans disapprove of how the Republicans in the Senate are handling the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton, and that may be giving him an advantage over the GOP on important public policy issues, according to a new CNN/TIME Poll.

Also in this poll:

Only 37 percent of the public approves of Senate Republicans' handling of the trial, while 54 percent disapprove, the survey found.

A majority of the public trusts Clinton more than the Republicans in Congress when it comes to Social Security, Medicare, education and tobacco policy.

Even on taxes, traditionally an issue that works well for congressional Republicans, half the country says that they trust Clinton more than the GOP in Congress.

Although the public trusts Clinton more on Social Security, not everything the president proposed on that topic in his January 19 State of the Union speech meets with public approval.

A majority agrees with Clinton that most of the budget surplus should be set aside for Social Security, rather than being used to lower taxes. But only a third believe that a portion of the Social Security trust fund should be invested in the stock market, as Clinton proposed.

The CNN/TIME Poll is based on interviews with 1,024 adult Americans conducted January 20-21, and has a margin of sampling error of +/- 3 percentage points, except for one question asked of a subsample of Democrats.

Here are the poll's questions and results:

Do you approve or disapprove of how the Republicans in the Senate are handling the impeachment trial of President Clinton?

Approve 37%
Disapprove 54

Do you approve or disapprove of how the Democrats in the Senate are handling the impeachment trial of President Clinton?

Approve 49%
Disapprove 40

Who do you trust more on each of the following issues -- President Clinton or the Republicans in Congress?

 ClintonGOP
Education59%29%
Social Security5631
Tobacco5128
Taxes5035

Do you think next year's federal budget surplus -- where the government takes in more money than it spends -- should all be set aside to strengthen Social Security, mostly be set aside for Social Security, mostly be used to lower taxes, or all be used to lower taxes?

Strengthen Social Security 61%
Lower taxes 31

Thinking about Social Security, do you favor or oppose allowing the federal government to invest a portion of the Social Security trust fund in the U.S. stock market?

Favor 33%
Oppose 57

Some bad news for Clinton

For Clinton himself, what a difference a year makes. Last January, Americans respected Clinton but felt that the Monica Lewinsky controversy was interfering with his duties as president. Now, Americans do not believe that the controversy is interfering with his duties, but they do not respect him.

More bad news for Clinton: nearly three-quarters of the public think Clinton will be remembered for the controversies surrounding his personal life. Then why does the public oppose his removal from office? Because 73 percent say that Clinton's relationship with Lewinsky is a private matter. Only a quarter believes that it is a legal matter that should be further explored in public.

Regardless of how you feel about his political views, would you say you respect President Clinton, or don't you feel that way?

 NowJanuary 1998
Yes, respect Clinton48%59%
No, don't feel that way5037

In your view, are the allegations about Clinton's sex life interfering with his duties as the president?

 NowJanuary 1998
Yes43%53%
No5544

All things considered, 25 years from now do you think Bill Clinton will be remembered more for his accomplishments as president, or the controversies over his personal life and financial dealings?

Controversies 72%
Accomplishments 18

Do you think Clinton's sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky is a private matter between Clinton and his family, or do you think this is a legal matter that should be explored further in public?

Private matter 73%
Explored further in public 24

Campaign 2000

Who do Democrats want to nominate to replace Bill Clinton in 2000? Not surprisingly, Vice President Al Gore remains the Democratic front-runner, winning support from 44 percent of Democrats nationwide in a hypothetical five-candidate field.

Distant runners-up include Jesse Jackson and former New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley.

How would Bradley fare against GOP front-runner George W. Bush? Bush would win 52 percent of the vote from all Americans if the 2000 election were held today; 38 percent would choose Bradley.

Thinking ahead to the year 2000, if you were asked to vote for a Democratic nominee for president today, which of the following Democrats would you vote for?

Al Gore 44%
Jesse Jackson 17
Bill Bradley 12
Dick Gephardt 9
John Kerry 3
Sampling error: +/-5% pts

Suppose the electon for president in the year 2000 were being held today, and you had to choose between former New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley, the Democrat, and Texas Gov. George W. Bush, the Republican. For whom would you vote, Bradley or Bush?

George W. Bush 52%
Bill Bradley 38