Most Americans say the way Hillary Clinton handled her email as secretary of state is an important indicator of her character, a reversal since March when it was first revealed she used a private email server to conduct government business.
But a larger majority believe the committee investigating the Benghazi attacks is using that investigation for political gain, according to a new survey.
The new CNN/ORC poll comes as Clinton is set to testify Thursday before the House Select Committee on Benghazi, amid questions raised about the panel’s goals after a whistle-blower told CNN’s Jake Tapper its primary focus was exposing negative information about Clinton.
While most Americans say they are dissatisfied with Clinton’s handling of the Benghazi attack, an even larger majority feels the committee is “mostly using the investigation to gain political advantage,” rather than conducting an objective investigation.
Still, asked another way, 51% say the committee is handling the investigation “appropriately” and has not gone too far. All of these questions provoke massive partisan divides.
Overall, 54% say they think the way Clinton handled her email as secretary of state is an important indicator of her character and ability to serve as president, 43% say it isn’t relevant. That’s a reversal since March, when 52% said it wasn’t relevant.
Given partisan divides on the question, it may not harm Clinton in the race for the Democratic nomination, but could become a bigger issue should she make it to the general election. In the new poll, 70% of Democrats see it as irrelevant, including 77% of Democratic voters who say they back Clinton in the race for the Democratic nomination. Among independents and Republicans, however, majorities see it as a meaningful indicator of her character: 57% of independents and 80% of Republicans say so.
Despite those concerns, 72% of all Americans say they see the Benghazi committee as mostly using its investigative mission for political gain, just 23% think it is conducting an objective investigation. Even Republicans are skeptical on this measure, with 49% saying the committee is trying to score political points vs. 47% who say it is conducting an objective investigation. Among Democrats, 85% see it as seeking political advantage and among independents that stands at 75%.
On the more general question of whether the committee has gone too far, opinions are more mixed. Women are more apt than men to say the committee has gone too far (48% among women, 31% among men), and Democrats are more likely to say it has overreached than Republicans (71% of Democrats think it has gone too far, 74% of Republicans that it has acted appropriately).
Dissatisfaction with Clinton’s handling of Benghazi is widespread, 59% are dissatisfied, 36% satisfied. Among Democrats, 63% say they are satisfied, but large majorities of Republicans (85%) and independents (65%) say they are dissatisfied.
The CNN/ORC Poll was conducted by telephone October 14-17 among a random national sample of 1,028 adults. Results for the full sample have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.