skip to main content

Americans Agree With House Contention That Clinton Committed Perjury and Obstructed Justice

Americans Agree With House Contention That Clinton Committed Perjury and Obstructed Justice

But Public Does Not Believe That These Misdeeds Warrant Removal From Office

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

As the historic impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton gets underway in the U.S. Senate, a new Gallup poll finds that the American public agrees with the House of Representatives contention that the President committed perjury and that he obstructed justice. On the other hand, Americans do not agree that these offenses, even if true, are severe enough to cause the Senate to convict Clinton and remove him from office.

The fact that Americans believe President Clinton lied and broke laws is not a new finding. The public came to the conclusion early last year that Bill Clinton was not telling the truth about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky. Within a few weeks of Clinton's late January statement that he had not had "sexual relations with that woman," a majority of the public–67%–said that, in fact, they believed that he probably or definitely had done so. Additionally, by April of last year, about six out of ten Americans said Clinton had "probably" or "definitely" lied under oath.

In Gallup's most recent poll, conducted January 8-10, Americans were asked directly about the central charges contained in the two articles of impeachment passed by the House of Representatives. On both counts, the public agrees that the charges are true. Specifically, 79 percent say they believe the charge that Clinton committed perjury by lying under oath to a grand jury is true, and 53% agree that he obstructed justice in trying to influence the testimony of Monica Lewinsky, his secretary Betty Currie, and others in the Paula Jones lawsuit.

In this sense, it is clear that the public is in sync with the basic premise of the case being brought to the Senate by the House managers. At the same time, however, Americans diverge from the conclusions of the House in terms of the implications of these presidential misdeeds. Americans do not believe that these offenses rise to the level of being impeachable:

  • Only about four out of ten Americans say that even if the charges embodied in the articles of impeachment are true, they warrant Clinton being convicted and removed from office.
  • And, asked specifically, only a third of Americans want their Senators to vote to convict Clinton and remove him from office, a percentage that has held essentially steady for the past three months.
Reasons for the Public's Feeling That the Charges Don't Deserve Removal
The poll asked the survey respondents who oppose removing Clinton from office–representing 63% of the public–why they feel this way. The three most important reasons–out of a list of nine read–were: 1) Clinton is doing a good job running the country (perceived to be either the most important reason or a major reason by 87% of the public) 2) the charges deal with sexual matters (76%), and 3) the public supports Clinton's government policies (73%).

Consistent with respondents' views about the truth of the charges, only 33% of those opposed to Clinton's removal said the "fact that Clinton did not break any laws" constituted an important reason why they oppose his removal, while 70% say the fact that "the laws Clinton broke are not serious enough to remove him from office" is important.

In short, the lack of public enthusiasm for impeaching Clinton is not centered on the belief that he did nothing illegal. Rather, the majority of Americans appear to oppose his removal because they do not believe that the laws he broke are significant enough to warrant his being the first president in U.S. history to be removed from office through the impeachment process–particularly a president who is perceived to be doing an excellent job.

Both Clinton and Economy Get High Ratings
In fact, the "good job running the country" theme is strongly echoed in other data from the most recent poll. Clinton's approval rating, at 67%, remains remarkably stable and high. And Americans' rating of the economy, at 41% "very good," 48% "somewhat good," is also very high–and even significantly more positive now than it was as recently as last summer.

Survey Methods
The results are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,014 adults, 18 years and older, conducted January 8-10, 1999. For results based on samples of this size, one can say with 95 percent confidence that the error attributable to sampling and other random effects could be as much as plus or minus 3 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

As you may know, removing a president from office involves two major steps in Congress. First the House of Representatives must vote on whether there is enough evidence to bring a president to trial before the Senate. This step is called impeachment. Next the Senate must vote on whether to remove the president from office, or not.

As you may know, the House has now impeached Clinton and the case has been sent to the Senate for trial. What do you want YOUR Senators to do [Rotate: (1) Vote in favor of convicting Clinton and removing him from office, or (2) Vote against convicting Clinton so he will remain in office]?

  Vote in favor of convicting Vote against convicting No Opinion
99 Jan 8-10 32% 63% 5%
99 Jan 6 33% 63% 4%
98 Dec 19-20 29% 68% 3%
TREND**
98 Dec 15-16 34% 63% 3%
98 Dec 12-13 35% 61% 4%
98 Dec 4-6 33% 65% 2%
98 Nov 20-22 33% 64% 3%
98 Nov 13-15 30% 68% 2%
98 Oct 23-25 30% 63% 7%
98 Oct 9-12 31% 63% 6%

** TREND WORDING: If the House does vote to impeach Clinton and send the case to the Senate for trial, what would you want YOUR Senators to do – [ROTATE: 1) Vote in favor of convicting Clinton and removing him from office or 2) Vote against convicting Clinton so he will remain in office]?

Now I'm going to read the two charges against Bill Clinton for which he was impeached by the House of Representatives and is now on trial for in the Senate. As I read each one, please say—regardless of your view about removing him from office—whether you think that charge against Clinton is true or not true. First,…Second,… [Read A-B in order]

A. The charge that Bill Clinton committed perjury by providing false and misleading testimony about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky to Ken Starr's grand jury

  True Not True No Opinion
99 Jan 8-10 79% 17% 4%

B. The charge that Bill Clinton obstructed justice by trying to influence the testimony of Monica Lewinsky, his secretary, and others in the Paula Jones lawsuit

  True Not True No Opinion
99 Jan 8-10 53% 40% 7%

Now, for each of those charges, I would like you to tell me whether you think that, if true, the offense is or is not serious enough to justify Clinton's removal from office by the Senate. First,…Second,…[Read A-B in order]

A. The charge that Bill Clinton committed perjury by providing false and misleading testimony about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky to Ken Starr's grand jury.

  Yes, serious enough No, not serious enough No Opinion
99 Jan 8-10 40% 58% 2%

B. The charge that Bill Clinton obstructed justice by trying to influence the testimony of Monica Lewinsky, his secretary, and others in the Paula Jones lawsuit

  Yes, serious enough No, not serious enough No Opinion
99 Jan 8-10 41% 56% 3%
Gallup

Subscribe to receive weekly Gallup News alerts.
Never miss our latest insights.


Gallup https://news.gallup.com/poll/4099/americans-agree-house-contention-clinton-committed-perjury.aspx
Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A
+1 202.715.3030