skip to main content
Majority Of Americans Still Feel Clinton Should Remain In Office

Majority Of Americans Still Feel Clinton Should Remain In Office

But Many Have a Negative Opinion of Him as a Person


After an extraordinary weekend of media coverage and intense scrutiny of the publicly-released Starr report, Gallup polls show remarkably little change in the basic attitudes of the American public about the Clinton-Lewinsky situation. A majority of Americans continue to say that Bill Clinton should stay in office, that he should not be impeached and removed, and still believe that he can be an effective president over the remaining two years of his term. Additionally, while maintaining a negative opinion of Clinton as a person, and according him very low marks for his moral leadership, Americans remain steadfast in their approval of the job he is doing in office.

What Should Congress Do?
Gallup polling conducted on Thursday through Sunday evenings asked the public whether or not Bill Clinton should be impeached, whether or not he should resign, and whether or not he should receive an official censure or reprimand from Congress. The numbers did not change significantly over that four-day period: Thirty to thirty-one percent said that Clinton should be impeached and removed from office, 35% to 36% said that he should resign, and 58% to 60% said that he should be censured.

On Monday and Tuesday nights Americans were asked what they would like their own representative in Congress to do with respect to the Clinton-Lewinsky matter. The results were essentially the same: Twenty-seven percent of Americans said that their representative should vote to impeach and remove Clinton from office, 45% said that he or she should vote to censure but not to remove him, and 24% said that no formal action should be taken.

When asked what their reaction would be if a candidate for Congress in the fall elections favored impeachment, more Americans said that this position would make them oppose that candidate's election than said it would make them favor it–by a 33% to 24% margin. (The rest said that a candidate's position on this issue would make no difference to them.)

If Clinton does remain if office, can he serve out his term as an effective president? About six out ten Americans say yes; four out of ten say no.

At the same time, there is a more mixed reaction to the idea of shutting down Congressional hearings on the Starr report. Exactly half of Americans say that Congress should hold such hearings, while a slightly lower number–44%–say that Congress should take no action on the report and end the investigation immediately.

Impact of the Scandal on Perceptions of Bill Clinton
Reactions to a series of different Gallup Poll questions reveal the disparate nature of public views of Bill Clinton.

Sixty-three percent of Americans approve of the job Clinton is doing as president, and 59% even say that they are "glad" he is president.

At the same time, only 30% of Americans say that Clinton provides strong moral leadership for the country. That this perception does not figure more strongly in the overall equation of the public's desire for Clinton's impeachment or resignation is a paradox of sorts, given that a very high 72% of the public says that a president's providing moral leadership is very important for the nation.

The divergent perceptions of Bill Clinton are also evident when contrasted with results of other poll questions. When Americans are asked if they have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of Bill Clinton, without specifying which characteristics of the man are being evaluated, the results show a 51% favorable to 47 % unfavorable split. This number, while perhaps more positive than might be predicted, is low by historical standards, and represents a 10% point drop from his favorability ratings in early June.

When Americans are asked about Bill Clinton in a slightly modified way: "Thinking about Bill Clinton as a person, do you have a positive or negative opinion of him?," the number of Americans with a positive opinion drops to 37%, with 56 % saying they have a negative opinion.

Respect for Bill Clinton is also down significantly, from 53% who said they respected him early in August, to 43% who feel that way now.

Americans Predict What Will Happen
What is America's best guess as to the future of Bill Clinton's presidency? Sixty percent say that he will serve out the rest of his term; 33% say he will be forced to leave, and the rest have no opinion.

Survey Method
The current results are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,028 adults, conducted September 14-15, 1998. For results based on a sample of this size, one can say with 95 percent confidence that the error attributable to sampling and other random effects could be 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. Other poll results referred in this story refer to survey conducted September 10-13, with a total of 2,178 respondents.

If the investigations into the Clinton-Lewinsky matter continue, what position would you prefer the U.S. representative from your congressional district take--[ROTATE 1-3/3-1: 1) Favor impeaching and removing Clinton from office, 2) Favor a formal reprimand or censure of Clinton, but not removing him from office or, 3) Favor taking no formal action against Clinton]?

Party ID

  Total Likely voters Rep Ind Dem
Impeach 27% 38% 51% 27% 7%
45 41 35 43 56
No formal action 24 19 10 26 33
No opinion 4 2 4 4 4
  100% 100% 100% 100% 100%

Thinking about the elections in November, if your member of Congress favors impeaching Clinton, would that make you more likely to support or to oppose your member of Congress in the November election, or would that make no difference to your vote?

Party ID

  Total Likely voters Rep Ind Dem
Support 24% 34% 44% 227% 8%
Oppose 33 31 16 35 46
No difference 41 34 39 41 42
No opinion 2 1 1 2 4
  100% 100% 100% 100% 100%

What do you think Congress should do with Ken Starr's report--[ROTATE: 1) Hold hearings to investigate the charges contained in the report or, 2) Take no action on the report and end the investigation into these matters immediately]?

Hold hearings 50%
End investigation 44
Other (vol.) 2
No opinion 4

Overall, what kind of moral leadership do you think Bill Clinton provides as President--[ROTATE 1-4/4-1]?

Party ID

  98 Sep
97 Sep
96 May
Very strong 10% 14% 11%
Somewhat strong 20 39 42
Somewhat weak 23 23 27
Very weak 45 21 18
No opinion 2 3 2
  100% 100% 100%
** Likely voters  

As of now, do you think Bill Clinton can be an effective president during his remaining two years in office, or not?

Yes, can be effective 58%
No, cannot be effective 39
No opinion 4

NOTE: (vol.) = volunteered

Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A
+1 202.715.3030