Politics

Eleventh-Hour Presidential Pardons Not Popular With Public

Clinton's image dips slightly since leaving White House

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- The public's response to the controversial pardons issued by President Clinton during his final days in office tends to be critical, but not greatly so. According to a Gallup survey conducted February 1-4, only 34% of Americans approve of these pardons while 50% disapprove. However, a substantial number, 16%, offer no opinion on the matter.

This evaluation is similar to Americans' reaction to President George Bush's pardon of former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger in 1992 for his role in the Iran/Contra affair, about which 27% approved, 54% disapproved and 19% had no opinion. However, unlike the Weinberger pardon that drew little public notice, many Americans today, 62%, report paying fairly close attention to news of the Clinton pardons. This includes 20% who have followed it "very closely" and another 42% who have followed it "somewhat closely." Only 37% percent say they are not following the story closely to any degree. By contrast, only 43% of Americans paid close attention to the Weinberger pardon, including just 10% who followed it "very closely."

Among the 140 presidential pardons issued by Clinton during his final week in office, several have been strongly criticized, including the one given to former fugitive Marc Rich -- a commodities trader indicted in 1983 on more than 50 counts of wire fraud, racketeering, illegally trading oil with Iran and a record high tax evasion scheme. Other pardons raising eyebrows include those for Whitewater figure Susan McDougal and former Congressman Mel Reynolds.

Republicans are particularly critical of Clinton's pardons, 74% disapprove, but a majority of independents (51%) disapprove as well. Democrats are neither highly critical, nor highly supportive --many simply chose to express no opinion. Fifty-one percent of Democrats say they approve of Clinton's pardons and 25% disapprove -- 24% say they are unsure.

Clinton's Image Dips Since Leaving Office
Public attention to Clinton's eleventh hour pardons is on par with their attention to two other prominent events of his presidency: the Congressional impeachment hearings in December 1998, and Clinton's healthcare reform plan shortly after its September 1993 announcement. Roughly six in 10 Americans told Gallup they paid close attention to each of these subjects in the news.

Perhaps it is this relatively close scrutiny of Clinton's pardons that has brought about a slight decline in his image since leaving office. The percentage of Americans holding a favorable view of Bill Clinton declined from 57% in early December to 51% today. With 48% currently holding an unfavorable opinion of Clinton, up from 41% in December, the public's judgment about Clinton is now decidedly mixed. In addition to the pardons, there have been other controversies in the news that could account for the drop in positive public opinion about Bill Clinton -- there is the matter of the White House gifts taken by the Clintons for their personal use, as well as the high cost of Bill Clinton's new office space in New York City. This same Gallup survey shows Hillary Rodham Clinton's ratings dropping by four points since November, from 56% to 52%. By way of reference, the highest favorable rating obtained by Bill Clinton during his tenure in office was 66% at the very beginning of his first term. For Hillary Clinton, her high point came in December 1998, with a favorable rating of 67%.

Former President Bush saw his favorable rating from the American people go up in his final days in office -- despite the fact that he was leaving as a failed candidate for re-election, and despite his unpopular Weinberger pardon. Shortly after the November 1992 election, only 47% of Americans had a favorable view of George Bush while 50% held an unfavorable view. By January 18-19, 1993, roughly three weeks after his pardoning of Weinberger, Bush's favorable rating had jumped to 68%. However, this followed Bush's launch of air strikes against Iraq on January 13, 1993 -- an action widely applauded by the public.

Survey Methods

The results below are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,003 adults, 18 years and older, conducted February 1-4, 2001. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95 percent confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is 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.

Next, we'd like to get your overall opinion of some people in the news. As I read each name, please say if you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of this person -- or if you have never heard of him or her. How about -- George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and Attorney General John Ashcroft?

Bill Clinton

 


Favorable

Unfavor-
able

No
opinion

   


Favorable

Unfavor-able

No
opinion

 

%

%

%

   

%

%

%

2001

       

(LV) 1996 Oct 30-31

60

37

4

(NA) 2001 Feb 1-4

51

48

1

 

(LV) 1996 Oct 26-29

58

38

4

         

(LV) 1996 Oct 19-20

59

36

5

2000

       

(LV) 1996 Oct 18-19

58

37

5

(NA) 2000 Dec 2-4

57

41

2

 

(LV) 1996 Oct 17-18

61

34

5

(NA) 2000 Nov 13-15

57

41

2

 

(LV) 1996 Oct 16-17

58

38

4

(NA) 2000 Oct 25-28

54

44

2

 

(LV) 1996 Oct 15-16

58

38

4

(RV) 2000 Sep 15-17

46

48

6

 

(LV) 1996 Oct 14-15

59

36

5

(NA) 2000 Aug 18-19

48

48

4

 

(LV) 1996 Oct 13-14

58

36

6

(NA) 2000 Aug 4-5

42

54

4

 

(LV) 1996 Oct 12-13

60

35

5

(NA) 2000 Apr 28-30

47

51

2

 

(LV) 1996 Oct 11-12

62

35

3

1999

       

(LV) 1996 Oct 5-6

62

33

5

(NA) 1999 Dec 9-12

45

53

2

 

(LV) 1996 Oct 4-5

60

34

6

(NA) 1999 Sep 23-26

54

45

1

 

(LV) 1996 Oct 3-4

58

37

5

(NA) 1999 Aug 3-4

52

46

2

 

(LV) 1996 Oct 2-3

60

37

3

(NA) 1999 Jul 22-25

57

41

2

 

(LV) 1996 Sep 27-29

63

33

4

(NA) 1999 Jun 25-27

48

50

2

 

(LV) 1996 Sep 3-5

59

35

6

(NA) 1999 Apr 30-May 2

53

45

2

 

(LV) 1996 Sep 2-4

61

34

5

(NA) 1999 Apr 13-14

51

47

2

 

(RV) 1996 Sep 2-4

62

33

5

(NA) 1999 Mar 5-8

54

43

3

 

(RV) 1996 Aug 30-Sep 1

61

35

4

(NA) 1999 Feb 19-21

55

43

2

 

(RV) 1996 Aug 28-29

60

34

6

(NA) 1999 Feb 4-8

55

44

1

 

(RV) 1996 Aug 16-18

57

41

2

(NA) 1999 Jan 8-10

58

40

2

 

(RV) 1996 Aug 14-15

58

37

5

1998

       

(RV) 1996 Aug 5-7

60

37

3

(NA) 1998 Dec 28-29

56

42

2

 

(NA) 1996 Jul 18-21

62

35

3

(NA) 1998 Dec 4-6

56

40

4

 

(NA) 1996 Jun 18-19

60

36

4

(NA) 1998 Nov 20-22

57

40

3

 

(NA) 1996 May 28-29

59

38

3

(NA) 1998 Oct 9-12(*)

54

43

3

 

(NA) 1996 May 9-12

60

39

1

(NA) 1998 Sep 14-15

51

47

2

 

(NA) 1996 Mar 15-17

58

38

4

(NA) 1998 Aug 21-23

55

43

2

 

(NA) 1996 Feb 23-25

60

37

3

(NA) 1998 Aug 20 (*)

53

43

4

 

(NA) 1996 Jan 12-15

54

44

2

(NA) 1998 Aug 18 (*)

55

42

3

 

1995

     

(NA) 1998 Aug 10-12

60

38

2

 

(NA) 1995 Nov 6-8

59

38

3

(NA) 1998 Aug 7-8

58

40

2

 

(NA) 1995 Sep 22-24

55

41

4

(NA) 1998 Jun 5-7

61

36

3

 

(NA) 1995 Aug 4-7

51

44

5

(NA) 1998 Mar 20-22

60

35

5

 

(NA) 1995 Jul 7-9

57

40

3

(NA) 1998 Mar 16(*)

60

37

3

 

(NA) 1995 Apr 17-19

56

42

1

(NA) 1998 Feb 20-22

64

34

2

 

(NA) 1995 Mar 17-19

51

45

4

(NA) 1998 Feb 13-15

58

39

3

 

(NA) 1995 Jan 16-18

56

42

2

(NA) 1998 Jan 30-Feb 1

65

34

1

 

1994

     

(NA) 1998 Jan 28

63

32

5

 

(NA) 1994 Dec 28-30

48

49

3

(NA) 1998 Jan 25-26

53

43

4

 

(NA) 1994 Nov 28-29

50

47

3

(NA) 1998 Jan 24-25

58

39

3

 

(NA) 1994 Sep 6-7

47

50

3

(NA) 1998 Jan 23-24

57

40

3

 

(NA) 1994 Jul 15-17

49

48

3

1997

       

(NA) 1994 Apr 22-24

56

41

3

(NA) 1997 Dec 18-21

58

37

5

 

(NA) 1994 Mar 25-27

56

40

4

(NA) 1997 Oct 27-29

62

35

3

 

(NA) 1994 Mar 7-8

59

38

3

(NA) 1997 Oct 3-5

56

40

4

 

(NA) 1994 Jan 15-17

60

37

3

(NA) 1997 Sep 25-28

61

35

4

 

(NA) 1994 Jan 6-8

62

35

3

(NA) 1997 Sep 6-7

63

32

5

 

1993

     

(NA) 1997 Jul 25-27

62

35

3

 

(NA) 1993 Nov 19-21

55

41

4

(NA) 1997 Jun 26-29

59

37

4

 

(NA) 1993 Nov 15-16

56

38

6

(NA) 1997 Apr 18-20

60

38

2

 

(NA) 1993 Nov 2-4

54

42

4

(NA) 1997 Mar 24-26

63

34

3

 

(NA) 1993 Sep 24-26

63

32

5

(NA) 1997 Feb 24-26

61

34

5

 

(NA) 1993 Aug 8-10

53

42

5

(NA) 1997 Jan 31-Feb 2

64

32

4

 

(NA) 1993 Jul 19-21

51

45

4

(NA) 1997 Jan 10-13

65

31

4

 

(NA) 1993 Jun 5-6

48

44

8

(NA) 1997 Jan 3-5

60

36

4

 

(NA) 1993 Apr 22-24

63

32

5

1996

       

(NA) 1993 Jan 29-31

65

27

8

(LV) 1996 Nov 3-4

56

40

4

 

(NA) 1993 Jan 18-19

66

26

8

(LV) 1996 Nov 2-3

57

38

5

 

1992

     

(LV) 1996 Nov 1-2

58

37

5

 

(NA) 1992 Nov 10-11

58

35

7

(LV) 1996 Oct 31-Nov 1

59

37

4

         

Hillary Rodham Clinton

 

 


Favorable

Unfavor-

able

No

opinion

   


Favorable

Unfavor-able

No
opinion

 

%

%

%

   

%

%

%

2001

       

1997

     

(NA) 2001 Feb 1-4

52

43

5

 

(NA) 1997 Dec 18-21

56

38

6

         

(NA) 1997 Oct 27-29

61

34

5

2000

       

(NA) 1997 Jun 26-29

51

42

7

(NA) 2000 Nov 13-15

56

39

5

 

(NA) 1997 Feb 24-26

51

42

6

(NA) 2000 Oct 25-28

52

43

5

 

(NA) 1997 Jan 31-Feb 2

55

39

6

(NA) 2000 Aug 4-5

45

50

5

 

(NA) 1997 Jan 10-13

56

37

7

(NA) 2000 Feb 4-6

55

39

6

 

1996

     

1999

       

(LV) 1996 Oct 26-29

49

43

8

(NA) 1999 Dec 9-12

48

48

4

 

(RV) 1996 Aug 28-29

51

41

8

(NA) 1999 Sep 23-26

56

40

4

 

(RV) 1996 Aug 16-18

47

48

5

(NA) 1999 Aug 3-4

56

41

3

 

(RV) 1996 Aug 5-7

48

45

7

(NA) 1999 Jul 22-25

62

35

3

 

(NA) 1996 Jun 18-19

46

47

6

(NA) 1999 Jun 25-27

56

42

2

 

(NA) 1996 Mar 15-17

47

48

5

(NA) 1999 Mar 5-7

65

31

4

 

(NA) 1996 Jan 12-15

43

51

6

(NA) 1999 Feb 19-21

65

30

5

 

1995

     

(NA) 1999 Feb 4-8

66

31

3

 

(NA) 1995 Jul 7-9

50

44

6

1998

       

(NA) 1995 Mar 17-19

49

44

7

(NA) 1998 Dec 28-29

67

29

4

 

(NA) 1995 Jan 16-18

50

44

6

(NA) 1998 Oct 9-12(*)

63

33

4

 

1994

     

(NA) 1998 Sep 14-15

61

33

6

 

(NA) 1994 Nov 28-29

50

44

6

(NA) 1998 Aug 21-23

61

33

6

 

(NA) 1994 Sep 6-7

48

47

5

(NA) 1998 Aug 20 (*)

60

30

10

 

(NA) 1994 Jul 15-17

48

46

6

(NA) 1998 Aug 18 (*)

64

29

7

 

(NA) 1994 Apr 22-24

56

40

4

(NA) 1998 Aug 10-12

60

36

4

 

(NA) 1994 Mar 25-27

52

42

6

(NA) 1998 Aug 7-8

60

35

5

 

(NA) 1994 Mar 7-8

55

40

5

(NA) 1998 Feb 13-15

60

36

4

 

(NA) 1994 Jan 15-17

57

36

7

(NA) 1998 Jan 30-Feb 1

64

34

2

 

1993

     

(NA) 1998 Jan 28 (*)

61

34

5

 

(NA) 1993 Nov 2-4

58

34

8

(NA) 1998 Jan 24-25

61

33

6

 

(NA) 1993 Sep 24-26

62

27

11

(NA) 1998 Jan 23-24

60

35

5

 

(NA) 1993 Aug 8-10

57

33

10

 

How closely have you been following the news about the presidential pardons issued by Bill Clinton during his last week in office -- very closely, somewhat closely, not too closely, or not at all?

BASED ON – 494 -- NATIONAL ADULTS IN FORM A; ±5 PCT. PTS.

 

 

Very
closely

Somewhat closely

Not too closely


Not at all

No
opinion

           

2001 Feb 1-4

20%

42

22

15

1



Overall, do you approve or disapprove of the presidential pardons issued by Bill Clinton?

BASED ON – 494 -- NATIONAL ADULTS IN FORM A; ±4 PCT. PTS.

 

 

Approve

Disapprove

No opinion

       

2001 Feb 1-4

34%

50

16



Gallup http://www.gallup.com/poll/2032/EleventhHour-Presidential-Pardons-Popular-Public.aspx Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A +1 202.715.3030