Democrats.com Poll Finds Libby Commutation Boosted Support for Impeachment
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The commutation of Scooter Libby's prison sentence backfired politically on Bush and Cheney and greatly increased support for impeachment, according to a Democrats.com telephone poll of 1,014 adults conducted by ICR.
Before the commutation on July 2, Americans 34% of Americans supported impeachment hearings for Bush, while 55% opposed. After the commutation, support increased to 43% and opposition dropped to 50% - a net increase in 14% for impeachment hearings.
The political consequences were even worse for Cheney, who was Scooter Libby's boss. Before the commutation, 33% of Americans supported impeachment hearings for Cheney, while 51% opposed. After the commutation, support increased to 45% and opposition dropped to 44% - a net increase in 19% for impeachment hearings.
Despite Republican efforts to dampen public anger over the commutation by invoking Clinton's pardon of Marc Rich, Americans solidly opposed the commutation by 69%-21%.
While Democrats were nearly unanimous (87%-7%) in their disapproval of the commutation, Independents weren't far behind (73%-15%), and Republicans split right down the middle (43%-45%).
Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol explained Bush's strategy on Fox News Sunday:
“Here’s why the president acted the way he did. He knew Bill Clinton was joining Hillary in Iowa on July 4th. No, I’m serious,” Kristol said. “So on July 2d, Ed Gillespie, who’s a very canny Republican operator, said, Let’s pardon Libby. Clinton will rise to the bait, and we could spend the last half of the week debating the unbelievable Clinton pardons against the defensible Bush pardon.”
Kristol concluded, “I regard this as an extremely clever Machiavellian move by the president. It cheers me up about the Bush White House, and I’m really heartened.”
According to Democrats.com president Bob Fertik, "Republicans like Bill Kristol who celebrated Bush's 'extremely clever Machiavellian move' were utterly wrong about public opinion, just as they have been wrong about everything from Iraq to Social Security to Terry Schiavo. The American people recognize a coverup when they see one, and they understand that Libby's sentence was commuted to stop him from testifying against Cheney and Bush."
Libby's commutation had little impact on Republican support for impeachment, but it greatly increased support for impeachment among Independents and Democrats.
The impeachment results in the Democrats.com poll fell between two other post-commutation polls by American Research Group and Rasmussen Reports, and reflected the wording of the impeachment question. Polls asking about impeachment hearings get approximately 10% more support than polls asking about impeachment and removal; the Democrats.com poll was more precise in referring to "impeachment hearings that could lead to removal."
|Democrats.com||Impeachment hearings that could lead to removal||43%||50%||-7%|
|Rasmussen||Impeach and remove||39%||49%||-10%|
Support for Bush's impeachment has topped 50% in several polls over the past two years, most recently in October 2006 when a Newsweek poll found a 51%-44% majority. But the impeachment movement was undercut when Nancy Pelosi declared impeachment "off the table."
Before Republicans began impeachment hearings for President Clinton, polls showed only 26% supported impeachment and removal, while 36% supported impeachment hearings. Despite the lack of public support, Republicans impeached Clinton in the House and put him on trial in the Senate, where he was acquitted.
Democrats.com is a community of 300,000 Democratic and progressive activists that was founded in 2000 and is funded by members and advertisers, not by the Democratic Party. The Democrats.com poll had a margin of error of +/- 3%.
Democrats.com led the first protest against the Iraq War on September 12, 2002 and began its current campaign for impeachment after the publication of the Downing Street Memos in May 2005 revealed the Bush Administration had deliberately "fixed the intelligence and facts around the policy" of invading Iraq. Democrats.com joined with Progressive Democrats of America to create AfterDowningStreet.org, which sponsored four impeachment polls in 2005 by Ipsos Public Affairs, Zogby, Rasmussen, and Zogby.
Democrats.com worked with Rep. John Conyers on the famous "basement hearings" in June 2005 and helped organize hundreds of town hall meetings on impeachment over the past two years. Democrats.com has created Impeachment Committees in over 150 Congressional Districts. After hundreds of thousands marched in Washington DC on January 27 to end the war and impeach Bush, Democrats.com joined with other pro-impeachment groups to launch Impeach07.org, which organized over 100 gatherings at beaches and parks to spell I-M-P-E-A-C-H on April 28.
Last Friday, Democrats.com joined Brave New Films and other pro-impeachment groups to launch a video calling for the impeachment of Cheney which rose to #1 on the Youtube most-watched list. Democrats.com is currently trying to persuade the House Judiciary Committee to hold hearings on H.Res. 333, Articles of Impeachment against Vice President Cheney, authored by Rep. Dennis Kucinich, which has 14 co-sponsors. On July 23, Democrats.com will join Cindy Sheehan and former CIA analyst Ray McGovern in a march from Arlington Cemetary to Rep. Conyers' office to urge him start hearings on H.Res. 333.