The White House derides continued questions about the Benghazi attacks "conspiracy theories" driven by "delusional" partisans. Harry Reid calls the new commission chaired by Rep. Trey Gowdy a distraction cooked up to protect the Koch Brothers' interests. Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) has compared the coming proceedings to a lynching. NBC journalist Chuck Todd sniffs that "all" relevant questions have already been answered. The American people have a decidedly different perspective, according to a new Fox News poll:
Fully two-thirds of the public endorses the propriety and necessity of forming this select committee, which all but seven House Democrats opposed. Fewer than 30 percent have embraced the official White House line on the matter -- and by a 16-point margin, Americans say the Obama administration's general goal has been to deceive, rather than elucidate the truth, regarding Benghazi. Now, it's not as if voters view Republicans as crusading champions for truth in this scenario. Asked whether the GOP was pursuing the select committee to get to the bottom of what happened or to score political points, respondents broke for the latter option by more than a 2-to-1 margin. They nevertheless overwhelmingly back the probe. More numbers lay bare the depth of the public's cynicism over this entire episode: A majority (51/39) believes Obama's team "knowingly lied" about the cause of the attack to boost the president's re-election bid, and a similarly-sized majority (50/40) says Hillary Clinton has been deceitful about the raid. Seventy-two percent of respondents believe the Obama administration bears at least some responsibility for what happened, with another super-majority (68/27) blaming the administration for the fact that nobody has been brought to justice for the assassinations. Democrats have been agonizing over whether to boycott the panel, or to assign members to it. I've warned that a boycott wouldn't just been a dereliction on principle -- it would be a political liability, too. This poll reaffirms that public opinion does not align with the Left's instincts to walk away from Benghazi. Not by a long shot. For that reason (and perhaps that reason alone), I suspect Nancy Pelosi will end up naming at least one or two panelists before the first hearing gavels into session.
Other findings in the poll mark relative improvement for Obama, though most results remain objectively bad. For instance, his overall job approval rating has risen to (44/49), up from (40/53) in March. On the economy, he's only four points underwater (46/50), a big jump from (39/58) in March. Obamacare remains underwater by double digits, but by a narrower margin than in Fox's April poll. The percentage of Americans who say they're satisfied with the direction of the country is up to 43 percent, the first time that measure has cracked higher than 40 since October 2012, just before Obama was re-elected. Looking at the crosstabs, part of the reason the results look better in this survey than in Fox's recent offerings is that the partisan breakdown of the poll went from a roughly even split between Democrats and Republicans to a D+8 sample. The 2012 electorate was D+6. The 2010 election was D+0. For obvious reasons, I'm highly reluctant to over-think or "unskew" polling samples. I'll just say that I'll be interested to see how the next Fox poll shakes out. Will the sample split revert back to the recent trend, or might the current electorate be growing more Democratic (in spite of a lot of other evidence)? We'll see. I'll also note that almost all of Obama's gains in this survey are rooted in the higher percentage of Democrat-leaning respondents. The president's job performance (33/61), economic policies (38/59) and signature accomplishment (34/60) are still dangerously upside-down among the independents surveyed.
Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson. He is co-authors with Mary Katharine Ham for their new book End of Discussion: How the Left's Outrage Industry Shuts Down Debate, Manipulates Voters, and Makes America Less Free (and Fun).
Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography