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Do Voters Think A Candidate Should Quit If Indicted?

Monday, January 11, 2016

A former federal prosecutor recently made headlines with his prediction that Hillary Clinton will be indicted soon for trafficking in classified information on a private e-mail server while working as secretary of State. But should a criminal indictment put Clinton’s bid for the Democratic presidential nomination on hold? Just over half of Democrats say no.

Forty-six percent (46%) of all Likely U.S. Voters think a political candidate who is charged with a felony while running for office should immediately stop campaigning. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just as many (47%) feel that candidate should continue running until a court determines their guilt or innocence.

It is important to note that Rasmussen Reports did not include the name of any candidate or include any details in the question that would suggest a specific individual. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

Fifty-four percent (54%) of Republicans think a candidate charged with a felony should stop campaigning at once, while 41% disagree. Among Democrats, those findings are reversed: Only 40% say the candidate should quit campaigning, but 53% think they should keep running until a court determines their guilt or innocence. Voters not affiliated with either major party are evenly divided.

Following their third debate in mid-December, the race between Clinton and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders for the Democratic presidential nomination is closer than ever, but she is the heavy favorite among voters who are already certain of their vote in 2016.  Sanders continues to hold a slight edge over Clinton among Democrats under 40, but Clinton leads by double digits among older voters.

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The survey of 1,000 Likely Voters was conducted on January 6-7, 2016 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology.

Fifty-nine percent (59%) of voters think it’s likely Clinton broke the law by sending and receiving e-mails containing classified information through a private e-mail server while serving as secretary of State, with 42% who say it’s Very Likely.

While women consistently have been more supportive of Clinton’s candidacy than men, female voters also believe more strongly that a candidate who is charged with a felony should immediately stop campaigning.

Blacks feel more strongly than whites and other minority voters that an indicted candidate should keep running until a court determines his or her innocence.

Among voters who Strongly Approve of President Obama’s job performance, 53% say a candidate who is indicted should keep running until the courts decide. A similar number (54%) of those who Strongly Disapprove of the job the president is doing say that candidate should immediately stop campaigning.

A year ago, with the president’s immigration amnesty plan and national health care law subject to legal challenges, 43% of Democrats said the president should have the right to ignore the courts, and only 35% disagreed.  Among all voters, 60% said Obama should not have the right to ignore the courts.

Just 31% of voters trust Clinton.

Voters by a two-to-one margin believe Clinton has not been honest in her disclosures and testimony related to the attack in Benghazi, Libya in September 2012 that led to the murder of the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans.

In recent months, however, much of the public controversy surrounding the Benghazi investigation has focused on the discovery of Clinton’s use of a private, non-government email server while she was secretary of State. Fifty-two percent (52%) of voters believe Clinton’s use of the private server provider for issues at the highest levels of the U.S. government raises serious national security concerns, and 45% think she deliberately used the private email account to hide things from government oversight.

Still, our most recent monthly Hillary Meter finds that 87% of Democrats think Clinton is likely to be their party’s presidential nominee in 2016, with 56% who say it is Very Likely.

Additional information from this survey and a full demographic breakdown are available to Platinum Members only.

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