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43% Think Benghazi Will Hurt Hillary Clinton’s Candidacy in 2016

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

As CBS-TV’s “60 Minutes” program highlighted Sunday evening, serious questions remain about the murder a year ago of the U.S. ambassador to Libya, and a sizable number of voters think that incident will hurt Hillary Clinton’s chances for the presidency.

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that only four percent (4%) of Likely U.S. Voters believe the circumstances surrounding the murder of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans in Benghazi, Libya will help Clinton’s candidacy.  Forty-three percent (43%) think those circumstances will hurt the former secretary of State if she runs for the presidency in 2016, but nearly as many (41%) say they will have no impact. Twelve percent (12%) are not sure. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

Predictably, 58% of Democrats think the circumstances surrounding the Benghazi incident will have no impact on Clinton if she runs in 2012, but 65% of Republicans believe they will hurt her candidacy. Among voters not affiliated with either party, 47% say Clinton will be hurt by the events in Benghazi, while 40% say they will have no impact.

Thirty-seven percent (37%) of all voters now rate the Obama administration’s explanation of the events surrounding the ambassador’s death as good or excellent, up from 31% in May.  But slightly more (43%) also now rate that explanation as poor.

Seventy-nine percent (79%) believe it is still important to find out exactly what happened in the events surrounding the murder of the U.S. ambassador. Seventeen percent (17%) disagree. This includes 53% who say it is Very Important to get to the bottom of the matter versus just five percent (5%) who view it as Not At All Important. This is consistent with findings since April.

But only 36% think it is even somewhat likely that the murderers of the ambassador and the other three Americans will be caught and punished, with 10% who say it’s Very Likely. Fifty-two percent (52%) believe the murderers are unlikely to be caught, including 18% who feel it is Not At All Likely. Eleven percent (11%) are not sure.

In September of last year just after the Benghazi incident took place, only 29% of voters were at least somewhat confident that the Libyan government would punish the ambassador’s murderers.

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The survey of 1,000 Likely Voters was conducted on October 28-29, 2013 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 percent (50%) of voters consider the Benghazi situation to be a serious scandal, while 24% view it as an embarrassing situation only. Thirteen percent (13%) say it’s no big deal.

Seventy-eight percent (78%) of Republicans and 53% of unaffiliated voters think it is Very Important to find out exactly what happened in Benghazi when the ambassador and the others were killed, but just 35% of Democrats agree.

But then 68% of voters in the president’s party rate the administration’s explanation of the events surrounding the murders as good or excellent. Seventy-six percent (76%) of Republicans and 50% of unaffiliateds think the administration has done a poor job explaining what happened. Democrats are also far more confident that the killers will be caught.

Men believe more strongly than women that Clinton’s candidacy will be hurt by the circumstances in Libya. Older voters are more convinced of that than those under 40. Only 17% of black voters think a Clinton run in 2016 will be hurt by the ambassador’s murder, compared to 47% of whites and 43% of other minority voters.

Voters who give the administration positive marks for its explanation of the events surrounding the murder of the ambassador strongly believe that it will have no impact on Clinton’s candidacy. Those who rate that explanation as poor overwhelmingly believe it will hurt the former first lady’s expected bid for the White House.

Voters who have served in the military are more critical of the Obama administration’s response to the events in Benghazi than those who haven’t served. 

Seventy-two percent (72%) of voters nationwide have been following news stories about the Libya incident at least somewhat closely, with 42% who have been following Very Closely.

Clinton was still the most popular member of Obama’s cabinet just before she stepped down as secretary of State in January. Sixty-one percent (61%) of voters held a favorable opinion of her, including 32% with a Very Favorable one.

In August, 63% of Likely Democratic Voters said they would choose Clinton as the party’s presidential nominee if the 2016 Democratic presidential primary were held in their state at that time.


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