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Special Prosecutor for Hillary?

Friday, February 12, 2016

Two senior Republican senators have called for the Justice Department to step aside and choose an independent special prosecutor to decide whether Hillary Clinton should be prosecuted for mishandling classified information. Most voters think that’s the way to go to avoid any possible conflict of interest.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 54% of Likely U.S. Voters believe the Justice Department should name an independent prosecutor to decide whether criminal charges should be brought against Clinton for sending and receiving classified information through a private e-mail server while she was secretary of State. Thirty-three percent (33%) disagree, while 13% are undecided. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

As it now stands, Attorney General Loretta Lynch will determine whether to prosecute Clinton if an FBI investigation determines she has broken the law. Those calling for an independent replacement point to a potential conflict of interest, given that as a key player in a Democratic administration Lynch would be deciding whether to prosecute the leading contender for her own party's presidential nomination this year.

The partisan breakdown is predictable: 76% of Republicans and 59% of voters not affiliated with either major party believe the Justice Department should hire an independent prosecutor to handle the Clinton issue, but only 29% of Democrats agree. Fifty-four percent (54%) of voters in Clinton's party do not see a need for a special prosecutor, but 17% more aren't sure.

Most voters still believe it’s likely Clinton broke the law by sending and receiving classified information through the server, but they are far less convinced that serious charges will be brought against her. 

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The survey of 1,000 Likely Voters was conducted on February 9-10, 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.

Last August, 46% of all voters - and 24% of Democrats - said Clinton should suspend her campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination until all of the legal questions about her use of the private email server are resolved. But only 40% of Democrats think a political candidate who is charged with a felony while running for office should immediately stop campaigning. Fifty-three percent (53%) say that candidate should keep running until a court determines his or her guilt or innocence.

Rasmussen Reports’ latest survey of the Democratic race shows Clinton’s support nationally little changed in recent months: She leads Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders 50% to 32%. Twelve percent (12%) like some other candidate, and six percent (6%) are undecided.

Men feel more strongly than women do that the Justice Department should hire an independent prosecutor to decide whether criminal charges should be brought against Clinton. Voters under 40 are more supportive of a special prosecutor than their elders are.

Seventy-six percent (76%) of self-described politically conservative voters think a special prosecutor is needed in this case, a view shared by 49% of moderates and 25% of liberals.

Among voters who Strongly Approve of the job President Obama is doing, just 22% think an independent prosecutor is necessary. But among those who Strongly Disapprove of the president's performance, 84% favor such a move.

In late July, 54% of all voters said Clinton’s use of the private e-mail provider while serving as secretary of State raises serious national security concerns, up from 49% in March when her use of the private server was first disclosed. Only 28% believe Clinton has done a good or excellent job handling questions about the issue

However, just 19% of Democrats believe Clinton's campaign is in trouble. Sixty-nine percent (69%) say that is more a perception being created by the media.

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has made it official that he is considering entering this year’s presidential race as an independent, with some suggesting that he is just letting major Democratic donors know that he is available if Clinton’s campaign stumbles against Sanders or if she is indicted. Early polling suggests a Bloomberg candidacy would be good for Donald Trump and bad for Clinton.

Voters showed little awareness of Lynch prior to her taking over for Attorney General Eric Holder. But 46% of voters hoped she’d be less like her predecessor. Voters tended to think Holder was more interested in politics than in administering justice in a fair way.

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

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