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47% Think Holder More Interested in Politics Than in Justice

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Voters think Eric Holder played politics as U.S. attorney general and hope President Obama picks someone who’s not like him to be the nation’s next top law enforcement officer. But those who view the Constitution as “a living document” are much more appreciative of his efforts than those who favor a strict interpretation of that document.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 47% of Likely U.S. Voters believe Holder was more interested in politics than in administering justice in a fair way. Just 28% disagree and think fair administration of justice was Holder’s chief interest. Nearly as many (25%) aren’t sure. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

This echoes findings last month when 54% said the Justice Department under Holder’s leadership was more interested in politics when investigating a local crime independent of local police. This survey followed Holder’s announcement that the Justice Department was investigating the police shooting in Ferguson, Missouri.

Only 19% of voters think the next person the president nominates to be attorney general should be about the same as Holder. Forty-six percent (46%) say the next attorney general should be less like the man who currently holds the post. Fifteen percent (15%) believe the nominee should be more like Holder than not, while 20% are undecided.

Thirty-two percent (32%) rate Holder’s performance as attorney general over the past six years as good or excellent. Thirty percent (30%) describe his performance as poor. But not surprisingly, there’s a sharp partisan difference of opinion: 59% of Democrats think Holder has done a good or excellent job, but only 11% of Republicans and 24% of voters not affiliated with either major party agree.

Fifty-one percent (51%) of all voters now believe the U.S. Constitution is “a living document,” subject to constant reinterpretation depending on the changing times. Forty-one percent (41%) believe in strict interpretation of the Constitution, taking the conservative view that the foundational document means what it says and nothing more. This marks a noticeable change from two years ago when 43% said the Constitution was a living document and 49% said it should be strictly interpreted.

Among voters who believe the Constitution is a document subject to constant change, 47% think Holder did a good or excellent job. Among voters who favor strict interpretation of the Constitution, 57% say Holder did a poor job.

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The survey of 1,000 Likely Voters was conducted on September 27-28, 2014 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.

Holder has consistently been one of the best-known and least-liked members of the president’s Cabinet, but as he plans to step down, his favorables are up slightly. Thirty-one percent (31%) of voters share a favorable opinion of the attorney general, while 42% view him unfavorably. This includes 13% with a Very Favorable view and 29% with a Very Unfavorable one. But even after six years on the job, 27% don’t know enough about Holder to volunteer any opinion of him.

Over one-third of women voters and of those under 40 have no opinion of Holder.

Women and younger voters believe more strongly than men and those who are older that the Constitution should be subject to constant reinterpretation depending on the changing times.

Seventy-three percent (73%) of Democrats view the Constitution as a living document. Fifty-nine percent (59%) of Republicans favor strict interpretation of the document instead. Unaffiliated voters by a narrow 48% to 44% margin come down on the side of strict interpretation.

Fifty-five percent (55%) of liberal voters believe Holder administered justice in a fair way. Seventy-four percent (74%) of conservatives say he was more interested in politics. Among moderates, 28% say he was fair, 39% political, and 33% are undecided.

Fifty-five percent (55%) of the Political Class think Holder has done a good or excellent job. Just 27% of Mainstream voters share that view. A plurality (43%) of Political Class voters think Obama should pick another attorney general who is about the same as Holder. Fifty-two percent (52%) of those in the Mainstream would prefer one who is less like Holder.

Only 38% of all voters have a favorable opinion of the Justice Department, including nine percent (9%) with a Very Favorable one.

The Justice Department continues to challenge state laws that require voters to bring photo identification to the polls, even though most voters for years have strongly supported such laws and don't consider them discriminatory. Even 64% of blacks support such laws.

When it comes to executive actions he has taken in the White House, 44% of voters think Obama has been less faithful to the U.S. Constitution than most other presidents. Twenty-two percent (22%) feel Obama has been more faithful to the Constitution than most of his predecessors, while 30% say he has followed the Constitution about the same as other presidents have.

Last year, 56% of Americans said the Constitution should be left alone. Thirty-three percent (33%) believed minor changes are needed in the document.

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

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