IRS targeting of conservatives deliberate, says majority in WaPo/ABC poll

posted at 8:41 am on May 21, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

That’s not the top line from the Washington Post on its own poll, which focuses more on the President’s “steady” job approval rating.  As in the CNN poll, Barack Obama’s overall approval hasn’t changed much over the last month, even with the raft of scandals over the past two weeks:

Majorities of Americans believe that the Internal Revenue Service deliberately harassed conservative groups by targeting them for special scrutiny and say that the Obama administration is trying to cover up important details about the terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans last year.

But a new Washington Post-ABC News poll also finds that allegations of impropriety related to the controversies have yet to affect President Obama’s political standing.

The president’s approval rating, at 51 percent positive and 44 percent negative, has remained steady in the face of fresh disclosures about the IRS, the Benghazi attack and the Justice Department’s secret collection of telephone records of Associated Press journalists as part of a leak investigation.

That’s very similar to yesterday’s CNN poll, which showed roughly the same approval level for Obama.  So far, of course, the scandals haven’t been tied directly to Obama or his inner circle, which is one reason why his job approval hasn’t yet budged.  It also takes some time for that kind of erosion to show up in polling for a President, again depending on how close it comes to him personally.

However, that doesn’t mean the public isn’t paying attention.  Politico notices that the IRS scandal has caught the nation’s attention — and that a majority reject the administration’s argument that this was just a case of bad training and misguided attempts by low-level agents.  Respondents are split on whether the White House is trying to cover it up:

A majority of Americans believe the IRS scandal was part of a deliberate plan to harass conservative groups, according to a poll released Tuesday.

Only 31 percent in the new Washington Post/ABC News poll think the IRS’ targeting was an honest administrative mistake, while 56 percent believe it was deliberate. And 45 percent say the administration is trying to cover up facts about the scandal, while 42 percent believe it is honestly disclosing what it knew.

They’re not happy about it, either.  Almost three in four (74%) consider the IRS’ actions inappropriate, with 57% considering them “strongly” inappropriate.  Those who are arguing that the IRS was right to target Tea Party applications are among a 1-in-5 minority; only 11% think it was “strongly appropriate.”

Obama and his team gets more bad news on Benghazi.  By a 22-point majority (55/33), respondents believe that the White House is trying to cover up what it knows on Benghazi.  That includes 60% of independents, a bad number for Obama.  They did get some better news on the AP scandal, where 52% believe that the Department of Justice’s seizure of the wire service’s phone records as justified.  However, 69% are somewhat or very concerned that the government will “improperly intrude on” the freedom of the press in their efforts to pursue leakers.

Obama’s approval rating may be steady for now, but these scandals have significant potential to change that calculus.

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