Meh. Lots of hype over this Quinnipiac number in political media today but look at the crosstabs and you’ll find the predictable hyperpartisan split. Virtually all Democrats say he should resign, virtually all Republicans say he shouldn’t. It falls to independents (as usual) to decide which position draws an overall majority. The fact that 52 percent of that group want Sessions to go is moderately bad news for the White House but it’s not surprising that they’d lean that way after a multi-day media frenzy.
Note the split among whites and nonwhites:
Nonwhites are overwhelmingly Democratic so partisanship is at work there too, but it may be that the accusations of racism against Sessions before his confirmation hearing are influencing perceptions of him on all matters, including on the seemingly unrelated issue of whether you believe his testimony about contact with Russians was perjury or an innocent mistake. Same goes for any politician: If you deeply dislike Trump or Obama for his politics or beliefs, odds are you’re not going to give him the benefit of the doubt when asked if he’s guilty of some specific nefarious behavior and should resign from office over it.
What a result like this proves, I think, isn’t so much that there’s strong public sentiment in favor of Sessions’s resignation as that Sessions isn’t well regarded by the public after months of Democratic attacks and his own misstep in testifying. In fact, Quinnipiac polled that subject explicitly: When asked if they have a favorable or unfavorable view of Sessions, the public split 23/43, with 72 percent of Democrats giving him thumbs down. Tellingly, only 24 percent of Dems said they haven’t heard enough about Sessions to form an opinion while 40 percent of Republicans said the same thing. That’s further evidence of how well the Democratic campaign against Sessions succeeded in shaping opinion, at least outside the GOP base. Republican voters who consume mostly conservative media are insulated from many Dem attacks and either like Sessions or have no reason to doubt him; Democratic voters who consume liberal media have been eating those attacks up for months. Go figure that the net result is a bad rating on balance among the overall population.
I don’t mean to imply, though, that the public isn’t sincerely bothered by what happened with his testimony. The numbers who thought he behaved illegally or unethically by giving false information were a bit higher than the number who thought he should resign, suggesting that to some extent people have formed considered judgments about this specific incident. They’re not all answering the resignation question based purely on how much they like or dislike Sessions:
More than 60 percent of independents thought Sessions behaved at least unethically in answering as he did, and in another question 52 percent believed he lied under oath (a result nearly identical to the one above about resignation). Don’t ask me how 52 percent can believe that, though, when only 34 percent believe he did something illegal. Either way, there’s no question that he further damaged himself with the public by not mentioning his meeting with Kislyak.
Here’s a peeved Al Franken demanding this week that Sessions come back and testify about his contacts with Kislyak. By the way, per Quinnipiac, 61 percent of the public (and independents) say they’re at least “somewhat concerned” about Trump’s relationship with Russia and 66 percent support creating an independent commission to investigate possible links between Trump’s campaign aides and the Russian government. Those numbers are worth worrying about more than Sessions’s.