Majority Disapproves of Decision Not to Charge Clinton on Emails
A majority of Americans disapproves of the FBI‘s recommendation not to charge Hillary Clinton with a crime over her handling of email while secretary of state, and a similar number in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll say the issue leaves them worried about how she’d handle her responsibilities as president if elected.
Most also say the email controversy won’t affect their vote choice in the presidential election. But more say it leaves them less rather than more likely to support Clinton, 28 percent vs. 10 percent.
Reaction to the decision is highly political, with partisanship factoring heavily in people’s views. Yet Democrats don’t back Clinton up on the issue nearly as much as Republicans criticize her, and independents side more with Republicans.
Overall, 56 percent disapprove of FBI Director James Comey’s recommendation not to charge Clinton, while just 35 percent approve. Similarly, 57 percent say the incident makes them worried about how Clinton might act as president if she were elected, with most very worried about it. Just 39 percent feel the issue isn’t related to how she’d perform as president.
Questions about Clinton’s character have been a key weakness of her candidacy. Americans by broad margins have said they don’t regard her as honest and trustworthy. She trailed Bernie Sanders on this attribute by about 20 percentage points consistently in the Democratic primaries. And in some polls she’s trailed Donald Trump on it as well, albeit more closely.
As mentioned, partisanship heavily influences perceptions in this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates. Nearly nine in 10 Republicans disagree with the FBI’s decision and say it worries them about what she’d do if she became president.
Democrats see things very differently, but with less unanimity –- about two-thirds approve of the decision not to charge Clinton and think the issue is unrelated to what she’d do as president. But three in 10 of Clinton’s own party faithful think she should have been charged.
Further, as noted, political independents side more with Republicans on the issue, with roughly six in 10 saying the FBI was wrong and that the issue raises worries about Clinton as president.
Whether the issue in fact hurts Clinton in November is an open question. Republicans, the vast majority of whom already oppose Clinton, are the most apt to say it makes them less likely to support her. Still, many independents and even a few Democrats say the same. (Results are similar among registered voters.)
Forty-five percent of Republicans say the issue makes no difference in their vote -– likely meaning they wouldn’t have voted for Clinton anyway -– while another 47 percent say it makes them less apt to support her. Among Democrats, the email issue makes no difference to three-quarters, and 16 percent say it’s strengthened their support (likely given that she wasn’t charged) -– but one in 10 say they’re less likely to vote for her because of it.
Most independents, 58 percent, say the issue won’t influence their choice, but those who say it’s made them less likely to support Clinton far outnumber those who say it’s made them more apt to vote for her, 33 percent vs. 5 percent.
This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by landline and cell phone from July 6-7, 2016, among a random national sample of 519 adults. Results have a margin of sampling error of 5 points. The survey was produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates of New York, N.Y., with sampling, data collection and tabulation by SSRS of Media, Pa. See details on the survey’s methodology here.