Americans Have Doubts About Benghazi -- And Embassy Security

May 15, 2013, 1:00 PM GMT+0

(Week of 5/11/2013) Americans are divided on whether the Obama Administration deliberately misled the American public about what it knew about last September’s attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya – and divided as well on whether the State Department and the Administration are taking the right steps to prevent future attacks. The latest Economist/YouGov Poll also finds that opinion of the way President Obama and his Administration handled the Benghazi attack has declined since September.

Last fall, immediately after the attack, the public gave the Administration marginally positive marks on the handling of the attack, judged along with the handling of other protests occurring at the same time as the Benghazi attack. Now opinion is decidedly negative about the performance of both the President and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. There was always a partisan cast to the evaluation of the handling of Benghazi – not unexpected, as the attack occurred in the middle of a presidential campaign. But in September, independents gave the Administration a positive evaluation. Then, 48% of independents approved, and 42% disapproved. Now, by more than two to one, independents disapprove of the President’s management of this crisis.

And Americans are not sure things have improved when it comes to potential future attacks. Less than half say they are even somewhat confident that the Administration and State Department are taking the right steps to prevent future attacks on U.S. installations abroad.

A critical question for the various Congressional committees investigating the attack and the aftermath is whether or not the Administration deliberately misled the American people about what they knew about the causes of the attack. 42% think they did. Nearly as many, 38%, say the Administration shared the facts as they knew them.

Of course, this question, like so many these days, is fraught with political judgments. 70% of Democrats think the Administration shared facts as they became available; three in four Republicans say the Administration deliberately misled the public. Independents come down on the GOP side on this question: 49% of independents say the Administration misled the public, while 32% of independents disagree.

Whether this – and other new revelations about recent actions by the Administration – has any impact of the overall popularity of President Obama is yet to be seen, however. In this week’s poll, 46% of Americans approve of the way the President is handling his job overall, while 47% disapprove. That is not much different that the percentages recorded by Economist/YouGov Polls for many months.

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