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Low Importance Placed On Fund-Raising Allegations

Clinton's ethics do not compare favorably to recent predecessors

By Keating Holland/CNN

WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, April 21) -- President Bill Clinton is suffering little so far from allegations of Democratic campaign fund-raising excesses as Americans are placing low importance on the scandal, according to the latest CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll.

Half the people surveyed say that those allegations are not relevant to Clinton's ability to serve as President, and 58 percent say they are not important enough to justify Congress taking time away from its regular business to investigate them.


And Clinton's approval ratings dipped only from 59 percent last month, to 54 percent -- a slower decline than President Ronald Reagan's in his second term.

But Americans do consider Clinton less ethical than former Presidents George Bush, Reagan or Jimmy Carter, though they do think his ethical standards are higher than Richard Nixon's.

That Clinton came out ahead of Nixon may be explained, in part, by comparisons to Watergate. In the spring of 1973, a majority said that Watergate was of great importance to the nation. Today only 28 percent say that the allegations about Democratic fund-raising activities are of great importance.

But there is at least one piece of bad news for Clinton: A majority of the public thinks he has participated in a cover-up of his 1996 fund-raising activities.

In the spring of 1973, a majority felt that Nixon was covering up something about Watergate; it was evidence of a cover-up in the "smoking gun" tape that eventually led to Nixon's resignation in 1974.

Are Clinton's ethical standards lower or higher compared to ...
Lower Higher
Carter 61% 18%
Bush 56% 27%
Reagan 54% 29%
Nixon 30% 47%

Is the issue of great importance to the nation?
Fund-raising Now 28%
Watergate in 1973 53%

Are campaign fund-raising allegations relevant to Clinton's ability to serve as president?
Relevant 43%
Not relevant 50%

Is fund-raising important enough for Congress to investigate?
Yes 39%
No 58%

Was there a cover-up?
Yes No
Clinton Now 51% 40%
Nixon in 1973 50% 35%

Clinton's Approval Rating
Now 54%
March 59%

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