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Gallup Poll: American Public Generally Disapproves of Presidential Pardons

Aired February 8, 2001 - 4:22 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

JOIE CHEN, CNN ANCHOR: We want to look into a new poll by the Gallup organization about the issue of presidential pardons.

And on that, Gallup Poll's editor in chief Frank Newport joins us -- Frank.

FRANK NEWPORT, GALLUP POLL EDITOR IN CHIEF: Indeed, Joie; four points I'll make for you.

First of all, the American public is actually following this whole business about Clinton's pardons fairly closely. We asked this past weekend, how closely are you following it, and we found a fairly substantial percent, 62 percent, following it. Actually, that's a little higher than the percent of Americans who are following, for example, Bush's faith-based initiative ideas. So, basically, it is a high priority news story as far as the American public is concerned.

Now, do they approve or disapprove? No questions about it; Americans, the plurality, slight majority, absolute majority, 50 percent disapprove; 34 percent approve of the pardon. So it's a negative reaction; not overwhelmingly so. The reason why: it breaks by party. Naturally, I'll show you Republicans strongly disapprove of the pardons by Clinton, independents disapprove.

Now here's the key part: these are Democrats; we hear a lot of commentators saying, oh, even Democrats aren't supporting Clinton's pardons. However, here 51 percent of Democrats do, so at least a slight majority approve them, it's just not an overwhelming number; not nearly the number that disapprove among Republicans.

Our final point, Joie, is Americans have never liked presidential pardons. Look at this; go back to '92 -- Bush the elder; 54 percent, about the same number, disapproved at that point of Bush's pardon of former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger. Going back further, Gerald Ford's pardon of Richard Nixon started out very negate. However, over time that actually became somewhat more positive.

So that's our final point: over time, perhaps, Americans will mellow, but right now Americans don't like these pardons anymore than they have pardons by previous presidents.

Joie, back to you.

CHEN: All right; Frank Newport from the Gallup organization, thanks very much for being with us.

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