Americans tend to see Lt. Col. Oliver North as a patriot and hero, but they are not sure he was entirely truthful in his testimony before the joint House-Senate Iran-contra committees. These and other somewhat contradictory impressions emerged from polls conducted for Newsweek and Time magazines last week.
A Newsweek poll July 9-10 found that 44 percent of Americans viewed Colonel North as ``a patriot and a hero.'' A Time magazine poll taken July 9 indicated only 29 percent saw North as ``a national hero,'' with 61 percent disputing that characterization. But when Time asked if North was ``a true patriot,'' 67 percent replied ``Yes.''
Time said no more than 51 percent judged North to be totally truthful. Newsweek said 19 percent responded that North was telling the whole truth, 15 percent said he was holding back information to protect himself, and 53 percent said he was holding back information to protect others. Time said 69 percent felt that North should not be jailed and Newsweek reported that 65 percent felt his intentions were good.
Time's poll indicated that 84 percent believed North's covert activities were approved by higher-ups. Seventy percent of Newsweek's participants felt the same way, and 61 percent said President Reagan had a larger role in the Iran-Contra scandal than he has acknowledged.
Poll results were reported in the magazines' July 20 editions. The Gallup Organization interviewed 620 adults by telephone for Newsweek. The margin of error was 5 percentage points. The Time poll of 612 adults, handled by Yankelovich Clancy Shulman, had a 4 percent margin of error.