Clinton's Polls Take Tick Up; Whitewater Still A Problem

PRESIDENT Clinton's approval rating rose after his prime-time news conference last week, but considerable skepticism remains about whether the full truth is known about Whitewater, according to two new polls.

Fifty-seven percent of those surveyed March 25-27 in an ABC News-Washington Post poll approve of Clinton's job performance, compared with 47 percent in a March 22 poll and 52 percent in a March 8 sampling. A similar USA Today/CNN/Gallup Poll found a 2 percent increase, to a 52 percent approval rating.

The Gallup survey found a 48-to-44 percent plurality believe Clinton is hiding something and 48 percent said he does not deserve to be reelected compared with 46 percent who said he does. And 58 percent believe Clinton ``probably'' did something either unethical or illegal - down just slightly from the 61 percent who held that view in a Gallup survey conducted March 8.

The latest USA Today/CNN/Gallup sample found only 9 percent of those asked believe what the president says about Whitewater is ``completely true,'' but 56 percent believe it is ``mostly true.'' It found 23 percent believe what he says is mostly false and 4 percent believe it is completely false.

The ABC-Post survey recorded the sentiments of 1,029 adults selected at random and has a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points. Immigration changes

SWAMPED by 150,000 asylum requests a year, the Clinton administration is taking steps to speed up processing, but critics fear it will merely create a new backlog elsewhere in the system.

The backlog now stands at 370,000 cases, and the Immigration and Naturalization Service estimates it could hit 500,000 cases by the end of the year. In New York and Miami, it can take more than a year to get an asylum case heard by an immigration judge.

Federal officials and immigration advocates said March 28 the Justice Department is ready to double the number of officials who adjudicate claims, impose a $130 processing fee for those who can afford it, and delay work permits until six months after application.

In a major change, the new system will take over new claims immediately. ``We are going to process new applications first and not immediately deal with the backlog,'' said a government official.

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