House intensifies Benghazi probe. Do voters approve?

The US House of Representatives is set to create an investigative panel to look into the Benghazi affair. Polls show support for that move, but it's driven primarily by Republicans.

J. Scott Applewhite/AP
Rep. Trey Gowdy (R) of South Carolina, seen here in the Capitol in Washington Wednesday, has been tapped to lead a special select committee to investigate the attack on the US diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya.

Do voters want a more intensive congressional investigation into the Benghazi affair?

That question arises because House Republicans are moving to provide the nation with just that. Last week a GOP-led House panel subpoenaed Secretary of State John Kerry to appear and testify about the administration’s reaction to the Benghazi tragedy. This week Republican lawmakers are set to create a select committee charged with probing the Benghazi affair full-time.

There aren’t a lot of updated polls on Benghazi, so numbers on the public reaction to this subject aren’t definitive. But some recent surveys indicate that Americans do indeed approve of a continued congressional investigation into this subject.

A Rasmussen poll released on Monday found that 51 percent of respondents agreed that Benghazi merited further investigation. Thirty-four percent disagreed, while the rest weren’t sure.

Half of respondents to the Rasmussen survey said they weren’t satisfied with the administration’s explanations of Benghazi events.

In April, 60 percent of respondents to a Fox News poll agreed with the perhaps leading statement that “Congress should continue to investigate the Obama administration’s handling of the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that resulted in the deaths of four Americans until someone is held accountable.”

That is down from the 65 percent who answered in the affirmative to that question last November, according to Fox data.

However, underneath these top-line numbers there is a deep partisan disagreement about the importance of Benghazi, who is to blame for the US deaths, and what Congress should do text. Much of the enthusiasm for pursuing the subject comes from the Republican side of the political aisle.

For instance, in the Fox survey, 77 percent of Republicans said then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was either a great deal or somewhat to blame for what happened in Benghazi. The corresponding number for Democrats was only 35 percent.

A new Pew Research poll on Mrs. Clinton and her presidential prospects shows a similar split.

Asked to rate aspects of Clinton’s career about which they felt negative, Republicans picked “Benghazi” as their top item. Twenty-eight percent of GOP respondents said it was the one thing about Clinton they most disliked.

In contrast, only 8 percent of Democrats said Benghazi was Clinton’s biggest negative.

Overall, this shows that Republicans may have convinced themselves that Benghazi would be a liability for Clinton if she runs in 2016, writes Washington Post political expert Aaron Blake. But they have yet to convince the rest of the nation.

“Benghazi has yet to register as an Achilles heel for Clinton with the American public,” writes Mr. Blake in "The Fix" blog.

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