NY Times asserted Libby case "polarized public opinion" -- polls show otherwise

››› ››› MATTHEW BIEDLINGMAIER

A July 3 New York Times article reporting on President Bush's commutation of the sentence of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, asserted that "[t]he criminal case" involving Libby "polarized public opinion almost as much as the [Iraq] war itself." The article added that "[c]onservative backers of Mr. Bush contended that because no one was charged with leaking" the identity of former CIA agent Valerie Plame, "the investigation should have been dropped altogether," while "[o]thers said that lying to a grand jury was a serious offense." In fact, public opinion polls have consistently found a strong majority agreeing with the jury's verdict and the court's sentence. Additionally, opinion polls taken prior to Bush's commutation of Libby's sentence found that a strong majority believed Bush should not pardon Libby.

A November 8-13, 2005, Harris poll found that "[a] 56 to 18 percent majority of adults" believed that Libby "is guilty." Additionally, an October 30-November 1, 2005, CBS News poll found that 61 percent of those polled said that "anything" Libby may have done (e.g., lying to the FBI, lying under oath, and obstructing a federal investigation) was "serious enough to deserve criminal prosecution," while only 14 percent said "anything" he may have done was not serious enough to warrant prosecution. Further, a majority of both Republicans and Democrats concurred with these results. The same CBS News poll found that 39 percent of those polled believed the charges against Libby were "probably true" while only 4 percent said they were "probably not true." 54 percent of those polled "did not know enough" to make a decision.

Further, public opinion polls have found that either a majority or a plurality believed President Bush should not pardon Libby, although they did not poll on the question of commuting Libby's sentence:

  • A June 26-27 Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll found that 47 percent of voters said Bush "should not" give Libby a pardon, while 20 percent said he should.
  • A March 11-14 Gallup poll found that "Americans are 3-to-1 against a Libby pardon." The poll found that 67 percent of respondents believed Bush "should not" offer a pardon to Libby, while 21 percent believed he "should."
  • A March 9-11 CNN/Opinion Research poll found that 69 percent of respondents believed that Bush "should not" offer a pardon to Libby, while only 18 percent believed he should. Additionally, 52 percent believed Cheney "was part of a cover-up to try to prevent the special prosecutor from getting to the truth about who leaked CIA agent Valerie Plame's name to the news media," while 29 percent believed he was not.
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