Do the Voters Care About Benghazi?

| May 11 2013
John Walker

Except in wartime, voters usually pay little attention to foreign policy issues at election time. Benghazi may be an exception.

The issues are falling into place for the 2014-midterm elections. The economy and job creation still top the list of major voter concerns, a predictable preference given the still-staggering economy.

Nevertheless, the news is filled with foreign policy events, including the use of chemical weapons in Syria, the Israeli bombing of Damascus, and the question of foreign terrorist links to the Boston bombers. The Benghazi scandal is the most visible.

Scott Rasmussen, the national pollster who stands out because he polls likely voters, says voter reluctance to put foreign policy issues first is the reason he thinks the Benghazi hearings are likely to be a bust. He says it will take a lot more than we know today for Benghazi to be a major issue next year.

We know a lot more about Benghazi today than we did yesterday, and we may know even more about it tomorrow. The mainstream media cannot avoid the story; the White House is in retreat.

In spite of his view on voter interest in Benghazi, Rasmussen reports that voters are skeptical about the administration’s handling of the terrorist attacks last September that took the lives of four Americans.

Only 32 percent believe the president’s team has done a good job explaining what happened, he reports, while 40 percent say the explanations have been poor.

Eight out of 10 believe it’s important to learn what actually happened, Rasmussen says, which includes 51 percent who say learning the truth is “very important.”

Time is running out in the Obama administration’s effort to contain the Benghazi scandal. The administration met its primary goal by getting through the president’s reelection without facing scrutiny. Then former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made it to the finish line before she stepped down.

Republicans in the House didn’t give up. Five chairmen of major committees issued a scathing report on Benghazi. Then came the main event, riveting testimony by three State Department whistleblowers that revealed the truth about the events of last September 11.

At the same time, news reports graphically demonstrated the administration’s duplicity in creating a cover story about what happened in Libya. The focus was the blatant alteration of talking points used by everyone from UN ambassador Susan Rice to the president himself.

We may or we may not learn more about Benghazi to make it a major issue in 2014. Foreign policy scandals, such as the Iran- Contra scandal that rocked the Reagan administration, need major exposure and even charges of criminal activity to make an impact.

Rasmussen makes the point that President Obama gets high marks on foreign policy. His latest numbers reveal that 47 percent give the president good marks on national security, while only 33 percent rate his performance as poor.

Meanwhile, Rasmussen reports public opinion on the economy remains grim. Only 20 percent believe the economy is in good shape, while 36 percent rate it as poor. Almost half believe the nation is still in recession.

Rasmussen says it will take “some pretty spectacular revelations” for foreign policy issues to rival the economy in voter concern. The revelations on Benghazi are spilling out every day. If the cascade continues, voters may add Benghazi to their list of grievances when they go to the polls next year.

4 comments
clifffton
clifffton

After watching the hearings I think it is all gotcha politics. Reminds me of the Clinton impeachment, all for show.

albertinamel
albertinamel

Doubtful. People are much more concerned about violence that strikes much closer to home like Sandy Hook and the Boston bombing. Four dead Americans in a country that was in the early stages of civil war is sad, but not that shocking. After all, they were in a dangerous place, even if they should have had more security. People are much more appalled when their supposed safe towns, like Sandy Hook, are rocked by violence.

WesternFreePress
WesternFreePress moderator

 @clifffton The issues at stake here are much greater than the Clinton impeachment, or Watergate, for that matter.

WesternFreePress
WesternFreePress moderator

 @albertinamel It is true that Americans—like most people, arguably—are more likely to be concerned first and foremost with matters closer to home. That disposition does not address the relative importance of something like Benghazi, but it is certainly true that public opinion plays a heavy role in what does and does not happen with public policy.