GALLUP: Public Has Opposed High-Profile Presidential Pardons

By: E&P Staff

Calls have been ringing out from some editorial pages and from many conservatives callng on President George W. Bush to pardon Lewis “Scooter” Libby, convicted Tuesday on charges of perjury, obstruction of justice, and making false statements to federal investigators. But the Gallup organization reported today that its data “indicates that the public has generally opposed high-profile presidential pardons in the recent past.”

Americans immediately opposed high-profile pardons issued by Gerald Ford (Richard Nixon) by 53% to 38%, George H. W. Bush (Caspar Weinberger) by 54% to 27%, and Bill Clinton (financier Marc Rich) by 62% to 20%.

“This opposition to the pardons had an immediate impact on the public’s overall assessment of Ford and Clinton,” Gallup explains. “Ford’s job approval ratings fell sharply and Clinton’s favorable ratings fell dramatically in the short term. On the other hand, Bush’s ratings actually improved after his pardon of Weinberger. The current president Bush, whose job approval rating is at 33% — including a 9% rating among Democrats — doesn’t have a lot to lose in the court of public opinion, but history suggests that the public’s initial reaction to the pardon itself is highly likely to be negative.”

Gallu concludes: “History suggests that a pardon of Libby by President Bush will most likely be greeted by an immediately negative reaction. This conclusion is bolstered by a review of existing evidence on the public’s perception of this case since Libby’s indictment in 2005, most of which shows that Americans were predisposed to believe that Libby was guilty from the start.” But it added: “A pardon might actually bolster Bush’s standing among Republicans, resulting in an overall net positive impact.”

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