Special prosecutor for IRS flap? 3 in 4 Americans say yes

Olivier Knox

Americans overwhelmingly say they want a special prosecutor to look into charges that the Internal Revenue Service improperly targeted conservative groups, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released on Thursday.

Among all voters, support for an independent probe runs 76 to 17 percent. The figure drops slightly among Democrats, to 63 to 30 percent.

At the same time, voters say by a lopsided 73 to 22 percent that boosting the economic recovery and creating jobs is more important than investigating the controversies over the IRS, the administration’s handling of the deadly Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, and the Justice Department surveillance of reporters.

The survey is packed with bad news for President Barack Obama: 45 percent of respondents say they approve of the job he’s doing, compared with 49 percent who say they disapprove. Those numbers were 48 to 45 percent in a similar poll conducted before the IRS controversy erupted.

Yes, there's a partisan split: 86 percent of Republicans disapprove of the job Obama is doing, while 87 percent of Democrats approve. But the president's numbers among independents have slipped to 37 to 57 percent from 42 to 48 percent in the previous poll. That could be a problem for vulnerable Democrats facing re-election in the 2014 midterm elections.

Americans seem skeptical of GOP assaults on Obama over Benghazi. By 43 to 32 percent, they say it's "just politics." But 44 percent say lawmakers critical of Obama's handling of the IRS controversy are raising "legitimate concerns." Thirty-seven percent say the same about the Justice Department's seizure of journalists' telephone records.

Forty-four percent of respondents say the IRS flap is the most important, against 24 percent who say the same of Benghazi, and 15 percent for the investigation of journalists.

And America is not in a good mood. Two in three voters—68 percent—say they are at least "somewhat dissatisfied" with the direction of the country. Thirty-two percent say they are at least "somewhat satisfied."

The picture doesn't brighten for political parties: The Democratic Party's unfavorable/favorable numbers run 47 to 42 percent. It's worse for the Republican Party, at 50 to 35 percent. And the tea party doesn't fare that much better at 38 to 28 percent. (Remember that Congress as a whole suffers from abysmal ratings.)

Only 3 percent of voters trust the federal government to do the right thing almost all the time, while 12 percent say they trust Washington most of the time, 47 percent say some of the time and 36 percent say hardly ever.

“All of these investigations may be having a negative effect on voters’ willingness to trust the federal government to do the right thing,” Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, said in a statement accompanying the poll.