Question Wording Matters in New Fast and Furious Poll From CNN

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Are Americans conflicted about Attorney General Holder? Image courtesy of the US DOJ

Are Americans confused about the Fast and Furious Subpoena/Contempt conflict between the US Attorney General, Eric Holder, and Congress?

A new CNN poll, released July 9, 2012, indicates that 53 percent of Americans approve of the U.S. House of Representatives vote to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for refusing to turn over documents related to Operation Fast and Furious.

Poll respondents do not seem to support the reasoning behind the vote, however, as 61 percent suggested it was held for Republicans to gain political advantage.

The House voted to hold Holder in contempt on June 21.

The vote was mostly on partisan lines, with 17 Democrats voting with Republicans, but a number of House Democrats walked out of the chamber in protest.

CNN Fast and Furious Poll Methodology

The poll was conducted from June 28 to July 1. Respondents were contacted via landline and cell phone. Out of 1517 adult American respondents, 1390 were registered voters.

Landline contacts represented 1138 of the respondents, and 379 were cell phone users. The margin of error was +/-2.5 points.

Eric Holder Contempt Vote: Conflicting Results

The good news for the Republicans who led the charges against Holder is that the majority of Americans apparently agree with their actions in bringing the vote to the floor. Fifty-three percent answered “approve” when asked the following question:

“As you may know, on Thursday the U.S. House of Representatives voted to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for refusing to turn over documents related to a program called Operation Fast and Furious.
Based on what you have read or heard about this matter, do you approve or disapprove of the action taken by the U.S. House?”

The results become somewhat confusing further into the poll. Most Americans seemed to agree with a point championed by Democrats who disagree with the contempt vote. When asked the following question, 61 percent of respondents answered “Gain political advantage”:

“Do you think congressional Republicans are investigating Holder and Operation Fast and Furious mostly because they have real ethical concerns about the way the matter was handled, or mostly because they want to gain political advantage?”

Additionally, Holder’s favorability rating does not seem to have been severely affected by the Fast and Furious controversy. In this most recent CNN poll, Holder had a 25 percent favorable rating — not exceptionally high, but two points higher than it was when the same question was asked in December 2009, before the incident occurred. There was a larger increase in his unfavorable rating, however, from 24 percent in 2009 to 31 percent now.

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