Poll: Most Say Politics Motivated U.S. Attorney Firings

By Jon Cohen and Jennifer Agiesta
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, April 16, 2007; 9:42 AM

Two thirds of Americans, including a narrow majority of Republicans, see political motivations behind last year's firings of eight chief federal prosecutors. But the nation is deeply divided along partisan lines about whether Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales should lose his job over the scandal.

The latest Washington Post-ABC News poll finds that Gonzales faces a broadly critical public as well as congressional scrutiny about the firings of the U.S. attorneys.

Gonzales wrote a column in the Outlook section of The Washington Post yesterday describing his role in the matter; he testifies tomorrow before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

In the poll, 67 percent said they believed the prosecutors were fired by the Justice Department for political reasons, not on the basis of their performance. About eight in 10 Democrats and two-thirds of independents said they saw political motivations behind the firings of the U.S. attorneys, an attitude shared by 53 percent of all Republicans surveyed.

Overall, nearly six in 10 Americans disapproved of the way Gonzales has handled the issue. Among Republicans, 47 percent expressed disapproval of how the Republican attorney general has handled the matter, with 35 percent approving and 18 percent having no opinion.

With widespread public skepticism about the firings and low approval of how the attorney general has handled the matter -- 24 percent approved in this poll -- 45 percent of Americans said the attorney general should lose his job over the issue. Fewer, 39 percent, said he should remain in place; 16 percent expressed no opinion.

Opinion was split along party lines: About six in 10 Democrats said he should lose his job over the issue, but a similar percentage of Republicans thought he should continue on in his position. Forty-six percent of independents said Gonzales should lose his job, 36 percent thought he should keep it and 19 percent were undecided.

This Post-ABC News poll was conducted by telephone April 12-15, 2007, among a random national sample of 1,141 adults. The results have a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points.

Full details on these poll questions are available at www.washingtonpost.com/polls. More from this poll will be released today at 5 p.m.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company