The Washington Post

Benghazi? Most Americans still aren’t paying attention.

We've written on why Republicans would be well served, politically speaking to focus the majority of their time looking into the wrongdoings by the IRS rather than continuing to spend gobs of time in sorting out the who knew what when timeline of the terrorist attack in Benghazi last fall.

New numbers from Pew Research Center validate that argument, providing evidence that even when Benghazi is on the front burner in official Washington it doesn't move the needle with the general public.

Image courtesy of Pew
Image courtesy of Pew

Despite the fact that Pew was in the field in the immediate aftermath of congressional hearings last week that featured several whistleblowers on Benghazi,  just 44 percent of Americans said they were following the story "very" (23 percent) or "fairly" (21 percent) closely -- a number consistent with those paying close attention throughout 2013 so far.  That consistency suggests that in or out of the news, there is a certain percentage of the public who will pay attention to Benghazi -- and the rest simply won't.

The numbers are also strongly influenced by partisan leanings.  More than one in three Republicans (36 percent) are following the Benghazi story "very" closely while just 18 percent of Democrats said they were doing the same.  One in five independents (21 percent) told Pew they were watching the Benghazi story "very" closely.

The political reality is that Benghazi remains an issue that animates a portion of the Republican base -- and not much of anyone else. Contrast that with the ubiquity of the IRS as an institution (and a much maligned one at that) and it's pretty clear where Republicans should spend the majority of their time in the coming weeks.

Chris Cillizza writes “The Fix,” a politics blog for the Washington Post. He also covers the White House.

The Freddie Gray case

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Campaign 2016 Email Updates

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Get Zika news by email

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!
Show Comments
The Democrats debate Thursday. Get caught up on the race.
The big questions after New Hampshire, from The Post's Dan Balz
Can Bernie Sanders cut into Hillary Clinton's strength in the minority community and turn his challenge into a genuine threat? And can any of the Republicans consolidate anti-Trump sentiment in the party in time to stop the billionaire developer and reality-TV star, whose unorthodox, nationalistic campaign has shaken the foundations of American politics?
Clinton in New Hampshire: 2008 vs. 2015
Hillary Clinton did about as well in N.H. this year as she did in 2008, percentage-wise. In the state's main counties, Clinton performed on average only about two percentage points worse than she did eight years ago (according to vote totals as of Wednesday morning) -- and in five of the 10 counties, she did as well or better.
Upcoming debates
Feb. 11: Democratic debate

on PBS, in Wisconsin

Feb 13: GOP debate

on CBS News, in South Carolina

Feb. 25: GOP debate

on CNN, in Houston, Texas

Campaign 2016
Where the race stands

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.