The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

56 percent of Americans disapprove of FBI decision to exonerate Hillary Clinton

FBI Director James Comey said on July 5 that Hillary Clinton should not be charged for her use of a private email server during her time as secretary of state. (Video: Peter Stevenson/The Washington Post)

A majority of Americans reject the FBI's recommendation against charging Hillary Clinton with a crime for her State Department e-mail practices and say the issue raises concerns about how she might perform her presidential duties, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Six in 10 voters say the outcome will have no impact on their vote this November, even as those who do largely say it discourages them from backing the presumptive Democratic nominee.

Last week's decision by FBI Director James B. Comey resulted in the Justice Department's decision that Clinton would not face criminal prosecution which could have derailed her presidential bid. But Comey's sharp critique of Clinton's email practices and systematic dismantling of her public defenses stocked critics with fresh ammunition for the general election campaign.

The Post-ABC poll found 56 percent disapprove of Comey's recommendation against charging Clinton while 35 percent approve. The survey mentioned Comey's reasoning that Clinton did not have criminal intent but that he found her actions were extremely careless handling e-mails.

Roughly 6 in 10 independents disapprove of the recommendation against charges (59 percent), rising to nearly 9 in 10 Republicans (88 percent) and falling to 31 percent of Democrats.

While Clinton has defended her practice as a matter of personal convenience similar to her predecessors, 57 percent in the poll say the issue worries them about how she might handle responsibilities if elected president, while 39 percent say it's not related to how she would perform as president. Over 4 in 10 say they are "very worried" about the issue's implications for Clinton's performance as president.

The results resemble public opinion throughout the past year showing a majority of the public criticizing her answers to questions about the issue — a Post-ABC poll before the federal probe ended found 56 percent disapproving of her response.

One key factor behind the negative ratings is a substantial level of criticism for Clinton among fellow partisans and Democratic-leaning groups.

Over 3 in 10 Democrats disapprove of Director Comey's recommendation against charges for Clinton (31 percent), and the same percentage says the issue makes them worry about Clinton's presidential responsibility. Over 4 in 10 liberals say the issue raises concerns about how Clinton might handle responsibilities as president, as do 36 percent of non-white Americans and 56 percent of those under age 40.

Registered voters who oppose the decision to forego criminal charges are nonetheless split on whether the outcome makes them less likely to vote Clinton in November — 47 percent say it makes no difference in their vote while 45 percent say they're less likely to support her (8 percent say they're more likely to do so).

Among all voters, 60 percent say the outcome makes no difference in their vote choice, including an identical share of political independents. Republican voters are the most likely to say the outcome discourages them to support Clinton — 49 percent — though the vast majority of this group was already strongly opposed to her candidacy before the FBI's announcement.

The Post-ABC poll was conducted Wednesday and Thursday among a random national sample of 519 adults reached on cellular and landline phones. The margin of sampling error for overall results is plus or minus 5 percentage points.

Emily Guskin contributed to this report.