The White House has taken heat for discussing administration jobs with two Democratic candidates who the administration did not want challenging incumbent U.S. senators from their states. A new Fox News poll finds few people think the White House did anything illegal, and most think it's probably been a common practice in past administrations.
At the same time, inconsistencies between the candidates' stories and the White House's explanation lead a majority of voters to think that someone is covering up something, and that the matter should be investigated.
Pennsylvania Rep. Joe Sestak, a Democrat, sparked the controversy earlier this year when he claimed the White House offered him a job if he did not run against Sen. Arlen Specter in that state's primary. Sestak still ran, and defeated Specter on May 18.
Andrew Romanoff, a Democratic state legislator in Colorado, has also said the White House discussed jobs with him as he was contemplating a run against that state's junior senator, Democrat Michael Bennett. Romanoff also went against the White House and decided to stay in the race.
The White House has admitted some discussions about jobs took place with both men.
Twelve percent of voters think the Obama administration broke the law when it talked jobs with the candidates, while another 40 percent think the administration did do something unethical, but not illegal. Thirty percent think it didn't do anything seriously wrong.
A 54 percent majority thinks the inconsistent explanations given by the candidates and the White House suggest someone is covering something up, rather than that people are simply remembering events differently (28 percent).
Most — 65 percent — think discussing jobs in exchange for not running for office is a long-standing, common practice in past administrations, while 21 percent disagree.
Even so, by a 54-35 percent margin, voters think there should be an investigation into the Obama administration's actions to see if anything inappropriate took place.
The national telephone poll was conducted for Fox News by Opinion Dynamics Corp. among 900 registered voters from June 8 to June 9. For the total sample, the poll has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
Just over half of Democrats (51 percent) don't think the Obama administration did anything seriously wrong in its discussion with candidates, while Republicans (55 percent) and independents (43 percent) are most likely to say it did something unethical, but not illegal.
Republicans (22 percent) are seven times more likely and independents (17 percent) are more than five times as likely as Democrats (3 percent) to say the White House did something illegal.
Majorities of Republicans (76 percent) and independents (58 percent) think there should be an investigation, as do more than a third of Democrats (36 percent). A 53 percent majority of Democrats does not think there should be an investigation.
Democrats are fairly evenly divided over whether the administration and candidates are remembering events differently (43 percent) or someone is covering something up (39 percent). Most Republicans (73 percent) and independents (59 percent) say cover-up.
The most partisan agreement comes on whether what the Obama administration did is common practice. Although to varying extents, majorities of Democrats (72 percent), Republicans (56 percent) and independents (63 percent) agree this sort of thing happens all the time.