POLITICS
08/08/2014 06:18 pm ET Updated Aug 12, 2014

HUFFPOLLSTER: Forty Years After Nixon Resignation, Trust In Government Remains Low

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Memories of Watergate are fading among younger generations. Memories of the Iraq War may remain fresh as Americans assess further action. And opinions on immigration remain conflicted. This is HuffPollster for Friday, August 8, 2014.

GENERATIONAL DIVIDE ON MEMORIES OF WATERGATE - Paul Steinhauser: "Four decades after President Richard Nixon resigned, a slight majority of Americans still consider Watergate a very serious matter, a new national survey shows. But how serious depends on when you were born....There's a big generational divide over the significance of the scandal, with a majority of those older than 40 describing Watergate as a very serious problem and those under 40 saying it was just politics. The poll also indicates that the public's trust in government is at an all-time low....'The number who trust the government all or most of the time has sunk so low that it is hard to remember that there was ever a time when Americans routinely trusted the government,' CNN Polling Director Keating Holland said. 'But polls conducted by the University of Michigan consistently found a majority of Americans in the 1960s and early 1970s saying that the government could be trusted all or most of the time - until Watergate.'" [CNN]

Another poll finds fewer now believe Nixon's offenses warranted resignation - Peter Moore: "Forty years on from Watergate most Americans think the scandal was serious enough for Nixon to resign, but most Americans don't think he did anything worse than other presidents have...New YouGov research shows that most Americans still think that Nixon's actions were serious enough to warrant his resignation, but that this has decreased in the past fifteen years. In a 1999 poll by Gallup, 72% of Americans said that his actions were serious enough to warrant his resignation, while 23% said that they weren't. Today, 59% think that it was serious enough to warrant resignation and 16% say that it isn't, with the percentage of Americans expressing 'no opinion' increasing from 5% to 25%....Most of the American public (51%) believe that Nixon's actions regarding Watergate were 'no more or less serious' than the actions taken by other recent presidents." [YouGov]

Flashback: A sample of polling on Watergate from 40 years ago, courtesy of the Roper Center: [iPoll]

Time, March 1974: How do you expect the Watergate affair to end, with Mr. (President) Nixon staying in office, resigning, or being impeached?
-48 percent: Continue in office
-15 percent: Resign
-25 percent: Be impeached

Roper, August 1974: The week of August 5th (1974) was a momentous week. In a period of eight days former President Nixon admitted he had not told everything he knew (concerning Watergate). He became the first President in history to resign from office. Gerald Ford was sworn in as President and he made his first two speeches to the nation. Some feel it was one of the darkest weeks in the country's history. Others feel it was the rebirth of the nation. Do you regard it as a black week or a bright week in our history?
-27 percent: black
-46 percent: bright
-24 percent: mixed

More on Nixon's legacy:

-Andy Kohut examines how Watergate sapped Nixon's support. [Pew]

-The Roper Center finds that time has yet to rehabilitate Nixon's image [Roper]

POLLING SUGGESTS AMERICAN RESISTANCE TO ACTION IN IRAQ - Scott Clement and Peyton Craighill: "President Obama’s authorization late Thursday for airstrikes and humanitarian aid in Iraq will undoubtedly bring back a host of emotions for Americans, whose forces withdrew from that same country less than three years ago. Americans have so far been deeply ambivalent toward further military action in Iraq. A June Washington Post-ABC News poll found fewer than half, 45 percent, supported launching airstrikes against Sunni extremists in the country, and only 30 percent supported deploying ground troops. Separate surveys found majorities believing the U.S. does not have a responsibility to stop violence in the country. Public opinion surveys find that, in general, Americans say they overwhelmingly support military action to prevent genocide or retaliate against the use of chemical weapons. But support has been far lower when it comes to specific conflicts in which such things might be involved. Iraq presents just such a difficult choice….after a long succession of hypotheticals when it comes to American military action overseas, we're finally going to see how Americans view real action." [WashPost]

NO CLEAR FAVORITE IN HAWAII PRIMARY POLLS - Hawaii holds its primaries on Saturday, but the polls offer a conflicting picture of the race between Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and challenger Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-Hawaii). Of the two non-partisan surveys conducted in July, one gives Hanabusa an 8-point lead, while the other finds Schatz ahead by the same margin. Hawaii's diverse population has previously posed challenges for pollsters in figuring out who'll show up to vote, and beyond methodological differences, the two surveys posit significantly different racial compositions: 22 percent in the poll with Hanabusa leading are Caucasian, compared with 43 percent in the poll with Schatz leading. [More on the challenges of polling Hawaii, Pollster chart]

A follow-up on methodology - Earlier in the week, the pollsters behind Merriman River, which released the survey giving Schatz the lead, laid out some of the changes they made after 2012, including a switch to a new list of voters' phone numbers that seemed to provide more reliable results among Americans of Japanese Ancestry.

In an email to HuffPollster, pollster Seth Rosenthal fills in a few more details about efforts to reach cell phone users, and about the new list's higher match rate (the percentage of listed voters whose information includes a phone number): "The 2012 list was not obtained directly from the state, but rather through a secondary vendor who compiles a list from state records....The match rate for landlines on that list was higher than one-third, but not by all that much. We weren't incorporating cells into our IVR polls yet during the 2012 election, so I don't know any of the specifics about how many (if any) on that list were cells....When we started using cells, we obtained the lists from TargetSmart. They are also the provider of the 'new' landline lists referenced in the Civil Beat column. We use them for most of our polling now, except in states where we know we have exceptionally good local lists. Their database is also where I get the turnout targets I use for the demographic weights. TargetSmart has a much higher match rate in Hawaii. Not quite two-thirds, but in that ballpark. About 25% of their numbers in Hawaii are cells."

SURVEYS HIGHLIGHT AMERICA'S MIXED OPINIONS ON IMMIGRATION - Dan Hopkins: "In the past two decades, social scientists have learned a fair bit about Americans’ views on immigration, and a number of those lessons about the who, what, where and why of Americans’ attitudes toward immigration are on vivid display in the current crisis…In an experiment I conducted in 2010 and 2011, Republicans became less supportive of a pathway to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants when they heard an immigrant speaking Spanish in a news clip; Democrats didn’t….Opposition to immigration varies depending on the circumstances, and the response to the children from Central America appears to be somewhat less restrictionist than responses to other recent immigrant crises. Contrast the July AP/GfK poll with a Public Religion Research Institute poll showing that a much greater percentage of Americans — 69 percent — thought the children should be treated as refugees and allowed to stay if it’s not safe to return. So the phrasing of the survey question matters. And that suggests there are competing considerations when Americans think about immigration and asylum, considerations that might be brought to the fore by some survey questions but not others. " [538]

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FRIDAY'S 'OUTLIERS' - Links to the best of news at the intersection of polling, politics and political data:

-Rasmussen finds Greg Abbott (R) with a diminished lead over Wendy Davis (D) for Texas governor. [Rasmussen]

-Amy Walter analyzes why an improving economy isn't likely to help Obama's approval numbers. [Cook Political Report]

-Brendan Nyhan examines the political risks of taking executive action on immigration. [NYT]

-Aaron Blake looks at the impact of the tea party in Republican primaries this year [WashPost]

-Harry Enten finds few strong Democrats to replace John Walsh as a Senate contender in Montana. [538]

-Stu Rothenberg moves the Georgia Governor's race from "Republican Favored" to "Leans Republican" [Roll Call]

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