In one of his final acts as president, Obama commuted the sentence of Chelsea Manning, the U.S. soldier who sent classified documents to WikiLeaks, as well as the sentences of hundreds of federal prisoners convicted of drug crimes.
A 58 percent majority of Americans say they approve of Obama’s decision to reduce the sentences of hundreds of federal prisoners convicted of nonviolent drug offenses. Just 30 percent disapprove.
However, opinions are divided along partisan lines: 81 percent of Democrats and 61 percent of independents, but just under a third of Republicans, approve of the decision.
The results are only the latest to show that there’s broad public appetite for some form of drug sentencing reform. A 2015 survey, taken after Obama granted clemency to a previous wave of nonviolent drug offenders, found that Americans agreed 2-to-1 with the decision and that a 40 percent plurality thought sentences for drug crimes were generally too harsh.
Obama’s clemency toward Manning is significantly less popular. Just 33 percent of Americans agree with the decision to commute her sentence, while 47 percent disagree, with the remainder unsure.
Views on Manning’s commutation are also polarized, with 49 percent of Democrats, but just 36 percent of independents and 13 percent of Republicans, approving.
That partisan divide, however, is reversed when it comes to WikiLeaks, the site to which Manning released classified material. While Republicans hold split opinions of WikiLeaks, with 37 percent viewing it favorably and 42 percent viewing it unfavorably, Democrats are solidly opposed, with just 19 percent viewing it favorably, and 52 percent viewing it unfavorably.
As a previous YouGov survey found, GOP views of WikiLeaks improved substantially after it published hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee, while Democrats’ opinions soured.
During his time as president, Obama used his clemency power for more people than any president since Harry S. Truman, according to Pew Research, which also notes that he received a record level of requests for clemency. Overall, 37 percent of Americans say Obama gave clemency to too many people during his presidency, while 12 percent believe he gave clemency to too few people, and 23 percent think his actions were about right.
The HuffPost/YouGov poll consisted of 1,000 completed interviews conducted Jan. 19-20 among U.S. adults, using a sample selected from YouGov’s opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population.
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