DENVER – Most Americans believe that President Obama or his top aides were aware that federal tax officials were improperly targeting conservative non-profit groups, and think those responsible should be fired or sent to prison, according to the results of a recent public opinion poll.
Nearly six in ten respondents – 57 percent – said they believe that recent Internal Revenue Service (IRS) investigations against conservative groups were “politically motivated” compared to just 16 percent who said the IRS investigations were “a coincidence.” Another 27 percent were “not sure.”
A majority of men (61 percent), women (53 percent) and political independents (60 percent) agreed that the IRS investigations were politically motivated; as did a plurality respondents who described themselves as politically moderate (49 percent).
News of the IRS abuses broke last week, the latest in what has been a series of recent scandals to hit the Obama administration, culminating the resignation of IRS acting commissioner Steven Miller on Wednesday.
IRS officials blamed the misconduct on a few “rogue employees,” and President Obama has denied any advance knowledge of the IRS’ improper actions, saying that he learned of the scandal through press reports.
But the survey suggests voters are skeptical of those claims.
When asked whether it is likely that President Obama or his top aides were aware that conservative groups were being targeted by the IRS, 55 percent said they believed it was either “very likely” or “somewhat likely” compared to just 34 percent who said it was “not very likely” or “not at all likely.” Another 11 percent were unsure.
A majority of men (59 percent), women (51 percent), Republicans (88 percent), political independents (52 percent), those between 40 and 64 years of age (60 percent), those over 65 years old (62 percent) as well as white respondents (60 percent), and those who did not identify themselves as either white or black (51 percent), said it was “very likely” or “somewhat likely” that President Obama or top administration officials knew about the improper IRS investigations.
A majority of respondents (57 percent) also say that the IRS employees who were involved in targeting the conservative groups should be jailed or fired.
The scandal has prompted criticism from both Republican and Democratic lawmakers who want more information from the White House about what happened.
Congress held its first hearing on the matter Friday.
“Republicans and Democrats are together in trying to get real answers,” U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel (D-New York) told the Fox Business Network.
“We owe it to the taxpayers and American citizens to get an answer that will give them confidence in government. That’s the bottom line,” Rangel added.
The Rassmussen Reports national poll surveyed 1,000 likely voters between May 13 and May 14, and has a margin of error of + / – 3 percentage points.