Voters Split on Benghazi, Divide Along Partisan Lines

Most Americans believe America’s standing, prestige, and image in the world has declined since Barack Obama became president, according to a new national survey conducted by the Saint Leo University Polling Institute.

A majority of 55 percent think America’s international image is “a lot” (34 percent) or “somewhat” (21 percent) worse under the Obama administration. A minority of 39 percent think it is “somewhat” (29 percent) or “a lot” (10 percent) better since Obama became president.

Not surprisingly, 87 percent of Republicans say America’s standing has declined under Obama, but so do 57 percent of Independents. Two-thirds of Democrats (66 percent) say America’s standing is better under Obama.

“The fact that a majority of Americans believe that our standing in the world has declined in the sixth year of the Obama presidency follows a pattern we see with most other presidents,” said Frank Orlando, instructor of political science at Saint Leo University. Orlando continued: “While members of the opposing party are quick to believe status is shrinking under a president they did not vote for, we often see members of the president’s own party becoming dissatisfied with a failure to reach expectations they had at this stage of their second term. The lack of resolution on issues like Guantanamo and the continuing tribulations of Iraq and Afghanistan are likely parts of this calculus.”
Votes split on the administration’s handling of the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, which is the subject of congressional hearings, with 43 percent of voters concluding the administration deliberately misled the American people and 37 percent saying it did not. There is a clear partisan divide on this issue.

“It’s not surprising that Republicans and Democrats can react to the same basic set of facts on a situation like Benghazi and react in different ways,” stated Saint Leo’s Orlando. “It’s likely that under a Republican administration, these results would be reversed. Still, it’s troubling news for the president that almost half of Independent voters believe they were deliberately misled. This could cause trouble for the Democratic brand for the midterms and possibly into the 2016 presidential campaign,” concluded Orlando.

The survey specifically asked: “Since Barack Obama became president, do you think America’s standing, prestige and image in the world is a lot better, somewhat better, somewhat worse, or a lot worse?”

Entire base Responses R I D
10% A lot better 4 6 18
29% Somewhat better 6 29 48
21% Somewhat worse 20 23 20
34% A lot worse 67 34 7
6% Don’t know/unsure 4 7 7


The survey continued with the question: “The U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, was attacked a few years ago and four Americans, including the ambassador, were killed. That attack, and the Obama Administration’s handling of the situation, is the subject of Congressional hearings. Which of the following statements comes closest to your view?”

Entire base Responses R I D
43% The Obama Administration deliberately misled the American people about the Benghazi attack and engaged in a politically-motivated cover-up just before the election. 72 48 15
37% The Obama Administration did not deliberately mislead the American people about the Benghazi attack and shared the best information it had at the time with the public. 11 33 61
20% Don’t know / not sure 17 18 24


This survey was conducted May 28 to June 4, prior to both last week’s civil unrest in Iraq and the June 15 capture by U.S. military forces of Ahmed Abu Khattala, the alleged leader of the 2012 attack on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.

About the Saint Leo University Polling Institute/Methodology

This Saint Leo University national poll of 1,016 people, including 802 likely voters, was conducted between May 28 and June 4, 2014. The margin of error is approximately 3 percent +/- with a 95 percent confidence level. The Saint Leo University Polling Institute conducts its surveys using cutting-edge online methodology, which is rapidly transforming the field of survey research. Sample is drawn from large online panels, which allow for random selections that reflect accurate cross sections of all demographic groups. Online methodology has the additional advantages of allowing participants to respond to the survey at a time, place, and speed that is convenient to them, which may result in more thoughtful answers. The Saint Leo University Polling Institute develops the questionnaires, administers the surveys, and conducts analysis of the results. Panel participants typically receive a token incentive – usually 50 cents deposited into an iTunes or Amazon account – for their participation.

About Saint Leo University

Saint Leo University is a regionally accredited, liberal-arts-based institution known for an inclusive Catholic heritage, enduring values, and capacity for innovation. The school was chartered in 1889 by Catholic Benedictine monks in rural Pasco County, FL, making Saint Leo the first Catholic college in the state. Over its 125-year history, Saint Leo has provided access to education to people of all faiths, emphasizing the Benedictine philosophy of balanced growth of mind, body, and spirit.
Today the university welcomes learners from all generations and backgrounds, from civilian occupations and the armed forces, and from all 50 states and more than 60 nations. Saint Leo’s 16,000 undergraduate and graduate students may elect to study at the beautiful University Campus in Florida, at more than 40 teaching locations in seven states, or online from other locations. The university’s degree programs range from the associate to the doctorate. Throughout these rich offerings, Saint Leo develops principled leaders for a challenging world.

Media Contacts: Kim Payne, staff writer and media coordinator, at or (352) 588-7233/(717) 798-1508 or Jo-Ann Johnston, academic communications manager, at or (352) 588-8237/(352) 467-0843.