Poll: 76 percent want special prosecutor to investigate IRS scandal

A new poll finds an overwhelming majority support appointing a special prosecutor to investigate the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) targeting of political groups.

A Quinnipiac University poll released on Thursday shows 76 percent want a special counsel to 17 percent opposing.

The idea has strong support across all parties, with 88 percent of Republicans, 63 percent of Democrats and 78 percent of independents calling for a special prosecutor. 

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“There is overwhelming bipartisan support for a special prosecutor to investigate the IRS," said Quinnipiac University Polling Institute Assistant Director Peter Brown in a statement. "Voters apparently don't like the idea of Attorney General Eric Holder investigating the matter himself, perhaps because they don't exactly think highly of him.”

Holder, who would appoint a special investigator, holds a negative 23 to 39 percent approval rating.

Both Republicans and Democrats have expressed anger over the IRS scandal, but lawmakers on both sides are split over the need to appoint a special prosecutor.

GOP leaders say they want to give House investigators more time to probe the matter, as the Oversight and Ways and Means committees hold hearings. Republicans have also expressed skepticism that a prosecutor appointed by Holder could conduct a fair review.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), who is also investigating the IRS, said last week that it was “too soon” to call for a special prosecutor.

The poll also finds the public believes the IRS scandal is the “most important” of the trio of controversies facing the Obama administration.

Forty-four percent of registered voters said the agency’s use of higher scrutiny for Tea Party groups seeking tax exemption was the most worrisome. Twenty-four percent said the administration’s handling of the attack on the Benghazi, Libya diplomatic mission was the worst of the three, with 15 percent most concerned about the Justice Department’s seizure of reporters' phone and email records. 

But a strong majority says the economy should be more of a priority than the three controversies by 73 to 22 percent.

The poll shows a drop in Obama’s approval rating as well as the administration pushes back against the controversies and tries to return focus to its second-term agenda. Obama holds a negative 45 to 49 percent approval rating, down from a positive 48-45 split on May 1.

Voters say Obama is honest and trustworthy by a 49 to 47 split, down from 58 to 37 in a Quinnipiac poll in September 2011.

The Quinnipiac poll was conducted from May 22 to 28 and has a 3-point margin of error.