That question is at the heart of a brewing controversy over appearances Rice made in the days after the attack on the Sunday political talk shows. On Tuesday, Rice met with top Republican lawmakers who have criticized her initial assessment, and insisted she did not mean to mislead the public with her initial comments on cable television about the attack.

"In the course of the meeting, we explained that the talking points provided by the intelligence community, and the initial assessment upon which they were based, were incorrect in a key respect: there was no protest or demonstration in Benghazi," Rice said in a statement. "While we certainly wish that we had had perfect information just days after the terrorist attack, as is often the case, the intelligence assessment has evolved."

Rice is considered a front-runner to succeed Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonSuper PACs release ad campaign hitting Vance over past comments on Trump I voted for Trump in 2020 — he proved to be the ultimate RINO in 2021 Neera Tanden tapped as White House staff secretary MORE as secretary of State, but the controversy over her comments has raised doubts about whether she could win Senate confirmation. On Tuesday, Republican lawmakers said they were unconvinced by Rice's explanation.

“Bottom line, I'm more disturbed now than I was before [by] the 16 September explanation about how four Americans died in Benghazi, Libya, by Ambassador Rice,” said Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamPennsylvania Republican becomes latest COVID-19 breakthrough case in Congress McCain: Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner had 'no goddamn business' attending father's funeral Mayorkas tests positive for COVID-19 breakthrough case MORE (R-S.C.).

Interestingly, the survey respondents seemed more skeptical on the question of whether the White House could have done more to prevent the attacks from ever having occurred. Almost half — 48 percent — said the U.S. could have prevented the violence, while 42 percent said there was nothing American officials could have done.

Respondents were also asked about the resignation of former CIA Director David Petraeus, who left his position earlier this month after an FBI investigation revealed he was having an extramarital affair with his biographer.

Americans split evenly on whether it was right for Petraeus to have resigned, with 48 percent saying it was appropriate and 48 percent saying he should have kept his job. The retired Army general was largely buoyed by a high favorability rating; 44 percent said they had a positive view of Petraeus, while just 28 percent said they had a negative view.

Americans were also closely split on the need for a congressional investigation into the Petraeus resignation and surrounding FBI investigation. Just over half — 52 percent — of respondents said Congress should look into the incident, while 47 percent said they should refrain.