Fox News Poll: 76 Percent Think IRS Destroyed Lerner E-mails; 12 Percent Buy the 'Accident' Excuse

June 26th, 2014 2:38 PM

A new Fox News survey tested Team Obama’s credibility: "The Internal Revenue Service says that two years of emails from IRS employees about targeting conservative and tea party groups were accidentally destroyed because of a computer crash and cannot be recovered. Do you believe the IRS that the emails were destroyed accidentally or do you think they were destroyed deliberately?"

The answer: only 12 percent believe the lame “accidentally destroyed” thesis, and 76 percent picked “deliberately.” Asked if Congress should keep probing, 74 percent said yes. No one at the networks will be touching this poll, but James Taranto at The Wall Street Journal wondered:

What percentage of respondents do you think believe the IRS?

We'd have said between 30% and 40%. The administration, backed by its allies in the Democratic Party and the media, has cast the scandal in partisan terms, as a Republican witch hunt. Obama himself told Fox's Bill O'Reilly in February that while "there were some bone-headed decisions," there was no "mass corruption. Not even a smidgen of corruption."

Given the partisan polarization of America's political culture--a long-term trend that predates Obama's presidency but certainly has not been arrested by it--we'd have expected at least Obama's hard-core political base to express support for the IRS position.

He was shocked by the 12 percent: “That's congressional-approval-rating territory.” Jennifer Harper at the Washington Times included the partisan breakdown: 90 percent of Republicans, 74 percent of independents, and even 63 percent of Democrats aren't buying the "accidentally destroyed" claim...and 66 percent of Democrats back more congressional investigation.

Taranto concluded:

The president's claim that there was no corruption never quite made logical sense. To believe it, you have to accept two premises: that the IRS acted on its own, without direction from the White House or other politicians; and that it did so incompetently rather than corruptly. Both these premises could be true. But if the first one is--if the problem at the IRS was the lack of supervision rather than the following of corrupt orders from above--then Obama is in no position to make authoritative declarations about what the IRS was up to.

The Fox poll is a stunning vote of no confidence not just in the Obama administration but in the government itself. Public skepticism of government is a healthy impulse, and in this case it seems fully warranted. A government that cannot inspire even a minimal degree of public confidence is a danger to itself and to the country.