Americans Support Obama's Clemency Toward Drug Offenders, But Not Toward Chelsea Manning

Just 33 percent agree with Manning's commutation.

Americans have mixed feelings about the commutations that former President Barack Obama issued during his last days in office, according to a new HuffPost/YouGov survey.

In one of his final acts as president, Obama commuted the sentence of Chelsea Manning, the U.S. soldier who sent classified documents to WikiLeaks, as well as the sentences of hundreds of federal prisoners convicted of drug crimes.

A 58 percent majority of Americans say they approve of Obama’s decision to reduce the sentences of hundreds of federal prisoners convicted of nonviolent drug offenses. Just 30 percent disapprove.

However, opinions are divided along partisan lines: 81 percent of Democrats and 61 percent of independents, but just under a third of Republicans, approve of the decision.

The results are only the latest to show that there’s broad public appetite for some form of drug sentencing reform. A 2015 survey, taken after Obama granted clemency to a previous wave of nonviolent drug offenders, found that Americans agreed 2-to-1 with the decision and that a 40 percent plurality thought sentences for drug crimes were generally too harsh.

Obama’s clemency toward Manning is significantly less popular. Just 33 percent of Americans agree with the decision to commute her sentence, while 47 percent disagree, with the remainder unsure.

Views on Manning’s commutation are also polarized, with 49 percent of Democrats, but just 36 percent of independents and 13 percent of Republicans, approving.

That partisan divide, however, is reversed when it comes to WikiLeaks, the site to which Manning released classified material. While Republicans hold split opinions of WikiLeaks, with 37 percent viewing it favorably and 42 percent viewing it unfavorably, Democrats are solidly opposed, with just 19 percent viewing it favorably, and 52 percent viewing it unfavorably.

As a previous YouGov survey found, GOP views of WikiLeaks improved substantially after it published hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee, while Democrats’ opinions soured.

During his time as president, Obama used his clemency power for more people than any president since Harry S. Truman, according to Pew Research, which also notes that he received a record level of requests for clemency. Overall, 37 percent of Americans say Obama gave clemency to too many people during his presidency, while 12 percent believe he gave clemency to too few people, and 23 percent think his actions were about right.

The HuffPost/YouGov poll consisted of 1,000 completed interviews conducted Jan. 19-20 among U.S. adults, using a sample selected from YouGov’s opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population.

The Huffington Post has teamed up with YouGov to conduct daily opinion polls.You can learn more about this project and take part in YouGov’s nationally representative opinion polling. Data from all HuffPost/YouGov polls can be found here. More details on the polls’ methodology are available here.

Most surveys report a margin of error that represents some, but not all, potential survey errors. YouGov’s reports include a model-based margin of error, which rests on a specific set of statistical assumptions about the selected sample, rather than the standard methodology for random probability sampling. If these assumptions are wrong, the model-based margin of error may also be inaccurate. Click here for a more detailed explanation of the model-based margin of error.