Biden classified docs scandal is inappropriate but not criminal


US President Joe Biden carries a red folder as he walks to the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, DC, on January 25, 2022, after returning from a surprise visit to nearby Barracks Row.

Saul Loeb | AFP | Getty Images

As the Justice Department investigates classified documents found in President Joe Biden‘s home and private office, a majority of Americans see the president’s handling of the materials as serious and inappropriate — but much less than half think the conduct should result in criminal charges.

That’s the result of a national poll released Wednesday by Quinnipiac University, which surveyed 1,380 U.S. adults between Thursday and Sunday about the documents and Attorney General Merrick Garland’s subsequent appointment of a special counsel to investigate the matter.

The survey also found Biden’s job approval among Americans sliding further into the red. Only 36% of respondents said they approved of the job he is doing, versus 53% who said they disapproved. His rating was down from last month’s poll and tied with November’s level.

On how Biden handled the sensitive documents, 60% of respondents told Quinnipiac they think the president did so inappropriately, versus just 22% who said he handled the records appropriately.

Republican respondents overwhelmingly said he mishandled the documents by an 84% to 5% margin, and most independents said the same by a 60% to 24% margin. Democrats were split on the question, saying by a 41% to 38% margin that they thought Biden acted appropriately.

But a plurality of Americans, 46% to 37%, do not think Biden should face criminal charges over the mishandling of those documents, Quinnipiac found.

“Roughly two-thirds of Americans are aware of and troubled by the misplaced classified documents found in President Biden’s home and private office. But is it a criminal case? No,” Quinnipiac polling analyst Tim Malloy said in a press release.

The questions about the classified documents had a margin of error of plus-or-minus 2.6 percentage points.

That result contrasts with how Americans viewed former President Donald Trump‘s handling of classified documents that were seized in an FBI raid of his residence last summer: At the time, Americans told Quinnipiac by a 50% to 41% margin that Trump should be prosecuted.

The White House counsel’s office has insisted this week that Biden’s team has acted quickly to disclose the records and is fully cooperating with the authorities.

Biden’s attorneys discovered some of the documents shortly before the November midterm elections, but they were not publicly revealed until last week. The roughly 10 documents were reportedly found at an office Biden used after serving as vice president in the Obama administration; a second batch of documents were found in the garage of Biden’s private home in Delaware.

Even though fewer Americans think Biden’s handling of the documents is potentially criminal than believed Trump’s conduct was, a 71% majority of respondents said they considered the Biden document situation either very serious or somewhat serious.

Quinnipiac also showed Americans giving the president mostly poor results on a suite of key issues — including his lowest-ever marks from the pollster on his handling of the strife at the U.S.-Mexico border. Just 18% of respondent said they approved of his handling of the issue, and 68% said they disapproved.

Americans gave Biden negative ratings on his administration’s handling of:

  • The Russian invasion of Ukraine: 44% approval and 47% disapproval
  • Foreign policy: 36% to 54%
  • The economy: 34% to 61%
  • Immigration: 22% to 65%

But Biden’s recently announced border-enforcement rules, which expand some legal pathways to the U.S. for migrants from Cuba, Haiti and Nicaragua while imposing new punishments for illegal entry, received strong marks. Sixty percent of Americans said they approved of the plan, while 34% responded that they disapproved, Quinnipiac found.

For questions not related to Biden’s handling of classified documents, Quinnipiac surveyed 1,659 adults between Wednesday and Sunday. Those questions had a margin of error of 2.4 percentage points.


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