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Poll: More Americans unsatisfied with Clinton's response to Benghazi attack

A plurality of respondents believe that the congressional investigation into the attack is unfair and politically motivated.

By a nearly 2-to-1 margin, Americans say they’re unsatisfied with Hillary Clinton’s response to the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, according to results from a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

But a plurality of respondents believe that the congressional investigation into the attack is unfair and politically motivated.

And the public is essentially divided over the importance of Clinton’s private email server, with 47% of Americans saying it’s an important factor in deciding their vote, and another 44% saying it isn’t important.

RELATED: Will Republicans overplay their hand on Benghazi?

These findings come ahead of Clinton’s testimony Thursday before the House Select Committee on Benghazi, where the 2012 terrorist attack, Clinton’s private email server and allegations (even from fellow Republicans) that the committee was established to hurt Clinton’s presidential campaign will all be subjects of discussion.

And the findings in the poll tend to break down by party line.

Forty-four percent of Americans say that they’re not satisfied with Clinton’s response to the Benghazi attack in 2012, when Clinton served as secretary of state. That includes 77% of Republican respondents, 40% of independents but just 14% of Democrats.

By contrast, 27% of Americans are satisfied with her response – including 51% of Democrats, 18% of independents but just 6% of Republicans.

Meanwhile, 36%of Americans think the current congressional investigation into the Benghazi attacks is unfair and too partisan (that includes 53% of Democrats); 29% of Americans believe it’s fair and impartial (including 50% of Republicans); and another 35% don’t know enough.

Regarding Clinton’s private email server, 47% say it will be an important factor in their upcoming vote, versus 44% who disagree.

And once again, these numbers are divided by party: 76% of Republicans believe Clinton’s private server is important to their vote, while 70% of Democrats say it isn’t important.

Clinton’s general-election standing improves (slightly)

The NBC/WSJ poll also finds that Clinton has slightly improved her general-election standing. She leads Republican Ben Carson by two points in a hypothetical match up, 47% to 45%. But a month ago, Carson had a one-point edge over Clinton, 46% to 45%.

Clinton also leads Marco Rubio by one point (46% to 45%) and Ted Cruz by eight points (49% to 41%).

By comparison, Democratic rival Bernie Sanders is ahead of Carson by one point (44% to 43%), Rubio by four points (45% to 41%) and Cruz by 12 points (50% to 38%).

The NBC/WSJ poll shows a generic Democrat holding a one-point advantage a generic Republican in a presidential contest, 41% to 40%; it was 38% to 38% a month ago.

Comparing Clinton’s and Sanders’ attributes

When Democratic primary voters were asked to judge Clinton and Sanders on several different attributes, Clinton’s top attributes in the poll were being knowledgeable and experienced to handle the presidency (88% gave her high marks here versus 56% for Sanders) and sharing your positions on issues (71% for Clinton, 55% for Sanders).

Clinton’s worst attributes among Democratic voters: bringing real change to the direction of the country (585 give Clinton high marks here, versus 58% for Sanders) and being honest and straightforward (53% for Clinton, 72% for Sanders).

And only 26% of all voters give Clinton high marks for being honest and straightforward, compared with 50% who give her bad marks -- essentially unchanged from the April NBC/WSJ  poll.

Democratic Party vs. GOP: In the mainstream or not?

The new NBC/WSJ poll also measured which political party was in the mainstream – or outside the mainstream – on six different issues: 

  • Gay marriage: 63% said the Democratic Party was in the mainstream on this issue, versus just 29% who said that about the Republican Party;
  • Abortion: 54% said Democrats were in the mainstream here, versus 33% who said Republicans;
  • Climate change: 54% mainstream for Democrats, 30% mainstream for Republicans;
  • Immigration: 46% mainstream for Democrats, 43% mainstream for Republicans;
  • Fiscal issues such as taxing and spending: 47% mainstream for Republicans, 42% mainstream for Democrats;
  • Guns: 51% mainstream for Republicans, 38% mainstream for Democrats.

Obama job-approval rating: 46%

Finally, the poll finds 46% approving of President Obama’s job, compared with 49% who disapprove — it was 47%-47% a month ago.

The NBC/WSJ poll was conducted Oct. 15-18 of 1,000 adults (including nearly 400 via cell phone), and it has an overall margin of error of plus-minus 3.1 percentage points. 

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