The Washington Times - June 18, 2013, 06:25AM

The public is nearly split on whether the White House ordered the Internal Revenue Service to target conservative groups applying for nonprofit status, and a majority of people think the issue is “very important” for the country, a poll released Tuesday said.

Forty-seven percent think senior White House officials ordered the IRS to target the political groups for greater scrutiny and 49 percent think the IRS acted on their own, according to a CNN survey.

SEE RELATED: IRS supervisor in D.C. admits to overseeing tea party targeting

In May, 37 percent thought the White House ordered the targeting and 55 percent thought the the IRS officials acted on their own.

Fifty-one percent of respondents think the issue is “very important” to the nation, slightly down from 55 percent in May.

The new numbers come as news has surfaced that an IRS supervisor working in Washington told congressional investigators that she personally reviewed applications from groups for tax-exempt status, in testimony that appears to show the agency’s scrutiny of conservative groups extended beyond the confines of the office in Cincinnati.

Holly Paz, who was a supervisor in the Internal Revenue Service’s tax-exempt status division, indicated during an interview with congressional investigators that she did review such applications, but said that she believed “tea party” meant political advocacy in general — not necessarily conservative groups.

Ms. Paz, however, provided no evidence that senior IRS officials ordered agents to target conservative groups or that anyone in the Obama administration outside the IRS was involved, The Associated Press reported.

The CNN/ORC International poll surveyed 1,014 adults from June 11-13 and has a margin of error of 3 percentage points.