CNN Poll: Has Obama been all that?
January 18th, 2013
04:00 PM ET
5 years ago

CNN Poll: Has Obama been all that?

Washington (CNN) - More than half of all Americans say that President Barack Obama has met or exceeded their expectations of how he would handle his job in the White House, but according to a new national survey, that represents a steep drop-off compared to the start of his first term in office.

And a CNN/ORC International poll released Friday also indicates the president gets low or middling approval ratings for some of the top concerns on the public's mind.

According to the survey, nearly half of all Americans say the economy remains the most important issue facing the country today, with the federal budget deficit in second place at 23%.

So how's Obama doing on those issues?

Forty-eight percent say they approve of the job he is doing on the economy, with 51% disapproving. Just over four in ten give the president a thumbs up on how he has dealt with the deficit, with 57% giving him a thumbs down.

"President Obama gets a lower approval rating on the deficit than any other of the 15 issues tested in the survey," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.

Number three on the list of important issues is health care, at 14%. Half the public approves of Obama's track record on that issue, but half disapprove.

Obama gets a better rating on foreign policy, and scores his highest approval on terrorism. But only 4% of the public says that foreign policy is the top issue facing the country. Six in ten approve of how Obama is handling environmental policy, which next to terrorism is his best grade in the poll, but only 2% say that the environment is the country's most important issue, number seven out of the seven issues tested.

"It all adds up to a familiar pattern for Obama: high marks on a wide range of issues that appear to be of secondary concern to the public and lower numbers on a few key issues like the economy and the deficit that are uppermost on Americans' minds," adds Holland.

The president's overall approval rating stands at 55% in a CNN poll released on Wednesday, with 43% saying they disapprove of the job Obama is doing in the White House. Of those who disapprove, 34% say they disapprove because Obama is too liberal, with 7% saying they give the president a thumbs down because he's not liberal enough.

The president's approval rating is up three points from a mid December CNN/ORC poll that was conducted just days after a suicidal gunman killed 26 people, including 20 children, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

The public is divided on the job Obama is doing on gun policy, with 46% approving and 49% disapproving, but only 6% said it was the most important issue facing the nation. The new poll was conducted Monday and Tuesday, prior to Wednesday's announcement by the president on new measures and proposals to curb gun violence.

Obama came into office four years ago with high expectations, and initially met them during his "honeymoon" period. In February, 2009, CNN polling indicated that three-quarters said that the new president was meeting or exceeding their expectations; only a quarter said he had fallen short. By the end of 2009, that was essentially a 50/50 split, and in 2010 and 2011, roughly six in ten said that Obama was falling short of their expectations.

Now, on the cusp of his second term, those figures are better for Obama - the number who say he has fallen short has dropped by 14 points since 2011, but nearly half still say he has not measured up to their initial hopes for his presidency. Four in ten say he has met expectations and 13% say he has exceeded them, for a total of 53% who give a positive rating to Obama's first term.

"The crosstabs show that the coalition which helped Obama win a second term is still behind him," Holland notes. "The number of people who say that he has met or exceeded their expectations is highest among women, younger Americans, and minority groups. Regionally, he gets his best marks in the Northeast."

The poll was conducted for CNN by ORC International on Jan. 14-15, with 814 adults nationwide questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

- CNN Political Editor Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report

Filed under: CNN poll • President Obama
soundoff (46 Responses)
  1. Abbey

    The nation has lower it standards to a level not seen since the days of Jimmy Carter.

    January 18, 2013 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  2. rs

    Given what Mr. Obama has accomplished without any help at all from the GOP, I'd say he has done very well indeed for Americans. Now imagine how good things might be if the GOP actually worked for Americans!

    January 18, 2013 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  3. Rudy NYC

    Can you imagine where the world would be like had McCain won in 2008? Assuming that McCain followed through on many of his major campaign talking points, we would have made the Bush Tax Cuts permanent and probably enacted even more in a manner similar to the Ryan Plans. We would never have had The Stimulus, nor the middle class tax cuts that Pres. Obama has provided. We would have seen draconian budget cuts to programs that help the poor, the sick, and the elderly.

    Who knows where health care would be, but considering how the Bush doctrine was cutting VA hospitals our veterans would be in world of trouble. Over the past 4 years, McCain has advocated for putting boots on the ground in Egypt, Libya, and Syria. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan would not be winding down. Who knows what kind of war we would be in with Iran and heaven knows who else.

    Yeah, when you consider the alternatives. Barack Obama was by far the better choice. No wonder the Nobel Committee gave a their prize to the American voters and asked Pres. Obama to pick it up for them.

    January 18, 2013 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  4. Michael

    Just because you don't agree with the GOP doesn't mean they don't work for Americans. While I'm not the GOP's biggest fan, they work for me and my interests more than the DNC does.

    January 18, 2013 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  5. Gurgyl

    Written statute–GOP never does any good to America nor Americans. Only way-out is drive them away in 2014.

    January 18, 2013 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  6. Lynda/Minnesota

    Rudy NYC

    Can you imagine where the world would be like had McCain won in 2008?

    No, Rudy ... I can't. (Hopefully this is an innocuous enough statement to get past the moderator.)

    January 18, 2013 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  7. Rudy NYC


    Just because you don't agree with the GOP doesn't mean they don't work for Americans. While I'm not the GOP's biggest fan, they work for me and my interests more than the DNC does.
    Really? In what way? I haven't the GOP claim that their policies were consistent with "the will of the American People" in a few years. Just exactly how does the GOP work for you and your interests?

    January 18, 2013 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  8. JD

    Rs, the economy was out of recession in June '09. Well before the stimulus took roots. The president wanted the stimulus to take credit for saving us from a depression from a recession that was ending. It even sounds silly.

    Moral of the story blame bush. Praise Obama.

    Question. Knowing what you know now. Do you still believe stimulus "saved" us? Or did it turn out to be a burden on the economy we can't shake. Like the GM bail out.

    I'm not blaming the president. He has to make tough choices and the consequences are unknown for years.

    January 18, 2013 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  9. Moose

    Just gotta love it bad approval= point and blame, Rudy get off the B.S. scenerios trying to save mr inept, AlQaida on the run, i think not, ill close gito, i think not, ill cut def in half, i think not, typical distractions from the bammans brown nosers

    January 18, 2013 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  10. freedom

    The most divisive president in history. "Not the blue states, not the red states, but the....." Empty words, empty chair. Disturbing chapter in American history.

    January 18, 2013 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  11. Expat American

    The nation has lower it standards to a level not seen since the days of Jimmy Carter
    GW Bush was the most criminal president in the past 50 years; yet you choose to ignore this.

    January 18, 2013 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  12. MTATL67

    LOL....Media needs to remember the leason they learned from election regarding polls and take them with a HUGE grain of salt.

    January 18, 2013 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  13. Sniffit

    "Just because you don't agree with the GOP doesn't mean they don't work for Americans."

    Nice straw man. Nobody claims that their disagreement with the GOP/Teatrolls means they don't work for Americans. We claim THEIR BEHAVIOR means they don't work for Americans. The history books are going to take a fat dump on the early 21st century GOP...guaranteed.

    January 18, 2013 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  14. Moose

    Its curious its ok for bamman to give guns, assault rifles to illegals to shoot our border agents with but tries to stop our 2nd amend with his crap, him and holder great pair, just great

    January 18, 2013 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  15. Danny Broskie

    He hasn't been handling the deficit at all with any seriousness. Mr. President, "Get OUT of campaign mode!" You won in November. Now go about the business of the job to which you were elected and do your job which includes working with Congress on both sides of the aisle. You're not doing either one!

    January 18, 2013 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  16. Carl

    The stupidity of the Left is amazing...

    January 18, 2013 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  17. Borderless

    No. He hasn't. He is a dreadful president. He is an underachiever who promises big things and fails to deliver. He is a weak leader. While many world leaders may like him, they don't respect him. He is cowardly in a fight and prefers to have his minions get their hands dirty on his behalf. And the only reason that he has been elevated as high as he has is because the media and the entertainment industry support the Democrat brand. Someday, like the morning after a night of heavy drinking, society will look at his presidency and say "What were we thinking." President Obama = Fail.

    January 18, 2013 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  18. Disgruntled Democrat

    Listening to Obama talk about the economy has been like listening to a doctor tell a patient he has a sprained ankle when – in fact – he has a broken leg. 30+ years of downsizing, outsourcing, privatization, automation (including the automation of education), free trade agreements, the radical shift to contingent and temporary employment, mergers and 'economies of scale' (where the big eat the small) have utterly destroyed the living wage market. Meanwhile, every necessary resource, business, liquid capital, etc. has been poured into the Wall Street markets, which functions like a bucket with a hole in it. And Wall Street no longer invests in the US, mostly they just make money out of money and suck up all the wealth in the world. Both parties are guilty as hell for producing this nightmare and I have every confidence he will continue to ignore the economic depression until his ivy league buddies have sated their greed by robbing us blind.

    Obama has doubled down on every bad economic idea ever thought up by the useless gang of ivy league dilettantes, third generation political hacks and wall street con men that dominate the decision making process. Republicans may have broken the economy, but they broke it using the rules created by Clinton. So what does Obama do? He fills his cabinet full of the very people who crashed the economy and thinks he's gonna find solutions there.

    The last thing Obama and his 'born to rule' crowd should presume is that their victory meant anything more than a rejection of the lunatic Republican's 'kill 'em and take their stuff' approach to economic development. I can't wait for 'Organizing for America' to come knocking on my door. I'm gonna read them the riot act and then go to war against them. Obama sold us out, to save the bankers. Obama can go to hell.

    As far as I'm concerned the Democratic Party is dead to me, until they stop acting like moderate Republicans and remember who elects these terminally overprivileged jerks into office. We needed FDR, but Obama proved to be nothing but Herbert Hoover in democratic drag. Its gonna be a long, ugly 4 years and Democrats should not count on their fearmongering campaigns to carry them any further than this. Nobody needs 2 Republican Parties, one is bad enough.

    January 18, 2013 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  19. RR

    Now, now CNN. You should know that you should not believe the polls. If you did, Romney would be president.

    January 18, 2013 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  20. rs


    I dunno- the GOP only cares about the rich, and their favorite lobbyists. They don't care what the majority thinks, and their last party platform came out of the 1930s. I suppose you are correct to call me out on the "Americans" crack, but really their priorities and policies are aimed at such a narrow band of people, that in effect they work for only a small percentage of Americans and actively work against the rest. The elections demographics clearly show the GOP rapidly becoming a minority party with everyone but the White Male demographic. Frankly, despite all of their obstructionist activity, they really are unsustainable on their current path.

    January 18, 2013 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  21. rs


    Its curious its ok for bamman to give guns, assault rifles to illegals to shoot our border agents with but tries to stop our 2nd amend with his crap, him and holder great pair, just great
    You are seriously mis-informed. Please cite one source that says Obama has given uns away to anybody. Get real.

    January 18, 2013 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  22. Yeoomala

    If he eradicated every disease, got everyone a job, paid off the debt – there would still be many people hating him and acting like he has done nothing good. It doesn't matter these days what a person does – it only matters what tv station you listen to and the sound bites they repeat.

    January 18, 2013 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  23. Dapple

    It'll take much longer than the Obama presidency before our country gets anywhere near where it really should be. With the current situation it probably will.

    January 18, 2013 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  24. CSM

    Yes he has, though his hands have been tied behind his back at times, particularly in the gun crazies debate. Over all, he has had far more transparency than his predecessor. He can still do more to protect the middle class and stifle the rich. I give him a B.

    January 18, 2013 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  25. Borderless

    I can't tell whether you're talking about Obama or Romney.

    January 18, 2013 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
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