May 19th, 2013
08:57 AM ET
11 months ago

CNN Poll: Controversies hurting Obama? Has GOP overreacted?

Washington (CNN) – President Barack Obama comes out of what was arguably the worst week of his presidency with his approval rating holding steady, according to a new national poll.

But a CNN/ORC International survey released Sunday morning also indicates that congressional Republicans are not overplaying their hand when it comes to their reaction to the three controversies that have consumed the nation's capital over the past week and a half. And the poll finds that a majority of Americans take all three issues seriously.

According to the survey, which was conducted Friday and Saturday, 53% of Americans say they approve of the job the president is doing, with 45% saying they disapprove. The president's approval rating was at 51% in CNN's last poll, which was conducted in early April.

"That two-point difference is well within the poll's sampling error, so it is a mistake to characterize it as a gain for the president," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "Nonetheless, an approval rating that has not dropped and remains over 50% will probably be taken as good news by Democrats after the events of the last week."

The CNN poll is in-line with Gallup, which also indicated a very slight rise in Obama's approval rating over the same time period. And Gallup's daily tracking poll also indicated a slight upward movement of Obama's approval rating over the past week. But as with the CNN poll, it was within that survey's sampling error.

More than seven in 10 in the CNN poll say that the targeting by the Internal Revenue Service of tea party and other conservative groups that were applying for tax exempt status was unacceptable. While the White House and both parties in Congress are criticizing the IRS actions, congressional Republicans are depicting the controversy as a case of the federal government gone wild.

But more than six in 10 say that the president's statements about the IRS scandal are completely or mostly true, with 35% not agreeing with Obama's characterizations. And 55% say that IRS acted on its own, with 37% saying that White House ordered the IRS to target tea party and other conservative groups.

Only 42% of the public is satisfied with how the Obama administration has handled the September attack in Benghazi, Libya, which left the U.S ambassador to that country and three other Americans dead. Fifty-three percent say they are dissatisfied. But those numbers are virtually unchanged from November.

Republicans have ripped the administration for not providing adequate security for the Benghazi mission, botching the response to it, and misleading the public for political gain with the attack coming less than two months before last November's presidential election.

According to the poll, 44% say statements made by the Obama administration soon after the attack were an attempt to intentionally mislead the public. Half of those questioned say those statements reflected what the Obama administration believed, at the time, had occurred.

But 59% now say that the U.S government could have prevented the attack in Benghazi, up 11 points from last November. And only 37% say that congressional Republicans are overreacting in their handling of the matter, with 59% saying they've reacted appropriately.

It's the same story on the IRS controversy, with 54% saying the GOP in Congress has not overplayed its hand.

The White House has also been criticized by Congress for the Justice Department's secret collection of phone records from the Associated Press as part of a government investigation into classified leaks. According to the poll, 52% say the Justice Department's actions were unacceptable, with 43% saying they disagree.

Americans appear to be taking all three controversies very seriously, with 55% saying the IRS and Benghazi matters are very important to the nation and 53% saying the same thing about the AP case.

"More Republicans than Democrats or Independents say these three issues are very important to the nation, but even among Democrats, nearly half say the matters are very serious," Holland adds.

Are Americans’ trust in the government shaken?

Only 43% say they have a great deal or some confidence in the people who run the federal government. But 56% say they have a great deal or some confidence in the system of government.

The CNN poll was conducted by ORC International between May 17-18, with 923 adults nationwide questioned by telephone. The survey's sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points.

– CNN Political Editor Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.


Filed under: CNN/ORC International poll • IRS • Libya • Polls • President Obama
soundoff (1,004 Responses)
  1. sally-ann

    Everyone loves the IRS now.

    May 19, 2013 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  2. Sandman

    How ignorant do you think the American public is??? Unfortunately it seems, more so than one thinks. Four people are murdered by Islamic terrorists in our American Embassy because the pleas for protection were denied. The IRS targets conservative groups to limit free speech. And our govt. hacks phone records from the press. Why doesn't the liberal press care?

    It would take a blithering idiot not to see what's happening in this country. And the lack of honest journalism makes matters worse. Doesn't anyone want to know TRUTH anymore? Doesn't anyone what to make people responsible for their actions anymore? How sad we've become. Guess most the press and government don't believe in the final accounting of their actions anymore.

    May 19, 2013 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  3. John

    What good are the polls? He hasn't had a chance since he was first elected. From the very first day in office everything he tried/tries to improve and/or implement the Repugs and Teabaggers fight to the hilt!! And the Repugs and Teabaggers also control the purse strings for the programs he wants to implement. For 8 years of the smuckhead Bush they gave him everything he wanted included two illegal and unfunded wars. And he left the country in an utter MESS! That's not Obama's fault but the Repugs and Teabaggers have done a good PR job selling that point to their ignorant party members and the not so sharp American public.

    May 19, 2013 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  4. optimistmiser

    Obama wants to have all phone and internet activity monitored by the govt with no need of just cause or warrant. Obama also wants to be able to look at everyone's personal bank and business accounts without need of cause or warrant. This would open up the people of America for more extensive abuse by govt and should not be allowed to take place.

    May 19, 2013 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  5. PowCat

    The disgrace in this country comes from one source...the Republicans. The dysfunctional Republicans keep trying the strategy that failed them for over 5-years. It has not worked an will not work to fulfill their stated mission plan to make the president fail. A good president is attacked and held back by a disgraceful party which continues to intentionally hurt our country instead of support it. President Obama is still cleaning up their mess at the same time they continue to make it. Remember this in 2016 and when we vote on the state level.

    May 19, 2013 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  6. Rizzo

    Who are they polling? the same individuals that voted him cause he was black

    May 19, 2013 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  7. wxqz

    GOP tried to do the trumped up crap before. It worked as good this week as it didin the election. Which is not at all.

    All the propoganda blogging to themselves for naught.

    Obama isthe shining hope for the USA and is universally admired overseas for standing firm in the fqce of the dumaas doctrine of the Gop.

    May 19, 2013 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  8. Chris Koffend

    Here is the problem with opinions on matters political. #1: there are those that will favor Obama/Democrats now matter what. #2: there are those that will oppose Obama/Democrats no matter what. #3: Of the remaining people, roughly 5% care enough to know what is going on to have an opinion that even matters. #4: Of the remaining people, roughly 95% are clueless and couldn't name who the head of the IRS is/was, who the vice president is, who the Attorney General is. These people's opinions do not matter; as an uninformed opinion is useless.

    May 19, 2013 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  9. Scott

    People would rather let the country burn to the ground than admit they voted for a total failure and criminal. No surprise here.

    May 19, 2013 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  10. impeach him

    Polls? Is this an election? Fortunately the media rigged polls are irrelevant and impeachment votes come from the US House first who has the votes to impeach but then US Senate to convict that must have 2/3s. This is the stickler although if it comes in 2014 with the elections the Senate could convict or lose majority to the GOP. Very sticky messy.

    May 19, 2013 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  11. Matthew

    Obama's "approval ratings" don't mean squat. This is a country that "approves" of The Jersey shore and Honey boo boo. Approval does not mean right. Many would "approve" of a public lynching of Casey Anthony.....even thought THAT would be as illegal and wrong as this administrartion is.

    May 19, 2013 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  12. wxqz

    President Obama is the shining light of hope for the middle class in the USA in the face of determined effort by the Gop to destroy the middle class and turn the country into an armed encampment.

    May 19, 2013 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  13. optimistmiser

    There is no way that the Benghazi mess is just Hillary's fault. Obama has been an active participant and discussed the content of what the public would be told with Biden, Pelosi, Reid and other Democrat party leadership. They are all being deceitful. The gang of 4, Obama, Biden, Pelosi, Reid should all be removed from office.

    May 19, 2013 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  14. Grim Reaper

    Pretty poor when liberals are trying to place the race card on these issues-if he was a republican we'd hear the same objections from the other side of the aisle. What happened to transparent government???

    May 19, 2013 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  15. glenview0818

    How could his poles be the same, anone that does not have serious concern must be not watching the news, or only watching MSNBC.

    May 19, 2013 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  16. Mike

    The GOP wing nuts have kept the same insane rhetoric going for years now. Most of the country has tuned it out. Maybe if they actually focused on getting things done and helping on jobs, ending the wars, healthcare and banking reforms, improving the infrastructure and educational system in our great country they might get people to listen again. But when it is the same lame shrill Obama is this and that by the same lame leaders and talking heads that poll in the teens if they are lucky, the country turns on the mute button. Keep it up 2014 election cycle is coming and it will be nice to see more of these do nothing gas bags removed.

    May 19, 2013 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  17. Patriot

    The USA is in sad shape if the majority actually believes this president is doing a good job. The leftist media is to blame.
    This guy is as currupt as the get.

    May 19, 2013 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  18. Thomas

    @Matthew
    Obama's "approval ratings" don't mean squat. This is a country that "approves" of The Jersey shore and Honey boo boo. Approval does not mean right. Many would "approve" of a public lynching of Casey Anthony.....even thought THAT would be as illegal and wrong as this administrartion is.

    =========

    Rand Paul / Honey boo boo. 2016

    Aqua Boo Boo !

    May 19, 2013 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  19. Jeffrey Smart

    "His poll numbers essentially same"

    Because these "scandals" are not scandals.

    May 19, 2013 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  20. jim

    Of course his numbers are the same. People that support him are deluded enough to never change their minds, even in the face of his administration's incompetence and harassment of citizens.

    May 19, 2013 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  21. optimistmiser

    With the Obama administration anything that goes wrong is always somebody else fault. Anything that goes right, usually as done by someone else, Obama claims credit for it.

    May 19, 2013 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  22. JD

    at least half of the mans voter base doesnt even know who his VP is. like they care about any of this.

    May 19, 2013 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  23. yogi

    The Republicans had only one goal since 2008: To obstruct any legislation that President Obama put forth, and they have literally held this country hostage. Now it is our turn again to obstruct Republicans with our votes in 2016, and move on with civilization.

    May 19, 2013 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  24. optimistmiser

    Trust has been obliterated by Obama, Biden, Pelosi, Reid, and Hillary.

    May 19, 2013 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  25. Anonymous

    The move 'Mr. Smith goes to Washington' reminds me so much of Obama going to the White House.
    He had so many dreams, so many ideas to make this country better, yet the republicans have proven yet again that they love their money and themselves more than America. They use their money to demonized the president through media and a large portion of America just belive what they hear without trying to discover the truth. This country would have been soo much better off if Obama didn't have to fight with the Republicans on a daily basis. I hate politics so much and I don't like republicans at all.

    May 19, 2013 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
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