May 19th, 2013
08:57 AM ET
1 year 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. Rachel

    A poll from any news organization these days is a joke as they all slant one way or another.

    May 19, 2013 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  2. window00

    When you vote, vote for the party/candidate that has directed legislative efforts toward helping you and all middle class Americans.

    May 19, 2013 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  3. TheLocNar

    Of course the GOP has overreacted. It's all they've got in their pathetic little existence.

    May 19, 2013 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  4. Al P

    @ Rizzo...or those people who DIDN'T vote for him because he is black. That sword cuts both ways, but, of course, it is more 'sensational' to denigrate those who support him because of his color, then to call out those who hate and attempt to thwart him because of it.

    May 19, 2013 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  5. Tom

    People are starting to realize that these scandals are phony. They are elaborate schemes concocted by the GOP to make our fine president look bad. Such a shame that there are still those that cannot accept the fact that Obama is loved and adored. He is a caring, intelligent, truly wonderful president.

    May 19, 2013 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  6. Norma Vessels

    There is absolutely nothing that our President has done to warrant an impeachment. If one based the reason for impeachment on falsehoods, as the Republicans in Congress are doing, then go for it. Otherwise, the truth tells a different story, and will win out in the end.

    May 19, 2013 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  7. Mr.Davidson

    Nobody believes anything this guy says anymore and the worst is positively yet to come. We left Iraq and we will leave Afganistan but neither one will free the US from our own governments corruption.We are giving up our rights and freedom to our own government in its hopes and wishes that we do exactly that.

    May 19, 2013 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  8. don

    The response will be to ban the Tea Party so this won't happen again.

    May 19, 2013 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  9. JD

    and i keep seeing people say...oh the republicans havent given him a chance since he got in. thats because they dont see the policies as good for the country. its nothing personal. just look at the clinton years....

    May 19, 2013 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  10. jkane sfl the gop national disgrace party will be swept out like the trash they are in2014 ?

    The gop has 0% credibility with most American voters . Every hearing the gop has cost the taxpayers 1.5 million dallars of taxpayers money to push the gop political agenda of obstruction and the gop will lose the house and senate in 2014. And for all these so called scandals pushed by the gop morons such as the teaparty and rove registration to get tax wav ered . These tax cheats should have been flagged

    May 19, 2013 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  11. mightyduk

    Over reacted, that's an understatement.

    May 19, 2013 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  12. asus2000

    It's just as racist to like somebody because of their color as it is to dislike them because of their color.

    May 19, 2013 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  13. Anonymous

    To Sandman

    You're point was spot on. Not only were you able to point out how ignorant you think the American public is, but you also included yourself. Congrats! :) You haven't a clue while you spew your pompous egotism around the message boards.

    May 19, 2013 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  14. Terry

    With a simple answer. NO and YES. This is not anything akin to Watergate and is an attack ad for midterms and against Clinton 2016.

    May 19, 2013 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  15. Kimberly

    Who is doing the polling? I have never been ask what I think of Obama and don't know anyone who has been ask. I think if the real truth came out his approval ratings would be more like 20%.

    May 19, 2013 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  16. Jake

    Impeach him, clean house at the IRS and get us a new Senate ... Reid and his cronies are an embarrassment.

    May 19, 2013 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  17. Berry

    It still astonishes me that people are amazed when the current President's approval rating doesn't go down after each fresh round of controversy or missteps. We forget, the type of Americans that voted for Barrack Obama are not the type of Americans who watch the news, stay up-to-date on current events, or care about being un-biasely informed.

    May 19, 2013 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  18. John Hopkins CIA

    To Sandman

    You're point was spot on. Not only were you able to point out how ignorant you think the American public is, but you also included yourself. Congrats! :) You haven't a clue while you spew your pompous egotism around the message boards.

    May 19, 2013 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  19. Marcel

    xsgovt,

    Well thought out and I could not agree with you more! Outside of Obama's inner circle, the only place he's been or cared about his entire Presidency, no one pays much attention to him anymore. We just have to weather these next 3+ years and hope our country doesn't implode before then.

    As for Ms. Tam's reach at throwing that race card – it's over used and, in this case, a desperate attempt at protecting a President who is inept at best. Our country is hemorrhaging debt wise – that should be Obama's 1st priority! It's too far over his head to fathom, however. This has to do, for the most part, with partisanship building not his color.

    May 19, 2013 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  20. John Hopkins

    You're point was spot on. Not only were you able to point out how ignorant you think the American public is, but you also included yourself. Congrats! You haven't a clue while you spew your pompous egotism around the message boards.

    May 19, 2013 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  21. Bob

    So now we're celebrating the apathy of the typical Obama voter? Great.

    Or perhaps we should look at this as a failure of the legacy media to report and reach people?

    May 19, 2013 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  22. Richard

    Sandman,
    You're point was spot on. Not only were you able to point out how ignorant you think the American public is, but you also included yourself. Congrats! You haven't a clue while you spew your pompous egotism around the message boards.

    May 19, 2013 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  23. Jules

    who do I trust – President Obama or the GOP. Easy answer there – the GOP has done everything they possibly can do to stand in this presidents way including feeding the press lies. Of course, has ABC really admitted where they got their information on Benghazi emails – the GOP – and has it been reported that some of them were made up? Where the heck is that story?

    May 19, 2013 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  24. Sailor

    Lie down with dogs, arise with fleas.

    May 19, 2013 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  25. Randy

    This IRS thing is going nowhere because the only group disliked more than the IRS is the Tea Party, which actually has lower approval ratings than Atheists or Muslims. The Tea Party may be the least sympathetic "victim" ever.

    May 19, 2013 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
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