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. Secession is the Answer

    Impeach and imprison the criminal-in-chief.

    May 19, 2013 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  2. bubba

    he is the false prophet

    May 19, 2013 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  3. Norma Vessels

    John, Powcat, wxqz ... I agree with you all. Your truth will outlive those who choose to make up, distort and literally mess up until they seem like robots that's been programmed to repeat lies and nothing but lies.

    May 19, 2013 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  4. birdyboy

    I approve because my house is increasing in value,my 401k has DOUBLED, employment is going down, two wars are over, GM's alive and Osama is dead and also because all the Right-winged "Geniuses" whose President(Bush) ruined this country along with "DICK" Cheney ,have their "Panties in a bunch" over of "Small Potatoes".

    May 19, 2013 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  5. And?

    The IRS paid closer attemtion to applications for TAX EXEMPT status from organizations with a certain theme. So what. Were any of them denied the status in a discriminatory fashion? Don't think so. Hillary Clinton ignored the cries for help from Benghazi, not Obama. He stated in his first remarks after the event that acts of terror would not be tolerated. Let's look at the total picture and face the facts.

    May 19, 2013 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  6. optimistmiser

    Political agendas are usually not good for the country, but are good for the politician.

    May 19, 2013 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  7. Jc

    Wait till the EPA scandal hits the news stands.

    May 19, 2013 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  8. BeverlyNC

    The GOP has overreacted as usual. They cannot accept an intelligent black man with character, integrity, honor, and a sincere desire to work for the PEOPLE should be our President. Republicans are so full of vitriolic hate they are incapable of doing any actual work. No legislation in 6 years for jobs, infrastructure, education, new energy or any other research, and even veteran aid has been allowed to come to the floor for a vote.
    There are constant conspiracies, lies, and the most extremist views in a once mainstream Party we have ever seen. This overwhelming unjustifed hate is bringing down their Party, and they know it, but still cannot let go of their bigotry to focus on the nation's best interests.
    Republicans have betrayed the People and our country. Think how much we could have accomplished if they had been willing to work together with Democrats on simple common sense issues having no Party lines – like jobs.
    The only way out is for the American People to vote these hate-damaged Republicans out of office so Democratic leaders can get real work for the People done for the next 2 years.
    Sadly, Republicans are going to lose the Presidency in 2016, probably to a woman, and again their disrespect for women will blind them to doing their jobs as representatives of the People.
    That is why it is very important to rid Congress of all Republicans so the People will see what real government and progress looks like and no longer assume government is worthless in standing up for them.

    May 19, 2013 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  9. Kevin

    I dont care about Obama or presidents or the country except parts that affect me :D

    May 19, 2013 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  10. CC

    Congressional hearing=stall tactics for the GOP.

    May 19, 2013 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  11. Chad Chadleys

    It really bothers me how people still blindly worship this President. I voted for this guy back in 2008 and have been extremely disappointed. WAKE UP PEOPLE!

    May 19, 2013 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  12. junk fees

    I love reading the comments section- his followers will never, ever ever admit he's doing anything wrong. You people are de lusional.

    Make your creative names for his enemies, shout down opposing viewpoints, have general disregard for anyone who isn't like yourself- good job ruining the country ra cist liberals.

    You made your bed, now sleep in it.

    May 19, 2013 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  13. Jorge Sedano

    Just wait until the new healthcare tax kicks in!!

    May 19, 2013 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  14. junk fees

    I love reading the comments section- his followers will never, ever ever admit he's doing anything wrong. You people are de lusional.

    Make your creative names for his enemies, shout down opposing viewpoints, have general disregard for anyone who isn't like you, good job ruining the country ra cist libe rals.

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

    Does this "guy" (Obama) looks like HE's on illegal drugs; or is it just me?! HE HAS used illegal drugs before! Mmmm...

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

    Obama's approval rating remains the same through all of this? The government is whacky, but many of its citizens are outright insane.

    May 19, 2013 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  17. Sharkmann

    An ABC poll should be coming out on Monday, I wonder what it will say?

    May 19, 2013 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  18. Helen Troy

    Polls don't mean much...

    May 19, 2013 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  19. Sam Brown

    Obama has lost his eligibility for the benefit of the doubt. NOW we should assume anything he says is a lie until evidence to the contrary is presented.

    May 19, 2013 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  20. Name Marcia

    America, we are busy lying in bed shooting at our toes, made a difference.

    May 19, 2013 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  21. Gary

    It's the same with every president especially now with the internet and instant access to information. No matter if the president is right or wrong his supporters will support him and his detractors will try to knock him no matter what happens or the president does. Before making comments we need to ask ourselves the simple question: Would I have the same comments if the president was (or was not a) a member of my party?

    May 19, 2013 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  22. Matthew

    Maybe they are the same because these were all media generated scandals, Or in the case of the IRS, had nothing to do with the president.

    May 19, 2013 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  23. gotdayumit

    Obama needs to play a couple of rounds of GOONY GOLF....then take a harikari knife and spill his guts on the floor...what leetile he has of them!

    May 19, 2013 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  24. Pepou27

    Unfortunately he will be remembered for only one reason, and the worst one : the first black President. For the rest, he has squandered good will, been aloof on major issues, curtailed civil rights, spied on journalists and has been the first president ever to kill an American citizen without trial. Not to mention the shameful Guantanamo concentration camp !

    May 19, 2013 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  25. John The Electrician

    Consevatives are a MINORITY pure and simple. And since this is a democracy=YOU LOSE.

    May 19, 2013 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
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