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. wronglong

    Poll numbers did not change because people know a witch hunt when they see one. Just about the time I start to think the GOP is changing direction, they do an about face and start Obama bashing again. I'm starting to believe that they have nothing to offer. They look weak, silly and disorganized.

    May 19, 2013 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  2. securemycloud

    I truly hope Obama brings down the government: I dream of Anarchy

    May 19, 2013 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  3. shu

    Even if it was found that Obama administration mishandled the IRA or Libya I am not ready to hand Republican Party the gold medal. Do you really think one party is better than the other when comes to honesty?

    May 19, 2013 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  4. ThinkAgain

    The GOP and Repub voters would find something to complain about if President Obama cured cancer, established peace in the Middle East and walked on water.

    They HATE the idea of investing in our country, creating opportunity for average Americans and sustaining and expanding the middle class. They hate the FACT that because of President Obama's economic policies, we've had positive private sector job growth EVERY MONTH since March 2010.

    (BTW, according to Bloomberg Business News, between May 1999 and May 2009, employment in the private sector sector only rose by 1.1%, by far the lowest 10-year increase in the post-Depression period.)

    Repubs HATE that Bush forgot about bin Laden and President Obama brought him to justice. They HATE that he passed healthcare reform (modeled after Romney's version and using the individual mandate model the Heritage Foundation desined). They HATE that President Obama has restored our good standing in the world so we no longer have to foot every bill and go it alone responding to international situations.

    Repubs also HARP on the tragic loss of American lives in Benghazi – completely ignoring there were 54 attacks on American diplomatic missions during GW Bush's administration, which resulted in 13 Americans killed. Funny how silent they were when only 3 hearings TOTAL were held to address this incidents.

    Anyone insisting on saying President Obama is taking our country in the wrong direction and insisting on believing the fairy tale that Republican policies work (all facts to the contrary), then either suffers from mental illness or wants our country to fail.

    May 19, 2013 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  5. securemycloud

    I dream of Anarchy. Obama, you will make this happen ;)

    May 19, 2013 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  6. Norman

    I am convinced that Barak Obama has so many mindless zombie-like supporters, they would find a way to ignore his behavior even if he became a serial criminal, which if you think about it...

    May 19, 2013 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  7. tp1776

    there are facts, damned facts, and Republicans

    May 19, 2013 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  8. Maria Merrick

    I cannot get over how blind all of you on this board are about this administration. It doesn't matter why side of the fence you are on. The IRS targeting people because of their political views is unacceptable!! Spying on the AP and hiding facts about Benghazi unacceptable! If this was a republican administration all hell would break loose.
    Sandalista: your facts are wrong. There were 9 attacks in Iraq during the war, and we didn't "stand down".
    Quit drinking the cold aid and buying the lies, before it's too late!

    May 19, 2013 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  9. The Peace

    I can't stand Obama they need to impeach he is hurting our country

    May 19, 2013 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  10. SleepingToad

    The "average American" doesn't even know what Benghazi is.... The average American believes that every illegal act traced back to the current administration is just a tool of slander.. The average American thinks very little apparently.. I used to wonder why a majority of the world hated U.S. citizens.. I think i get it now.. We put these people in office.. we allow them to run wild on the world.. we are responsible.

    May 19, 2013 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  11. Jack

    Simply shows that this country is more partisan than ever...Liberals will back there party no matter how corrupt they may be

    May 19, 2013 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  12. OCCUPY WALLSTREET FOREVER

    Like most americans, I could care less.

    I understand the importance of the subject matter, but the GOP and corporate media slams us endlessly with this stuff as if it's the undoing of the country and the end of the world. I'm more aggravated over the need to generate outrage then the actual issue itself.

    They force it down our throats in the hopes of generating excess outrage. It might work for the Tea Party and extreme right who already hate Obama, but for the sane among us we know better. We understand it's an issue of broken government and not one party being morally superior to the other.

    May 19, 2013 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  13. Maria Merrick

    BMP: no the average American wants to know the truth. The current administration is a bunch of lying thugs. If you don't agree with their views you are vilified and demonized. This administration is either inept or a bunch lying through their teeth. From my prospective they are both. I think I'm still allowed to have an opinion. For now

    May 19, 2013 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  14. ThinkAgain

    I share your outrage, Mr. President, on the IRS's profiling right-wing organizations (although the method was clumsy, their instincts were correct in assuming these groups would try to defraud the government like so many other so-called "social welfare" organization do ... I'm looking at you, American Crossroads).

    I also trust that the President will continue to oust those responsible and thoroughly investigate the situation. I also trust that you did not "let" Americans in Benghazi die. I also trust that you will get to the bottom of the AP records seizure by the Justice Department. (Quick question: Why does the right wing suddenly care so much about the "lame-stream media"? If these guys are always lying, then who cares who sees their stuff?)

    Bottom line: I trust and support President Obama – which includes calling him on policies I don't agree with. At the end of the day, his actions – from economic policies resulting in continuous private sector job growth since March 2010, to saving GM, to taking out Osama bin Laden – speak louder than any whiny complaints from the Republicans.

    May 19, 2013 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  15. George Maile

    It's a point that the Republicans have failed to support the Mr OBAMA in the gun check measures and also are failing to support the closure of the Guatemala which is one of notorious extremist breeding prison in the US.

    May 19, 2013 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  16. NO TRESPASSING

    IF any black people in government speak up, they will be dead... by its own people ...

    May 19, 2013 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  17. LOLenough

    Unbelievable that any American still supports this administration and his cronies. Whats worse is you still live in the past, the only thing we can do with the past is learn from it. I guess there are a lot of slow learners out there, heck some people still think Bush is president. So I don't understand the lack of outrage form all you Bush haters, isn't this what you hated about Bush? I know the truth hurts when you voted for such corruption, be careful what you wish for. What is happening at the IRS is a crime. I don't care which party you support, this Government has gone to far. Time to dismantle the IRS, before they start running our health care.

    May 19, 2013 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  18. An objective observer

    Why do white American ( the unintelligent ones) hate President Obama so much! Nothing will get done while Obama is in power just as long as you have the existing Congress in place . They will filerbuster everything and object to any appointment that he makes just because they HATE TO ANSWER TO A BLACK MAN. Call it by it right right name RACISM. It alive and living in the USA!!

    May 19, 2013 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  19. pkrbkr3

    How many people were killed in Iraq with NO WMDs and NO inquiries? President Obama should have allowed Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and crew to be tried for treason....now the Republicans want our President's head on a platter for nothing he is implicated in.....so sad. Let's get over this partisan politics and do the business of governing, instead of hate and obstructionism!

    May 19, 2013 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  20. dave

    Looks like Republicans need new game plan. Legislation is not their strong suit. Obama is Teflon. Why you ask? Because the GOP, you know the folks slinging all the mud, well it does not work when you are covered in mud yourself. Predict the next round of scandals will all be blamed on the Republicans. You know it is coming.

    May 19, 2013 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  21. Name Uche Agonsi

    Criticisms against Obama are always hypothetical ones. Thats why they fall like cards when the President counters them. Criticis of Benghazi now have problems marshalling their cases against Obama. The accusation of public deceit is taken care of. In the stand down order, correct me if am wrong, how many US embassies been under attack in times past & how many of them outside US were rescued militarily at the very momment of the attacks. America has never been better than now for the past ten years... Economically, in high tech/security matters, socially, & respect by other nations. The Administration did what was necessary to save American lives in the AP issue .....& the irs case, there is always one problem or another with all bereaucratic departments, call it police, cia, fbi, commerce, state dept, etc....the issue is whether corrective measures are taken.

    May 19, 2013 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  22. Puddin

    Yes, Issa is like' the pot calling the kettle black." You can sure tell that GWB got all the preferential treatment from the far right. He and Cheney should be in jail, and McConnell and Boehner could be but in the same cell.. McConnell, Issa and all the others going after the president on all this, you notice they never mention their party's own misdeeds. It is so transparent. The are so afraid, due to their obstructive behavior since 2008, that they are going to lose their jobs, and so they should! I'm so sick of the "do-nothing" types in DC .......it is downright depressing, but I hope they never see inside the halls of Congress ever again....

    May 19, 2013 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  23. Jupman

    WHAT!
    The CIA lied about something.
    The IRS Targeted a group of people.
    The government target a group of PEOPLE albeit reporters.

    Now apply those shocking claims to every administration since at least 1930.

    May 19, 2013 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  24. Joseph

    Republicans investigate a limb falling out of a White House tree,So everyone around the world can find a weakness to attack us.Only the cowards that support Republicans,believe they are the ones who protect us.They can deny what complete failures to America that they are,But it doesn't make it any less a fact.

    May 19, 2013 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  25. T.

    After reading these comments it is absolutely clear that republicans just hate America...

    May 19, 2013 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41