May 19th, 2013
08:57 AM ET
2 years 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. Bradford

    How much did they oversample Dems this time......The Obama myth has died.

    May 19, 2013 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  2. barssbb

    Proving, of course, that most democrats are not particularly bright.

    May 19, 2013 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  3. optimistmiser

    What is really sad is that most of the public have no idea that Benghazi, IRS scandal, AP data theft and other events have taken place. They are too busy paying attention to sports, Hollywood, and reality TV to notice.

    May 19, 2013 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  4. Steve

    His poll numbers are a lot like the unemployment numbers....Always improving never getting any worse it's amazing to say the least

    May 19, 2013 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  5. NOVA703

    The Republicans need to realize that nobody cares about their phony outrage and made up scandals. The have gone from the party of No to the party of the Absurd.

    May 19, 2013 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  6. Jeffrey2099

    This no surprise. When 50% don't even contribute to the running of our massively over bloated federal government, of course they aren't biting the hand that feeds them. For this reason I don't see this country really making any progress on much of anything. We had just as we'll join the EU.

    May 19, 2013 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  7. hui wang

    We will see all of these again and again by Republicans before next election. That is republican ! Democratic elected officials are chicken facing these attack. When Bush /Dick Cheney lied to American about Iraq war some of the Democratic party members were on the supporting side including HiliaryClinton

    May 19, 2013 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  8. R M Kelley

    Why is it that every key position in the IRS controversy is filled by a Republican appointed by Bush? Miller did not take office as Acting Commissioner until November 2012. This occured long before starting March 2010 when Shulman was the Commissioner.

    May 19, 2013 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  9. El Flaco

    American Conservatism has declared its goal to be the paralysis of the federal government.

    Subversive Republicans in the Senate have blocked hundreds of bills and appointments.

    Verbal bullying and incivility are just a couple of techniques that Conservatives use in a deliberate effort to render our government unable to solve any of the nation's problems.

    In effect, Conservatives are holding the country hostage, threatening to continue their campaign of subversion until one of them is elected to the White House.

    The wealthy class, whom Republicans in Washington serve, does not like democracy. Conservatism is a way of persuading a majority of Americans to vote against their own self-interest.

    May 19, 2013 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  10. William

    Who said that there is no oversampling of Democrats as usual and even with the current numbers, 53% of Independent voters disapprove of Obama's Job performance. Finally, wait till 2014 when the IRS starts enforcing Obamacare and taxes skyrocket. Also, only 15 States agreed to participate in Obamacare, while 35 States will not implement or enforce Obamacare. Even, many Democrats are calling Obamacare a train-wreck like the author of Obamacare, Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) also Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), recently admitted that premiums have increased "in part because of ObamaCare," This law raises premiums, lowers the quality of care, increases taxes and jeopardizes the insurance Americans were promised they could keep. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), echoed these concerns when he noted that the law would increase premiums for the young.

    May 19, 2013 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  11. Rick

    It is because people are essentially robots, that is why the numbers are the same.

    May 19, 2013 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  12. CaesarXIII

    Democrats are just as much as a waste as Republicans with their lies. Just look at how they destroyed the black community for votes and now they're doing it to the Latinos. Modern day slavery.

    May 19, 2013 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  13. clarke

    The GOP has over reacted to everything and anything that has to do with Obama. I didn't even vote for him, so don't start with name calling. It is very hard to have faith in the party when the mission has been from almost day 1 to discredit the President. We have lost pride and respect due so many negative thoughts. I find it very sad that so many no longer have the pride in our country and our government that we used to.

    May 19, 2013 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  14. joeinalabama

    Numbers are the same, why should the 47% care, not their money.

    May 19, 2013 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  15. OpenMindedAmerican

    Both parties are corrupt liars. They have us all arguing amongst ourselves, democrats vs. republicans but I don't trust 90% of either of tthem as they are all bought and paid for by their corporate masters. Obama is no exception, he's just a smooth talker in a suit, he is young black George bush guys. And who was your only choice... mitt romney? We are screwed at this rate . We really need term limits and campaign finance reform but they have us arguing over gay marriage and gun control. the first step is to escape the two party mentality and start getting serious about voting independent.

    May 19, 2013 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  16. What About!

    What about the fact that a Bush appointee was head of I.R.S during the Scandal. What about the Fact that Congress voted to reduce funding for security at Our Embassie's? Just wondering.

    May 19, 2013 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  17. MontanaTrace

    Of course the numbers are the same. The idiots that first supported him, have not quit being idiots.

    May 19, 2013 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  18. JohnB35

    I've been predicting this to be the case all along. Of course Obama's numbers are the same – nobody cares about this stuff, other than overly self-important, far-right tea party types.
    The rest of the nation is out enjoying the nice weather, and could care less about this mountain from a molehill.

    May 19, 2013 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  19. lisa

    Of course the tpubs have overreacted. Their one and only job is to discredit the Pres get others to believe their lies. It has not and will not work but they keep on trying, Bring it on,

    May 19, 2013 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  20. LOLenough

    Poll numbers not changing shows how many drones there really are. Drones just mindlessly sucking up our hard earned freedoms and regurgitating what they are feed. Survival of the fittest, sorry drones you won't make it.

    May 19, 2013 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  21. Lou50

    apparently this indicates his supports were not operating machinery last week as their numbers would have dwindled.

    May 19, 2013 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  22. Fardarter

    Since I strongly disapprove of the GOP, of course I approve of Obama. But not because I am so thrilled by his actions. Rather, I am still disgusted by the GOP to such an extent that I will never recover. Obama did very well with an impossible taks but did not wield his powers enough to pass legislation that would benefit the country. Obamacare is a monster with seven heads that came out of political compromise but it's still more than what the GOP has done in the past twenty years. Aside from wars that broke our economy, saturated mental health facilities, and earned us unending hatred, the GOP has accomplished absolutely nothing for decades. The last GOP administration to do anything was Reagan, and even they just destroyed stuff and built nothing.

    May 19, 2013 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  23. smfinley47

    First, if anyone thinks Obama didn't know about / push for the IRS to get his enemies, they need to start watching Scandal and re-run Dave. Second, if his poll numbers are virtually unchanged, I suspect there's a little conspiracy/corruption going on there, too. Remember, Obama comes from of the most corrupt political systems in the country.

    May 19, 2013 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  24. cleareye1

    The GOP always overreacts! They are like hysterical children that want more candy.

    What impresses me most about Obama is that he maintains a civil attitude when dealing with them.

    May 19, 2013 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  25. pattianne

    I agree that numbers are deceiving. I have talked to many Obama supporters and they won't ever admit he did anything wrong. It is always the members of his administration, but not him. That should be worrisome to them that he doesn't have any idea what is actually happening in his own government. He has all these czars to help him and all these "yes" people in all departments, yet he is the the one that hears nothing or sees absolutely nothing these people are doing-according to the POTUS himself. They will tell you how smart he is, but for some reason we can't find out ourselves by seeing any of his school records (even he said he was taking drugs when he was first in college). I admire someone who admits they might have made mistakes and then works to correct them, not someone who thinks they are always right.

    May 19, 2013 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
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