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. Moderationplz

    Sorry, Obama haters, but right about now when any of the three overdone stories come on, I like many others just change channels and I am a political junkie. Benghazi.....nothing there but politics, IRS.....Tea Party and many other 501C's need scrutiny since they are political machines rather than non profits, AP Press......what would the Right have said if the press caused a real disaster by leaking, bet it would have been off with Obama's head. All these are red herrings and most of the public realizes it except for Fox and the far Right.

    May 19, 2013 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  2. sc3441

    They should have called me to participate in the poll, I wouldn't have given the potus an approval rating above 50% that's for sure. My disapproval rating of the administration has risen considerably. I am also rethinking Hillary for 2016, I am not impressed with her handling of the Benghazi situation.

    May 19, 2013 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  3. Steve

    You left wing fools are really something. If this happened under Bush, you all would be outraged, but because it is your boy, let's just attack the Republicans anyhow. You are disgusting to all true Americans.

    May 19, 2013 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  4. mentallect

    Obama poll numbers have bottomed out. Americans are tired of the hysterics or Benghazi, doesn't care about the IRS probing anti-tax groups tax practices, and Americans don't like or trust the press, and hate the press leaks classified information.

    May 19, 2013 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  5. Gunner

    I thought the republicans had learned a lesson from the previous election...apparently not. Trying to find something when there is nothing is a huge drain on tax payer resources. Furthermore, aggressive tax breaks by non-profits must indeed be cracked down upon. That is only fair. There are scores of bogus non-profits engaging in all sorts of nefarious activities. Some tea-party groups (and also liberal, religious, among others) misuse the tax code to their benefit. It was fair for the IRS to have investigated them.

    May 19, 2013 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  6. Fardarter

    Example of what Reagan is responsible for: Reagan helped create the Taliban and Osama Bin Laden. Reagan fought a proxy war with the Soviet Union by training, arming, equipping, and funding Islamist mujahidin fighters in Afghanistan. Reagan funneled billions of dollars, along with top-secret intelligence and sophisticated weaponry to these fighters through the Pakistani intelligence service. The Talbian and Osama Bin Laden — a prominent mujahidin commander — emerged from these mujahidin groups Reagan helped create, and U.S. policy towards Pakistan remains strained because of the intelligence services’ close relations to these fighters. In fact, Reagan’s decision to continue the proxy war after the Soviets were willing to retreat played a direct role in Bin Laden’s ascendancy.

    May 19, 2013 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  7. Rob

    These scandals are of concern, but the GOP has turned into the shiftless boy that does nothing but cry wolf, thus the rest of the country has been desensitized to the GOP's BS. "What Obama is launching nukes? Yeah that's not as big a deal as the GOP makes it out to be". I guess it's well deserved. If the GOP would tone down their idiocy then maybe when there's a real scandal we'll react to it AS A COUNTRY like we're supposed to.

    May 19, 2013 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  8. Ooga Booga

    Is it any coincidence that the more it becomes obvious the president isn't in charge of ANYTHING, the more the stock market surges?

    May 19, 2013 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  9. 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, while 85% of Republicans disapprove and 13% of Democrats disapprove. 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 now calling Obamacare a train-wreck like the author of Obamacare himself, 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. So, we'll see when the Democrats lose the Senate in 2014 because of the impact of Obamacare.

    May 19, 2013 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  10. Erik

    Is it really surprising the 51% of Americans who voted to re-elect the President just six months ago have not abandoned him in the face of the GOP's blatant political gamesmanship? No, it's not. Nothing has changed since the election. Conservatives still hate him and the majority still supports him.

    May 19, 2013 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  11. Panos

    We would begin to accept GOP "outrage" if they had also:
    1. protested about the 50-70 non Iraq diplomatic attacks on US facilities previously
    2. complained when the IRS targeted the NAACP and Muslim groups
    also bitterly protested against –
    3. the wiretaps and unwarranted surveillance on US citizens and press post 9-11
    4. Fast and Furious done from 2006-2009
    5. the deficit when it went from 5 to 11 trillion from 2000-2009
    6. the drones if they admitted that Saddam's WMD were inscribed with "Made in the USA"
    7. that Boehner gave marching orders to the GOP at a meeting to bring down Obama, even if it meant bringing the US down with him
    8. Gun ownership responsibility to also enlist in the citizens militia/reserves per the 2nd Amendment

    May 19, 2013 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  12. The Truth

    At some point the obstructionism of the right becomes treason. These "scandal" especially benghazi are faux outrage because if it was real outrage the right would have done something about the 13 embassy attacks under chimpy. The right is irrelevant.. Get on the train or get run over.

    May 19, 2013 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  13. MEC

    This proves, once again-besides the election, that the conservative right wing voice is played out. Its all just a bunch of whiny babies that cant get over the fact that Obama won the election. Everyone is tired of hearing them bitch. I know I am. And reading some of these comments on here shows that they really do live inside their own little bubble. I am a voter, I know about IRS, Benghazi, and AP, I am highly educated, I know the hypocrisy of their arguments, and I see the Republican witch-hunt being played out everyday in the press. Hey Conservatives...here's some advice: Want to win the next election? Then SHUT UP!! Get back to work on issues of the nation, work together, and then you may have a chance. Until then, keep crying about Obama. You'll eventually weed yourselves out.

    May 19, 2013 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  14. Barry Sortero

    Given the gravity of the issues being brought against Obama and his administration: Possible murder, tampering with evidence, obstruction of justice, lying to the American Public, and illegal wire tapping, brings into question anyone who still approves of this President. The mental capacity of the section of the public who allegedly "approve" of his actions must be examined. Any poll that reflects this is also brought into question, as polling people who will approve of virtually anything this administration does is a poll that cannot be taken seriously, and is obviously being used as a control.

    May 19, 2013 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  15. Paul

    What do poll numbers have to do with the issue at hand? Nothing!

    May 19, 2013 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  16. sc3441

    The stock market is going up because the Treasury is printing $80B a month in quantitative easing.

    May 19, 2013 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  17. Name

    Folks, Benghazi was CIA listening post, not even close to the size of an actual embassy. Embassies have lots of security, many consulates are storefronts, and listening posts usually have no more security than a house in the area.

    May 19, 2013 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  18. Grant

    The entire top tier of this administration is a fraud and needs to be rooted out. These 3 occurrences are just the very tip of the iceberg and the things that mainstream IS reporting on. Most people don't even realize that the military is now under U.N control... that's just one of many items.

    May 19, 2013 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  19. jac999

    Past presidents have stated they take no serious stock in polls, because they really do not mean anything at all. It is said that the polls are taken from a very narrow sampling of people in a narrow band of interest in certain parts of the country.
    Then the results receive headline news in the media. Some people feel that the media and opposite interests, uses these limited narrow statistics to sway public opinion. If all that is true, then it just boils down to the fact they depend on the sheeple to believe without question whatever they are told. Here is a question we should all ask ourselves, whenever we read something, do we automatically believe it as a definite fact? If we do, then things like polls are manipulating our opinions.

    May 19, 2013 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  20. waheid

    Obama’s numbers haven’t changed because the criticism from the right wingnuts in Congress hasn’t changed. It’s still the same old litany of things that Obama allegedly has done wrong. Meanwhile, the deficit is shrinking (despite conservative efforts to oppose Obama’s economic plan), troops (who were sent to Afghanistan by Bush, who neglected to budget for the war) are returning, and the public opinion of the Congress continues to fall, mostly because of Republican efforts to sabotage the government. Immigration, once the great hope of some Republicans now seems doomed by Republican infighting. What a specatacle!

    May 19, 2013 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  21. buckybadger

    This is because the Tea Party's best attempts to make mountains out of molehills this country isn't as dumb as they are. The President doesn't run the IRS. Every president has had a marine hold an umbrella for them and under Bush our embassies where attack 54 times. Is Obama perfect? Heck no, I am very disappointed in Guantanamo Bay still being open and these drone attacks but that wouldn't change under republican rule.

    May 19, 2013 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  22. Jeffro211

    Why are so many of the people on this thread such haters? Too much Limbaugh... Hannity... Palin... You all probably go to church and thank God that you are so smart and special. Mass delusion is the result of too much "religion" and not enough faith.

    May 19, 2013 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  23. nunya

    I dont know why we gotta go thru this BS... Were still going ot vote Democrat! Duh, Bush ended the REPukedAgains as we knew them.. They are doomed, and are backeed up against a wall and just showboating for the mid term de-Elections of Republicans.. The Ruse will not work... The Amercian People are not that stupid to fall for this republican trickery. It was probably a Republican who ordered this scandal... I'd put money on it.... Just Sayin.... Stop being red neck dumb!

    May 19, 2013 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  24. zgroovemeister

    LMAO @ the delusional teanuts!

    Delusion – noun – a fixed false belief that is resistant to reason or confrontation with actual fact.

    May 19, 2013 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  25. hender1123

    Obama tells his followers what they need to know. Why would he tell them not to approve of his behavior in office?

    May 19, 2013 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
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