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. ondeck

    What do you expect ? The GOP has tied his hands. Yeah let's focus on the small partisan crap and let the big important issues wait until they can shove another Republican in there and he can deliver the final blow to our country and Democracy as we have known it since our governments inception. This is so clear – it isn't even funny. We have no one to fear but ourselves...........we will implode from within . Just like many great civilizations. How sad, we never learn.

    May 19, 2013 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  2. Niki Coates

    Unfortunately, most people that voted for Obama do not listen to the news.

    May 19, 2013 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  3. dlb19595

    Oh eventually this WILL affect his approval rating bit by bit his approval will be going down....just wait the next controversy is just around the corner. But I don't think we are done with Benghazi or the IRS fallout yet give it time.

    May 19, 2013 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  4. bill

    Republicans doing what they do best – turning petty stuff into their main agenda while Obama takes care of the important stuff. Wow have you seen the stock market lately? Go Obama.

    May 19, 2013 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  5. Dood

    If a candidate I voted for had done these things, I certainly would not keep supporting him or her. I don't understand the loyalty to this Chicago gangster.

    May 19, 2013 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  6. dlb19595

    PS – It kills me while people are struggling to feed their families he is out on the golf course having a great time. HELLO Mr. President we have some serious problems here!

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

    His numbers are same. Because these "scandals" mean nothing. Only people who care are Republicans.

    May 19, 2013 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  8. Ooga Booga

    It's the calm before the storm, my Clinton News Network friends.

    May 19, 2013 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  9. blakenaustin

    It is hard to understand the fools that continue to support this man regardless of what he does.

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

    I do NOT agree with everything what Pr. Obama did during past 4 years, but is fair to say that he is hard working President who is doing his best to move USA forward in right direction ( how effective he was, we already saw it in the past)… Unemployment, economy and houses market depression are improving in USA. My the biggest concern to move this country FASTER forward in right direction is GRIDLOCK in Congress (Gallup poll on 05.09.13. show that ONLY 16% Americans support Congress)?! During Pr. Obama second term I gave my support to President for “Economic Patriotism”, gun control, immigration reform and climate change ( investing in Green Energy, is the best way to cut CO2 emission and to reduce our dependence on foreign oil)…

    May 19, 2013 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  11. Rickk37

    His poll numbers remain the same because most Americans are dumb as fence posts......

    May 19, 2013 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  12. Jamey

    In my opinion his poll numbers should go up. The data should be inversely proportional to the volume of screech expelled by the likes of Darrel Isa, John ("Hell no you can't" Boehner), and John Cornyn. For the first time in my 62 years I am proud of our President.

    I have to believe that the majority of our citizens can see past the racism seething in their underbellies.

    May 19, 2013 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  13. The Right Left

    The rightwing GOP is as always betting against their own odds. Most of the country realizes how absurd sounding they have become. They believe in the their own shrill voices as voice of reason and sanity. This whole kicking up mud is not only hurting them in the short run, it will cost them elections. Will they learn from their mistakes. Given the recent trends in the GOP, I doubt it.

    May 19, 2013 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  14. Joe

    I trust these polls as much as I trust the IRS! I trust CNN as much as I trust the IRS! Needless to say I don't trust the IRS.

    May 19, 2013 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  15. Anonymous

    Polls stated are biased Liberal stuff.
    Rasmussen, which is honest, has Obama 40% approval, 49% disapproval.
    Spin on, Liberal media liars.

    May 19, 2013 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  16. Liroudane

    Since Republicans were unable to stop Obama for a 2nd term, their goal is now to make him fail and have no successful legacy. This is about their survival as a party. From day 1, the goal was to have only Obama for a one-term President. Most of Conservators never accepted that a black President should rule this country!!!

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

    bradford, they over sampled the democrats this time just as much as they did before the election, you are not majority get over it

    May 19, 2013 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  18. John Tucker

    These things take time to show effect.

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

    wah wah benghazi. said george wmd bush. a lie that created 5000 dead americans 50,000 injuries how many suicides? didnt pay for shock and awe but wah wah benghazi... wah wah AP Reporters getting spied on with the Bush/cheney PATRITO ACT> wah wah benghazi.

    May 19, 2013 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  20. Jim Smell

    ANY THING, the LEFT wing news media "reports" is just Obama Propaganda. They never polled me. I give him a -100%.

    Lets face it, the "news" media (CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, NPR) are just White House or Left wing Propaganda units, they have ZERO credibility. It is funny, to listen to them; they just spew garbage (and think the American people are so dumb they can't see through the lies).

    May 19, 2013 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  21. JD

    he said my taxes wouldnt go up. i make far less than 250k. he lied

    he said my insurance premiums wouldnt go up. he lied

    i could go on and on...but i'll just stop here and say i'd love to believe what he says, but i just cannot.

    May 19, 2013 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  22. mique

    Clarke, are you still a republican?

    May 19, 2013 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  23. Andrew

    Hey, way to obscure the MILLIONS in dark money with a storm in a teacup, Rove. I place Herr Rove just above Mussolini in the underworld of bad guys.

    May 19, 2013 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  24. 66Biker

    And of course the idiots that voted against him have not quit being idiots either, and they are still the minority. So what does that tell you? Other than there are more of them than there are of you, of course...

    May 19, 2013 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  25. waitaminute

    We are not your subjects Mr.President. We are not going to bow before any of your legislation. We can not let the IRS slide on this because if we do there will be nothing they won't do to us..

    May 19, 2013 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
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