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. ug

    Where do those polls come from? oh yes from a lib source...

    May 19, 2013 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  2. EvilWorm

    A conviction instead of Right Wing B S may work better!

    May 19, 2013 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  3. Bradford

    This is a slow cancer for Obama. Bush was at 65% at this point according to Gallop.
    It's embarrassing enough that Obama claims he had no knowledge of the IRS scandal.

    May 19, 2013 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  4. Tom1940

    I cannot believe that the "flat lined polls stuck at 46% positive" for this President are nothing but "cooked" figures from the mainstream press and polling organizations. They, along with 100% of other groups or individuals reporting on this President and his Administration are afraid of the "race" card being played on them.

    May 19, 2013 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  5. Omnipitous

    Most intelligent people recognize this witch hunt for what it is. A 2014 election push off.

    May 19, 2013 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  6. TexaSam

    A Bush appointee was in charge of this IRS "scandal", but don't let that get in the way of your FOX LITE hysterics. A 2 point increase, despite being within the margin of error, just proves that Americans know the GOP is all about Party Before Country. Fewer & fewer Americans are buying the corporate owned GOP agenda.

    May 19, 2013 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  7. Tom Slick

    I have two questions on Benghazi:

    1) If the President and his people knew it was a terrorist attack from the start, why did they push the You Tube video for weeks after including Obama at the UN, Hillary at the services for the dead, and Rice on the morning shows?

    2) Who gave the order to stand down?

    May 19, 2013 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  8. jac999

    This needs to be added for our thoughtfulness: The article states that a certain percentage of "Americans" responded with this or that opinion about this or that issue. But ONLY 943 people responded to this survey. So my question is, what percentage of the total population is 943 people? Of those who responded by answering their landline or cell phone, what percentage of those claim a certain political party as their affiliation? And of those 943 people, where do they live in the entire nation? North, south, east, west, city dwellers, country dwellers? Are they raising their children, their grandchildren? How are they faring in this economy, are they making ends meet or have they just won the lottery? How many calls were made where people did not answer their telephone?
    So, how many people believe that a sampling of 943 random telephone answerers represents a true picture of "All Americans" ?

    May 19, 2013 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  9. Steve

    When the country does well, Republicans do bad. They need these distractions to remain relevant. Kind of like North Korea.

    May 19, 2013 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  10. Journey

    These scandals were pre-planned by GOP operatives; (1.) the whole Benghazi scandal lost political traction during the last election cycle (i.e. it's a WAR folks...things happen), (2.) if I was the President I'd have the IRS coming down on every Tea Party and Christian group in the United States without hesitation, and (3.) are the DOJ's data gathering policies better or worse than what we had 2000-2008? These things try and take our attention off the real issues.

    May 19, 2013 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  11. Greg Faith

    The honeymoon is not quite over between the media and Barry. Give it time. They will turn on him like the wolves that they are. Once the kids start acting out, or another relative breaks the law for some dumb reason, Barry will have to fight for poll numbers until the day that he leaves and is never heard from again. I can't wait for Jan 21, 2017! Sorry, the experiment was a failure. It just took eight years of everyone's life to understand it.

    May 19, 2013 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  12. skeptical voter

    Can you say BS on a monumental scale? Yet another numbers game. Hopefully they didn't play the lottery with those odds. Whose worse, Nixon or Obama?

    May 19, 2013 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  13. Anonymous

    One thing is sure the republican/conservative party HATES the constitution and is trying everything in their power to destroy it so they can do what they want to the people of this country.

    May 19, 2013 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  14. Mark

    What makes you think that four people being killed, or the I.R. S. scandle will change the mind of those people who want free money, food, housing, education and everything else Obama gives them. They will support him no matter how much of a terrible job he is doing or how many people suffer due to his poor decisions and policies. Lets go back to the Bush days with 4.5% unemployment and getting rid of a murdering thug in Iraq, One good thing Obama has done is make Jimmy Carter look good ????

    May 19, 2013 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  15. marsilius

    The American people aren't as stupid as many Republicans think they are.

    May 19, 2013 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  16. Actually

    It is suggested to base a standard sale on items that are valued less than a Troy oz in Grams.
    For example: A very good fresh loaf of whole grain bread from the Baker, non GMO, may be priced at 5 grams .999 fine silver. If a person would need 6 loafs of this bread for a party, then it would be 1 troy oz of silver plus 1 gram. OR the baker can cut a deal as desired.

    May 19, 2013 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  17. Steve

    The Right Wing Nuts are so desperate for attention they waste the taxpayers money on things that don't matter.

    May 19, 2013 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  18. mitchgam

    I know that it is hard for partisan Republicans to believe, but after 5 years of continual partisan sniping and baseless accusations, nobody is listening to your complaints anymore, other then your fellow Republican partisans

    It doesn't matter if they are true or not

    Republicans have become like the boy who cried wolf

    May 19, 2013 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  19. Germanicus

    Its called crying wolf. If the GOP had not been manufacturing fake scandal after fake scandal for the last 5 years maybe more people would care.

    May 19, 2013 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  20. Actually

    Any American Citizens interested in separating themselves from the world empire of corporate and federal run monetary and banking values?

    May 19, 2013 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  21. anton dubinsky

    Or as republicans call it: bad news.

    May 19, 2013 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  22. DavM

    Obama is a communist failure

    May 19, 2013 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  23. William seno

    Professional sports' teams cannot improve their prowess simply by belittling other teams. They must work to improve their own faults.

    May 19, 2013 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  24. jeezlouise

    Welfare voters dont care about corruption- they voted for it.

    May 19, 2013 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  25. Steve S

    GOP 'outrage', is political opportunism at it's best.
    I'm still 'outraged' over the Iraq War.
    But how many in the Bush Administration have served prison time?

    ZERO!

    May 19, 2013 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
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