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. J

    Who cares what damage this is doing to Obama. He is the problem. This sorry good for nothing comunity organizer has created a culture of distrust in Americans. His insulting way of staying far from the truth in all of his answers along with protecting his lacky Holder from getting to the truth about Fast and Furious and this law breaking IRS scandal is just crooked.

    May 19, 2013 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  2. joyce

    Most people don't understand the disrespect that is being paid to him and the office of president.

    May 19, 2013 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  3. Chris

    No, the new controversies aren't really hurting Obama. Yes, as usual, the GOP has gone beyond overreaction in that everything ANY liberal has done EVER is to be blamed on Obama and to be called the "Worst thing ever."

    May 19, 2013 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  4. MIchael

    Give me a break. The same people screaming 'bloody murder' about these so-called controversies are the same people who were screaming bloody murder about his birth certificate.

    You're not fooling anyone.

    May 19, 2013 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  5. Luis Wu

    It's because intelligent people know these so-called scandals are bogus. Once again it's just the Republicans trying to make mountains out of mole hills. They're desperate and will jump on any issue like it was the end of time. Hopefully it is... for them.

    May 19, 2013 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  6. Marie MD

    When the shrub and his minions lied thousands died and are still dying.
    Are the repugs repulsed by this vs giving tax exempt status to the koch brothers' tea troll crazies?

    May 19, 2013 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  7. Gary Simpson

    Folks are finally figuring out that Obama is an "Empty Suit" – totally unaccomplished and incompetent. Either he says he does not know, was not informed or flat-out lies. His signature piece of legislation the so-called Affordable Health Care Act is an abomination that (if instituted) will bankrupt the country – and the Democrats know it for the most part – except for the most ignorant like Maxine Waters, Barbara Boxer ilk. One thing is clear, it must be repealed or drastically modified. Government employees are 90% backers of Obama because of the unions and very high percentages of minorities who mindlessly vote Democratic. No doubt the IRS acted illegally, so did the brain-dead Atty. Gen. Holder – he should be fired immediately. Fact is – he should have never been appointed but he is a typical Obama appointee – incompetent and biased.

    May 19, 2013 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  8. JT

    Sadly, nothing will be done about this. Do you really think twenty plus democratic senators would join republicans in removing him? Yeah, I didn't think so.

    May 19, 2013 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  9. Eric

    Given that the President is never running for another public office, who cares? He has already shown that he has little influence on either the Republican-controlled House or the Democrat-controlled Senate, so what do his poll numbers matter?

    May 19, 2013 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  10. larrywhataugot

    The thing is, there are not any scandles. Its a slow news time and the news media needs ratings and they will continue the Repuplican lies untill there ratings drop and then they will point out those lies to bump up ratings again. I was born at night, but not last night. Nice try Repulicans and news media, but the American people got you. Do you think we are stupid?

    May 19, 2013 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  11. Dee G

    The Republican and their faux outrage about every little thing just cracks me up – they seem to be of the belief that the American people will fall for it – Sorry dudes! No can do! I ask you Mr. Speaker, I ask you Mr. McConnell – where are the JOBS you *promised* us??? Nope, I guess you're just too busy trying to get the black man out of office.

    May 19, 2013 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  12. Patrick

    Isn't anybody ever happy ?

    May 19, 2013 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  13. Bad Religion

    You are the government
    You are jurisprudence
    You are the volition
    You are jurisdiction
    And I make a difference too
    -Greg Graffin

    I love polls and voting.

    May 19, 2013 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  14. Arbour

    Many of Obama's supporters elected him becuase of his strong liberal socialist leaning. To many of them, the end is all that matters. The scandlas are just bumps on the road to a great socialist society with the pipe dream of everyone would be taken cared of by the big government.The end justifies the mean.

    May 19, 2013 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  15. india60

    Obama, will continue to stay steady, because 99 percent of americans know what is going on. The republicans will not let anything go including Obama winning this past election,The were all told not to vote for anything Obama wants, that is so much worse then what they are not saying. Had the Republicans accepted him and tried to work things out and get along, well I might feel different. But its always something the republicans just do not get it. The are political cry babys, they been crying since Obama won his first election, they haven't got over that and they continue to cry, and americans are just tired of it, I know I am, when I see a republican crying on CNN? I turn the channel. The Republicans are going to cry until the next election, but then I will vote democrat yet again, cause its to late for the republicans they have proved what they are about and the people of this country will never forget. THe republicans/bush admin. showed us all what they did, and Bush should be in jail. along with cheese head, and Karl Rove

    May 19, 2013 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  16. Richard

    You're asking the wrong questions from the wrong people. I don't know a single person who thinks he's doing a good job or shouldn't be impeached.

    May 19, 2013 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  17. ezdl

    Of course his poll numbers haven't changed...When are the hyperactive media-fed republicans going to realize that this constant election style overreaction and instant polling to try and sway public opinion is like an old parlor trick...Americans have learned to look at the bigger picture, and they are even learning how to slow down the old emotional knee-jerk reactions of yesteryear and actually evaluate their president based on overall performance and things that are actually within the president's control.
    When the republicans stop trying to scheme and plot how to "come up with a message that will resonate with those who voted against them" and actually present an honest, straightforward platform that is not based on trying to manipulate peoples fears and prejudices into votes, Americans will begin to consider them as a viable alternative to other parties again.

    May 19, 2013 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  18. Terrell

    it is indeed frightening when people can look tyranny in the face and not be appalled.

    May 19, 2013 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  19. deee510

    We support our president.your manufactured scandals and distractions does not fools us common sense middle class Americans.we need to focus on important issues not petty BS the dinosaurs keep repeating and hoping something will stick.

    May 19, 2013 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  20. J

    ...very few people know that Iraq has been paying for most of china ..notice no problem with oil gas from china ? Why! 2003 tell now Iraq has given them more then they need.. Democracks knew this but blame bush..easy take two countries pay for pensions, unions,payroll, state and city ..without bush what are you going to used to keep china financed ,to pay dems cost of living ect ..

    May 19, 2013 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  21. Smeagel4T

    Still waiting for ABC News to do their job and release the name(s) of those in the GOP who lied to ABC and intentionally tried to mislead ABC and bias the investigation.

    May 19, 2013 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  22. michigan

    Why would the numbers change? The American people are smart enough to know that the Repubs will use anythng they can to discredit the President. They have held the country hostage since Obama was elected. They don't care about any of these issues except for the fact that they think they can get hurt the President with them. For god sakes they just re-elected that governor in Carolina who was having an affair in south america. That shows where their faux morals are really at. Obama care will create competition in the market and eventually reduce prices. The problem now is you will have a manipulation of the prices because the insurance companies don't want the competition. I am surprised that for all you conspiracy theorists that you can't see that much. Maybe if you quit trying to get rid of a Democratic president, you could actually see the forest from the trees. P.s. Anyone see how many millions it cost the taxpayer so the Republicans and Tea Party folks could hold a symbolic vote on Obama Care. Fiscally conservative? Think again. I believe it was the right that wasted away our balanced budget in the first place. Glass houses my friends.

    May 19, 2013 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  23. love@tiscali

    @ 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.
    _________________________________________

    thanks for making sense

    May 19, 2013 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  24. Internet Comments - Giving Idiots from both sides a voice

    I read somewhere (Internet speak for maybe I read it or maybe some fool told me) that less than 40% of the people who think of Benghazi is a major scandal realized that Benghazi was in Libya and not Egypt...After reading some of the comments, I'm convinced that 80% of the people who post comments on this site don't have any idea where Egypt or Libya is...much less Benghazi. AND, I'm talking of people from both sides of the Aisle.

    May 19, 2013 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  25. James DDI

    All Americans need to wake up and pay attention to this situation. Don't let them distract, obfuscate and try to point fingers in the other directions. Our freedoms are being taken away on a daily basis. The WH tactics show how little regard they have for all voters, all Americans. Contact your reps in DC and demand that this is properly investigated by an Independent Counsel.

    May 19, 2013 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
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