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. Ozzie

    Yo Republicans, can't you disagree or dialogue without hatred and ridicule? And I imagine that you consider yourselves Pro-Life.

    May 19, 2013 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  2. Tim Barnett

    Where did you take this poll, at the White House? I live in a democratic state, Washington, an everyone I know wants obama impeached including me! Who wrote this dripple? CNN, you are losing all credibility! I use to consider you the top choice, now your a bottom dweller! especially after Paul wildmans report of the NRAs convention in Texas! You've got to do better that this! Obama needs impeached due to multiple crimes, lets get with it!

    May 19, 2013 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  3. drc

    Proving beyond a doubt that you cannot fix stupid.

    May 19, 2013 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  4. Texas

    Republicans...doing anything to get elected....except running a viable inspiring candidate.

    May 19, 2013 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  5. GGOPA

    The same 53% demographics will vote for Hillary
    90% liberal women will vote for Hillary
    95% Blacks or Afro-Americans, 93% based on CNN 2012 exit poll
    70% Latinos, Hispanics, and Mexicans, 71% based on CNN 2012 exit poll
    70% Asians, 73% based on CNN 2012 exit poll
    85% the elite... liberal professors control the universities
    95% Hollywood... die hard liberals
    95% gays and lesbians… first president that approves a gay military and marriage
    90% Unions... the Democrats Power House
    50% Independents... depends which way the wind blows
    100% Socialist and Communist... it is their ticket for their agenda
    99% welfare and migrants… the Democrat is the party of the poor
    90% Democrat liberals... some are disillusioned for not closing Gitmo
    70% religious groups... depending on Muslims and Jewish support
    98% atheist, secular, and progressives
    25% Conservative Democrats... supports the Party
    0% Libertarians… they only support libertarian’s principles

    May 19, 2013 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  6. Texas

    @MontannaTrace: where is your inspiring candidate? Yeah..that's what I thought.

    May 19, 2013 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  7. ST

    Republicans, get a clue. Modern tech enables people to get information quicker, any time and anywhere they wish to. There is no room at all to maneuver or to refer something to the past ( like Watergate), while it is not. Think of something new which people can get attracted to your side. Contrary to that, your Party is doomed.

    May 19, 2013 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  8. Nameless person

    People died in the embassy attack that could have been saved in the so-called Commander-in-Cheif had actually been involved to approve much needed help. These embassies are actually considered American soil. I can only guess he was fast asleep getting ready for his big fund raiser the next day.

    May 19, 2013 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  9. ABarker

    Hmm, they sampled 923 people out of the 313.9+ MILLION who live in this country; 43% of those were Indep.,33% were dems; and 24% were republicans. More than half of them have incomes below the $50,000 mark. I personally put absolutely no stock in these kinds of "surveys." If they surveyed at least 1% of the populations spread across the country with an even split between the political groups and those who don't subscribe to one, the perhaps I might buy into it.

    I do however find it a little frightening that more than half of the 923 support a president who shows so little ability to lead and whose favorite phrases are "I don't know" and "It wasn't my fault" and who so famously said that you have "reward your friends and punish your enemies." Just as the heads of the IRS, State Department, Veterans Admin, and GSA are responsible for the actions of his/her staff, so too is the president.

    May 19, 2013 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  10. werewolf1

    Lets's see what Fox say's,OOPS.

    May 19, 2013 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  11. Pete

    It's funny how posters here say Dems aren't bright but its republicans with Issa who are chasing supposid scandals now involving Hillary,Pres.Obama who are looking rather rediculous !!Republicans with Issa went after EricHolder with Fast,Furious spending millions of tax payers money and quess what Issa got nothing,nada,zilch ...Issa again going after Hillary,Pres.Obama like a rapid pitbull spending millions again with now Benghazi and as time goes by its becoming evident that republicans with Issa are incompetent as well as politically bigotted just because as it has been since Pres.Obamas inaugeration its been partisan and government as most know wasn't created that way.That's why Pres.Obamas resurgence in the polls because people out there the reasonable ones see the republicans for what they've been since the presidents inaugeration being unamerican,obstructive,irresponsible ,not respectful of the presidents position and just plain treasonistic in keeping the people of America hostage for their own political gains.No jobs bills ,no infastructure bills and nothing out there from republicans to help benefit anyone and if its facts these republicans want well America we'll show them at midterms in facts that they lost their jobs for not doing theirs !!!

    May 19, 2013 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  12. Floydzepp

    Of course the numbers are the same. America doesn't care what the weep constupidive thinks anymore.

    May 19, 2013 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  13. shut_up

    the pet-rock-in – chief is like the pied piper. dont you rember before his first term? people were fainting because of him. same old empty headied coyote.. if it says democrap on it, there freebies are safe...........

    May 19, 2013 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  14. GGOPA

    What difference does it make!
    The same 51-52% demographics that voted for Obama will vote for Hillary in 2016.
    What may make a difference is 2014 as to who is going to take the House and the Senate.

    May 19, 2013 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  15. ProtectAmericanJobs

    Wouldn't it be More Productive if Our Elected Leaders Started Working Together as AMERICANS for AMERICANS and AMERICA, instead of just bickering, stalling and posturing for the next election as democrats and republicans! The American People have had it with this unproductive BS! The way that both parties having been operating for years just stinks! Neither party has really been looking out for the best interests of the US Citizens who elect them and who they're supposed to represent.

    Both parties have sold out the bulk of the American citizens, who they're supposed to represent, by allowing the incursion of illegal aliens and the "out-sourcing" floodgates to open wider and wider without taking any sensible measures to stem the tide.

    It shouldn't be all about Democrats or Republicans! It should be about Americans, especially our elected officials, doing the right thing for our country and its citizens. All the single-minded, left versus right, ideological one dimensional bull has got to go!

    Both parties need to start working together and actually start doing something to fix the real problems in our country like "out-sourcing", illegal immigration, the out of control costs of health care insurance and our reliance on foreign fuel. If they don't start working together and actually start making progress by the next election, then American citizens should run a nation-wide campaign to vote out all incumbents regardless of party to send the message.

    And yes – I'm Angry – As are most American Citizens right now!

    The ONLY REAL FIX is to Raise Revenue, by Bringing Back Jobs to US Citizens who Pay Income Tax.

    May 19, 2013 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  16. Jeff

    Obama = biggest failure the nation has ever known.

    May 19, 2013 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  17. iamchristianman

    Bush has been gone a long, long time people. They could have traded people in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and half of 2013. Copme on.

    May 19, 2013 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  18. Scott

    60 people were killed in various Embassy attacks during GWB's presidency. We never heard a PEEP about it from Congress. Now, Dick Cheney actually says Behghazi is the worst tragedy in his lifetime?!? Worse than 9/11 or Pearl Harbor? We have embassies in some very dangerous places around the world and while I'd like to say we can keep people 100% safe the reality is we can't.

    P.S. Some of the biggest Republican loudmouths on this topic were the same ones who voted to cut funds for Embassy security.

    People are basically sick of this endless "faux outrage". "Obama has White house dinners!" "Obama flies in a private plane"–HE'S DOING THE SAME THING EVERY PRESIDENT BEFORE HIM HAS DONE.

    May 19, 2013 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  19. John Clinton

    ONLY 7 in 10 though that it was wrong for the IRS to target organizations based on political affiliation.
    That is a VERY sad commentary on the state of political maturity of the (nearly) 3 in 10 who did NOT think it was wrong....

    May 19, 2013 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  20. why

    Who gave the order to Stand down?

    Why was the YouTube video being pushed by Obama, Hillary, and Rice when they knew on day1 it was a terrorist attack?

    May 19, 2013 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  21. jamessavik

    That's because you are asking the same people he bought Obama-phones for.

    They are bought and paid for. The shock is coming.

    May 19, 2013 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  22. Dte

    This poll is inaccurate being as it is just a poll from CNN. CNN has neglected to report on the fast and furious and all other Obama scandals. They just recently started to report on those situations unlike other news sites that have been reporting it since the issues happened. Many people I know do not trust CNN to report the full story anymore. So the poll would not include the average joe but more of the CNN followers that only read what CNN puts out.

    May 19, 2013 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  23. Ooga Booga

    This story just isn't catching on, is it?

    May 19, 2013 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  24. Anonymous

    and this is as big a lie as the crap coming out of the WH.....do they really expect us to believe this? These guys are so disreputable when it comes to truth its totally a joke. But there are a bunch of sheeple that believe this..of course they believe and use the Natl. Enquirer as a reputable source of info too.

    May 19, 2013 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  25. Jonquil

    Americans aren't as stupid as Republicans think we are. The IRS mess is outrageous, not so much because groups pretending to be charitable organizations, when they are so clearly branches of political campaigning, instead, are being routinely audited but because Tea Party groups were singled out (let's be honest; this happened because someone lost their cool. Pissed off that Republicans cut their funding - yet expected the same amount of work to be done - they decoded to abuse their power) it will now discourage the IRS from investigating suspicious political organizations for tax improprieties. It's a shame. It's like someone not following proper evidence collection protocol, and having that evidence thrown out of an otherwise cut and dry case.

    May 19, 2013 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
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