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. lottie

    what we are tired of is a GOP that has nothing better to do with it's time than look for scandal and controvercy

    May 19, 2013 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  2. THETRUTH

    LIES!! all of it!

    May 19, 2013 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  3. Mike Hunt

    White House Down

    May 19, 2013 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  4. strangerq

    Personally every time the GOP says "this is worse than Watergate", it just reminds me that, with the exception of Reagan, the GOP has pretty much failed at everything since Eisenhower's time.

    Nixon, Ford, Bush senior and Junior = fail, fail, fail, fail.

    Democrats have almost entirely successful Presidencies since FDR – Truman, Kennedy, Clinton and Obama certainly.

    Granted LBJ self destructed due to Vietnam and Carter was overwhelmed and could never get it together.

    But the other Democratic Presidencies were all successful, and in the case of FDR – he was certainly the best of the last 100 year or so.

    May 19, 2013 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  5. Joe Rivera

    A government drunk with power, these kinds of things always end badly.

    May 19, 2013 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  6. RealTalk

    Please GOP, elections are over, you guys lost big. Get over it. Try to get some work done instead of striking down every single piece of legislation that makes sense for the good of the nation. Stop sensationalizing anything you can for your own political gain. Its disgusting.

    May 19, 2013 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  7. John

    I see no politics in what the IRS was doing. Their job is collect taxes. Who you gonna look at besides groups organized with the philosophy and agenda of NOT paying taxes? Hell, I'd tax CHURCHES, and in theory those are not POLITICAL organizations at all. So how should any PAC of any stripe be tax-exempt?

    May 19, 2013 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  8. Guest

    I've never seen so many lies in one presidency before. The buck stops at the top and obama is a weak, corrupt leader.

    May 19, 2013 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  9. BigSir

    Boehner has his foot is his mouth.

    May 19, 2013 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  10. Guest

    Under obama, it feels like Nazi Germany.

    May 19, 2013 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  11. Linda

    Chicago thug-like behavior. They (democrats) should all go to prison, starting at the top! Absolutely no integrity!

    May 19, 2013 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  12. yellowpageguy

    What a crock - 51% really? Who are these pollsters taking to - The White House staff of democrat ObamaCrats?
    51% ? Americas are much smarter than this. MAYBE?

    May 19, 2013 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  13. For The First Time In My Life I Am Not Proud Of My Country

    Thanks to the democrats and unions!

    May 19, 2013 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  14. phil

    the jig is up,Obama and friends are crooks.

    May 19, 2013 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  15. yellowpageguy

    CNN if you would like a real and accurate set of numbers of the BHO approval/disapproval rating try calling some out of work Americans. If they still have phone service - that is.

    May 19, 2013 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  16. Jamie

    Are you serious!? His approval is holding steady? Is this the same poll at the 90% of Americans wanted Gun-Control poll? Heck.. I WAS a Democrat... And I have an entire family that are questioning "this" era of Dems..

    May 19, 2013 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  17. Iamnotfooled

    Again the Republicans are wrong. They thought this would hurt him. Obviously NOT. It will backfire.

    May 19, 2013 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  18. james of the house

    Answer ..when has the GOP not overreacted?! These MooR00ns are helpless and move further away from reality everyday. "Weez aint stud'in' dem no moe!"

    May 19, 2013 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  19. blackhawkmom

    President Obama's poll numbers are only "surprising" to those who buy into this GOP witch hunt at taxpayers and the country's expense.

    May 19, 2013 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  20. Buc

    GOP over reaction burnout. Nobody is listening to them anymore except the rabid right which continues to live in their artificial reality.

    May 19, 2013 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  21. Jay David

    Politics as usual.
    Obama has his share of accomplishments and failures...unlike Bush, who had nothing but one failure after another until literally the day he left office.

    May 19, 2013 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  22. Respect101

    None of his policies help me. I work for my money, if I wanna take care of the needy id donate to church-run hospitals. Not Washington.

    May 19, 2013 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  23. Paul

    Like the Captain of any US Navy ship he is responsible for the actions of his crew and like the Captain of any US Navy ship he is responsible when it runs aground and looses his right to be a Captain of any other Navy ship. Now just when is Congress going to grow a set impeach this guy and move on there by removing the Captain of the ship? Bush pulled the same stunts and we ended up in Iraq and there was no reason for us to go there because there wasn't any weapons of mass destruction.....

    May 19, 2013 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  24. sarad

    The media did such a fantastic job of shielding him and building him up at every corner, it will take a great deal of truth to bring this man down at this point. It will take some honest, brave, and gifted journalists who are capable of looking passed the consequences of this action. I am uncertain as to whether they exist.

    May 19, 2013 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  25. Tim

    NO shock. I have my issues with Obama, but these GOP which hunts almost forces me to support him.

    May 19, 2013 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
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