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. Deez

    It's only surprising to the Republicans. Clueless once again! They also thought Romney would surely win.

    May 19, 2013 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  2. luckyjinxy

    The poll is not accurate!! How many responded and from where?? His administration was polled not American citizens.

    May 19, 2013 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  3. tmelitus

    America is not satisfied with the mistakes made. And yet America recognizes the Republican sniping for what it is. What's so complicated about that?

    May 19, 2013 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  4. abnguy

    Freedom is eroding around us and many Americans are not paying attention. I hope we can get through the next three years intact.

    May 19, 2013 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  5. KIRCK

    President Obama has more integrity and intelligence than any Bush era president ever had! The Tea Party should be targeted if they want tax-free status! IMO, they should pay taxes! The rest of the garbage is just that.....political opportunists (GOP) trying to make hay before the next election. The Republicans better realize that they are "this close" to being a marginalized party. I really hope they don't. Nominate college drop-out Scott Walker for president! PLEASE! That would be a laugher.

    May 19, 2013 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  6. gahh

    Republicans saying the Federal Government gone wild, they must have been talking about the Bush years. People who disagreed with Bush were audited by the IRS, or visited by the Secret Service. How many people died in Embassys, while Bush was President, but no Republicans talk about that? They're already worried about Rand Paul, and Rubio not standing a chance against Hillary, concerning the 2016 presidency.

    May 19, 2013 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  7. Dale

    #1 Obamacare, #2 Benghazi Terror Attack, #3 Associated Press Phone Records, #4 IRS, ? EPA, what else.
    Just call him Mr. Teflon with Rubber Gloves on, Nothing Sticks to him and No Fingerprints.
    News Agencies and ??? , running interference for him. He is a “”Clueless Figurehead”” in the White House, hiding in the background the shadows Somebody Else or Group of People in Control, WHO .

    May 19, 2013 06:44 pm at 6:44 pm |
  8. Julie

    Anyone with half a brain realizes the GOP is playing it up for what the think is political gain. The only constituency that they are satisfying is the same nuts who usually vote for them. A laughable farce who has and will do absolutely nothing for this country except divide it. Do they really think the public has forgotten what their approval rate is?

    May 19, 2013 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  9. Birchview

    If you only poll black, left handed golfers, from Illinois, who have never held a job, and then got into politics, then you can probably get any results in a poll that you want. If Obama, Clinton, Boehner, Pelosi, Reid and everyone just like them would just go away, then maybe we could start gaining some ground on our bigger issues.

    May 19, 2013 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  10. GBfromOhio

    The IRS trying to track down on cheaters, the justice department using the Patriot Act the the Bush administration passed on the AP to make sure classified info was not passed into enemy hands (no phones were tapped) and four brave Americans died in the dangerous middle east while Republicans voted down increasing embassy and diplomatic security spending. Only the shrinking right winger lost cause base and the story hungry media sees these as scandals.

    May 19, 2013 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  11. Cee_Dog

    The polls are only a surprise to the Washington press corp, lifetime politicians and "think tanks" that traffic in fake scandals, fake outrage and endless amounts of tiresome posturing.

    The rest of the country is getting on with their lives. The GOP and the Karl Rove factions can't deal with the fact that Romney lost an election he should have won precisely because of these sorts of "scandals."

    (When he's alone in his car with his mistress not even Karl Rove thinks the president called up the IRS in Cleveland and said: "I need you to spy on the Tea Party.")

    May 19, 2013 06:54 pm at 6:54 pm |
  12. Chuk

    People are not stupid. They know it's politics are usual for the GOP. They'd rather sink with that ship than do the right thing for the country.

    May 19, 2013 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
  13. edmundburkeson

    The facts have not come in yet. A full investigation needs to be completed. I have not yet heard anyone consider the possibility that not only did the IRS target conservative, but did they give preferential treatment to left leaning groups seeking 501(c)(4) status. This could be way bigger than WaterGate and this is only the beginning. Was this an attempt to influence national elections? As was the Benghazi incident? It has characteristics of the Obama doctrine all over it.

    May 19, 2013 06:57 pm at 6:57 pm |
  14. James

    His popularity sucks and deservedly so. Anything or any article that states differently is just not true and is a fabrication of some pole that is wrong to begin with.

    May 19, 2013 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  15. Charles

    I love how they throw polls numbers out. Polls are completely useless and this guy is stinking up Washington DC right along with Congress ........ this bunch make a hell of an argument for term limits in Congress and Obutma is a moron and is proof people care more about feel goodism than electing electing someone who can do the job.

    May 19, 2013 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  16. wassupUSA

    "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?"

    Your point would be valid if the IRS treated liberal organizations the same way, but they clearly did not. Furthermore, they ask for gratuitous information, some of which was illegal to request. Lastly, they were illegally disclosing information they received to opponents of the Tea Party. If you honestly think none of this was political, you are blinded by your ideology.

    May 19, 2013 07:04 pm at 7:04 pm |
  17. edmundburkeson

    The AP is no bastion of conservative thought. Are they overreacting too?

    May 19, 2013 07:06 pm at 7:06 pm |
  18. wassupUSA

    Obama's approval rating is directly proportional to the number of low information voters.

    May 19, 2013 07:06 pm at 7:06 pm |
  19. edmundburkeson

    I'm so glad he is doing well in the polls. He is well on his way to becoming the first President to lead from a jail cell.

    May 19, 2013 07:07 pm at 7:07 pm |
  20. Anonymous

    Meanwhile, Global Climate Change wreakes havoc on people worldwide. Right wingers demand our attention for non-issues, while the fate of the world sinks. By the way, the government has targetted the left for dozens of years, now you know how it feels- at least you were only getting a beaurocratic delay in applying for the privelage not to pay taxes. Come to think of it, expain to me why these groups shouldnt be scrutizined? They're clearly political.

    May 19, 2013 07:08 pm at 7:08 pm |
  21. Free Man in the Republic of Texas

    REMEMBER...
    "I" am too awesome "
    TRUST "ME"

    May 19, 2013 07:08 pm at 7:08 pm |
  22. hotstuffinpdx

    What the GOP does is, when they can't win on policy, is drag the nation down into fishing expeditions just like they did with Bill Clinton and if Mr. Clinton hadn't had personal failings with you know who then nothing would have come of that either. This is what the GOP does and the American people see through it.

    May 19, 2013 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  23. PikeRover

    Maybe if people would look into the IRS 501 S 3-4 one might see what it says instead of parroting Fox, Beck, Limbaugh and their ilk. Some of the posts here are straight out of Right Wing Propaganda. Read the statute/law for yourself.

    May 19, 2013 07:11 pm at 7:11 pm |
  24. AbrahamLincoln

    I support President Obama.

    May 19, 2013 07:13 pm at 7:13 pm |
  25. omeany

    The GOP is the living enactment of Einstein's definition of insanity...performing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

    The GOP distorts anything they can in an attempt to bring down President Obama despite the fact that the majority of Americans voted for him and want to see his policies enacted.

    Then they are amazed when the American public isn't "outraged" by whatever scandal de jour they are perpetrating.

    Take the hint GOP, we don't want your anger toward the President and we do want affordable education and health care. We may not all be good Christians like you but most of us hate war and want to see out poor have food, housing and access to health care and housing. (You know, just like Jesus promoted). Until you can see and act on these things, the President will continue to hold steady in the polls.

    May 19, 2013 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
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