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. Bubba Einstein

    What Obama needs to do, is stay focused on the middle class, get his party to introduce bills popular to the people like Jobs, immigration, health, minimum wage, women rights and cause the G.O.P. to vote against these things as many times as they have voted for the repeal of the affordable health care act. This will be remembered at election time 2014 and the G.O.P. would have blocked themselves out of the game to help the American people.

    May 19, 2013 09:21 am at 9:21 am |
  2. Marcus

    Where are these polls and how do I vote in them because I can assure you they are inaccurate. Looks like the Obama admin has made peace with the press corps and it's back to worshiping his footsteps. Journalists = Wussies

    May 19, 2013 09:21 am at 9:21 am |
  3. Tyson

    It is because everyone hates him so much that we dont care to even take a poll regarding him. His administration is corrupt and i doubt it is any different than the past 2 administrations.

    May 19, 2013 09:21 am at 9:21 am |
  4. joeinsarasota

    You must be kidding me? Who did you poll people in Eqypt?

    May 19, 2013 09:22 am at 9:22 am |
  5. WillnAtlanta

    As my fifth grade teacher used to say all the time; "A likely story".

    May 19, 2013 09:22 am at 9:22 am |
  6. mcwreiole

    Hopefully, the President's creation of this environment of corruption , lies and denial will catch up to him, where all responsibility ultimately rests. The mainstream media continues to carry his water, but their audiences are getting smaller and smaller.

    May 19, 2013 09:23 am at 9:23 am |
  7. dave

    Since many Americans are completely unaware of what even happened, why would they have an informed opinion to count? If they ony counted informed people, I'm sure th polls would be quite different.

    May 19, 2013 09:24 am at 9:24 am |
  8. Austin

    The new controversies have nothing to do with Obama.

    May 19, 2013 09:24 am at 9:24 am |
  9. jnpa

    I bet this news upsets a lot of republicans. Of course they will say you cannot trust polls; however, back in November they were saying that Romney would win the WH because of the polls. You can't have it both ways!

    May 19, 2013 09:24 am at 9:24 am |
  10. JCDenton

    Yes the GOP has overreacted. They are looking ANYTHING to attack this administration with. That is all they do, throw their poop like animals. They don't run or lead the country, they just shout like a bunch of monkeys. Bush had 100 times worse attacks, lies, and situations happen on a routine schedule. He let 9/11 happen! Lies to start illegal wars! Sane fiscal conservatives don't have a party to vote for in the USA. The GOP make themselves look like idiots 80% of the time they open their mouths.

    May 19, 2013 09:24 am at 9:24 am |
  11. N&W 1000

    I for one appreciate our media, the way they always rally to the home team, and help the Democratic Party. God bless you,
    any other president would have been on the helicopter waving goodbye by now.

    May 19, 2013 09:24 am at 9:24 am |
  12. Anonymous

    9% more Dems polled than Rs.

    May 19, 2013 09:25 am at 9:25 am |
  13. Will S

    It's all media hype and over-reaction. Mistakes were made and solutions/corrections/punishments have been implemented. Move on. The Republicans are looking for an Iran-Contra and all that they are finding is a few poor choices in judgement, so every mistake becomes a conspiracy in their eyes.

    People made poor choices regarding Libya. Guess what? It's a chaotic war zone. It isn't predictable. People die there. It happens. Do an after-action review, pay the life insurance, and move on.

    The whole AP phone-tapping was part of an anti-terrorism investigation. Don't like it? Legislate to prevent it from happening in the future. Hardly something the White House would be directing, in any event.

    Why on Earth would the Democratic leadership target Tea Party groups? They were the best thing to happen to the Democrats in years, fragmenting and dividing the Republicans from within and showing the true nature of right-wing.

    May 19, 2013 09:25 am at 9:25 am |
  14. Tutuvabene

    Obama is just too cool to get low ratings. The Teflon president.

    May 19, 2013 09:25 am at 9:25 am |
  15. Sally Bergmoser

    Rasmussen poll has it tied. 49% like and 49% dislike. I think Obama is down because he was ai 51% like! Down 2%

    May 19, 2013 09:25 am at 9:25 am |
  16. George Dixon

    ONLY Republicans Care or even Notice the Obama "Non-Scandals"
    Right?

    Well, look at all these GOP Headliners:
    "Senator McCaskill (D) Calls For Firing Of All Involved In IRS Targeting Scandal"

    Can Obama be fired?

    AND:
    "Democratic congressman Stephen Lynch said that Susan Rice used "scrubbed" talking points on Benghazi to deliver "false information" to the American people:
    "Absolutely, they were false, they were wrong," said Lynch, after being asked about "The Benghazi Talking Points."
    "There were no protests outside the Benghazi compound there. This was a deliberate and strategic attack on the consulate there," said the Democratic congressman. "It was false information. There's no excuse for that."

    AND:
    "Top Dem calls for public testimony on Benghazi"

    AND:
    "Dems May Not Be So Willing to Back White House in IRS Scandal"

    AND:
    Washington Post
    "Even Richard Nixon didn’t create his enemies list by executive order.
    But Obama did create it by personal, signed order."

    AND:
    "Dems vow: ‘Hell to pay’ if IRS allegations ring true"

    AND:
    "More than two-thirds of Americans – 69 percent – believe the issues raised by the congressional hearings on Benghazi, Libya, “involve serious matters that deserve to be investigated,” according to a Gallup poll released Friday."

    AND:
    "Democrat Baucus warns: More to come out on IRS scandal"

    "Charlie Rangel outraged: 'Wrong to Abuse the Tax System'"

    AND:
    "NBC's Lisa Myers reported this morning that the IRS deliberately chose not to reveal that it had wrongly targeted conservative groups until after the 2012 presidential election:
    The IRS commissioner "has known for at least a year that this was going on," said Myers, "and that this had happened."

    May 19, 2013 09:25 am at 9:25 am |
  17. joe d.

    the i.r.s. thing is a joke ! do the republicans really want open a can of whoop ass with this i don't think so.

    May 19, 2013 09:25 am at 9:25 am |
  18. fred

    The poll commissioned and collated by the Wall St. Banks...

    May 19, 2013 09:26 am at 9:26 am |
  19. cherryrn

    People know when the Congress is railroading a President. President is doing his job. Congress is busy wasting time and money at election time. Fatcats will be cats and fat.

    May 19, 2013 09:26 am at 9:26 am |
  20. JD

    People feel sorry for him, that's why. I think they'll eventually grow up and realize he's a major screw-up and he had his chance- no more sympathy.

    May 19, 2013 09:26 am at 9:26 am |
  21. Big Game James

    Smooth operator. He's a smooooooth opertorrrrr. Keep em on their toes Barack.

    May 19, 2013 09:26 am at 9:26 am |
  22. myway

    It looked like Obama won and lost some points, so the polls are not much of a surprise. The big question is did the GOP gain in the approval ratings on any level? Poll numbers for the Benghazi incident reflect the GOPs relentless crticism is paying off no matter how unjust. When you add the IRS and AP stories to the mix, resulting doubts are creeping over to the Benghazi incident. The GOP has always been good at fierce negative campaigning. Unfortunately this ugly tactic is paying off once more.

    May 19, 2013 09:27 am at 9:27 am |
  23. shistone

    And the reason is that there is NO substance to any of the ongoing (ad nauseum) attempts by the hypocrite repug thugs who should be trying to do what is best for the country instead of engaging in these Whitewater type witch hunts and spending MILLIONS of tea party members TAX DOLLARS on useless and counterproductive red herrings!
    Darryl Issa = Ken Starr ......only worse.

    May 19, 2013 09:27 am at 9:27 am |
  24. bankrupt1

    and we all know how important poll numbers and being liked is.

    May 19, 2013 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  25. LiberalNutCase

    Once a sheep, always a sheep.

    May 19, 2013 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
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