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. Billy Bob

    I yearn for the days when we had PATRIOTS, honest men of GOD in government. President GW Bush, Tom DeLay in the house. VP Cheney, men that would sooner die, then lie to the people.

    May 19, 2013 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  2. md11456

    These sorts of things....malfeasance, lying, incompetence, are embraced by his base.....why would they care?

    May 19, 2013 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  3. Anonymous

    When the most powerful person in the free world gets his info the from the same source as my grandmother, that has to a little disconcerting. There is no responsibility only dodging and finger pointing. Blaming others is their first reaction. The media has helped to create this by not reporting on issues that could affect the current admin. They have shielded this President and did zero vetting And it seems they are starting to get a clue. But don't worry the IRS will fairly implement obamacare.

    May 19, 2013 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  4. nogoodnews

    No matter the poll numbers ... Obama got re-elected.

    May 19, 2013 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
  5. Larry

    I still remember that republicans only really care about cutting taxes for the rich – In Michigan we have a republican Gov and he is far worse than the democrat he replaced. One Term Nerd is the slogan for our next election as he cut the state income tax but raised gas taxes – the working people of this state got a tax increase while he and his rich friends got a tax cut. No Democrat would be any worse than the best the Republicans have to offer. So when they try to discredit the president – for voters like me they can't begin to convince me they are a better option. I know a party of liars is no viable choice.

    May 19, 2013 08:32 pm at 8:32 pm |
  6. Concerned

    Democrat, Republican, Libertarian or Independent, there is no way this kind of government behavior can be OKAY with you! As AMERICANS: when did we start TRUSTING government? When did we start 'taking their word for it' EVERY TIME they say, "TRUST ME"? WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE?

    May 19, 2013 08:32 pm at 8:32 pm |
  7. Scott

    What is surprising about these poll numbers? Fortunately, most folks are intelligent to recognize this past week as yet another GOP effort to derail the President. Just imagine if the GOP could get this active and actually accomplish something meaningful! That...would be refreshing.

    May 19, 2013 08:33 pm at 8:33 pm |
  8. advocatusdiaboli

    the public is slow to react and details are still to be found, but as the breadth and depth of the corruption in this administration, particularly Holder, come to light, poll numbers will drop.

    May 19, 2013 08:36 pm at 8:36 pm |
  9. bman

    Pathetic, I say we keep denying what they want until they start forming their anarchist false patriot cells so we can arrest them under the bush era homeland security patriot act.

    May 19, 2013 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
  10. DaveW

    Obama's doing a great job. No one seriously believes he was behind the IRS targeting, or tried to cover it up. What's important is that the economy is improving, we are finally getting out of Afghanistan and the budget deficit estimate is actually declining each month as the economy improves.

    May 19, 2013 08:39 pm at 8:39 pm |
  11. christian

    why do the republicans make it seem like they have nothing to do with the government when they in fact are the government? They have ownership of all of these so called scandals too

    May 19, 2013 08:39 pm at 8:39 pm |
  12. Name willard

    President obama administration is guilty of more than incompetence the case of the brbfhazian attack that result in the death of ambassdor chris steven and three oter amercian
    Why why why hillary clinton are keep accpet to her respossibity from presdient obama also I'm really belived that presdient obama are keep hand off so maybe he thank hillary clinton got accpet to her respoissbity

    May 19, 2013 08:44 pm at 8:44 pm |
  13. T

    ..............GOP is in ......DEEP TROUBLE...........Smart people across the country REALIZE the T/P led gop is a SHAM.....only looking to decrease taxes on corporations and the UBER rich,.......an completely soaking the dwindling middle class. These RADICAL RIGHTIES only game is to POINT at Obama,............BUT...never at themselves........

    May 19, 2013 08:45 pm at 8:45 pm |
  14. ggman

    Does anyone believe anything that comes out of this corrupt and ignorant media? The dolts are so in love with this guy they overlook when they themselves are targeted. Like some cultapersonality sheep that are leading themselves to slaughter.

    May 19, 2013 08:45 pm at 8:45 pm |
  15. mick

    More will come to light. Obama is the most corrupt president we've had.

    May 19, 2013 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  16. clydealan

    Apparently not all Americans are as gullible as Fox followers.

    May 19, 2013 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  17. Dina

    I don't know why people don't understand that the American people have become so dumbed down that they have no idea what is going on. Richard Nixon (he was a President of the United States) was a girl scout compared to the president we have now. People look it up – oh never mind, you're all too lazy to see what's going on.

    May 19, 2013 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  18. Monomachos

    Half of America is not paying attention or thinks that being a likeable person is enough to be considered as doing a good job.

    May 19, 2013 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  19. Name

    It's a sad commentary on our country if 50 of the citizens still approve of the job this president is doing. Hopefully they won't trace this post or ill endup in the same jail that the kid who created the propaganda film did

    May 19, 2013 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  20. bilk7

    Good to see that most Americans are willing to seek out the truth before politically bashing the President. We're not all FOXNews groupies or right wing extremists who jump at any chance to condemn Obama.

    May 19, 2013 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |
  21. PtBarnumBoy

    It gives me hope to think that it's just possible that the public has gotten wise to strange and mysterious ways of the GOP and their rightwing base.

    May 19, 2013 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  22. Homer

    Surprising poll numbers? Oh please! Let's see how they look in a few weeks when all of this has had a chance to sink in.

    May 19, 2013 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  23. Liz the First

    All these 'scandals' are just a blatant attempt by the rethugs to keep Obama from accomplishing his agenda. there is no 'there' there, as usual. the rethugs are just blowing things all out of proportion and seeing evil where there is none. this is what they do as a rule, and it's why they don't belong in government. this country needs sane, level-headed leadership and that is just not what you get when you vote republican.

    May 19, 2013 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  24. g

    find the republicans a war some where to calm them down.

    May 19, 2013 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  25. TJ

    All this poll shows is how incredibly stupid the american public are.... or that people that take polls are idiots. I read some of these posts and some of you are so polarized by your affiliation you can't see the storm in front of you.

    May 19, 2013 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
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