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. 111Dave111

    Like many Americans, I am proud of President Obama.
    I would not trade him for Romney or McCain.
    I would not trade him for Issa or Bachmann.
    I would not trade him for McConnell or Boehner.
    I would not trade him for Perry or another Bush.

    May 19, 2013 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  2. steve9930

    What this poll really proves is that we as a nation deserve the nonsense we are getting from Washington!

    May 19, 2013 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
  3. ImIrish

    How do we know when Obama is not telling the truth? Well, every time he opens his mouth, of course!

    May 19, 2013 08:55 pm at 8:55 pm |
  4. conoclast

    The election and the electioneering are over; it's now high time the GOP made the choice as to whether they are republicans
    -or Americans. The two have NEVER seemed so utterly at-odds!

    May 19, 2013 08:55 pm at 8:55 pm |
  5. Mike V.

    923...adults..?????? Really,.. really,.. does anyone actually think 923 adults in this poll is enough to add credability to a poll???? Call 923 adults in Texas and you'll find 95% of adults DO NOT APPROVE of Obama,.... polls are so misleading and CNN a very liberal news station will slant it toward favor of Obama,... surely you do not think we are that stupid,... do you????

    May 19, 2013 08:57 pm at 8:57 pm |
  6. BillInLA

    yellowpageguy wrote:

    "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."

    I've been out of work for 16 months. My business failed due to the Bush recession. I think the recovery is skewed toward the BIGs – big banks, big corporations, the big players on Wall Street, Big Tech, Big Pharma, and Big Oil.

    He hasn't done enough for the struggling people around the bottom.

    HAVING AID THAT, HOWEVER...

    I spent a number of years working in policymaking in Washington, so I'm not fooled as easily as most of the dupes who blame the President for everything. The power these days lies in the hands of the Bigs. Citizens United made that even worse. A President's power is limited by what the Bigs will allow.

    That is, on issues other than gun control and abortion. The gun debate is pretty much dominated by the nuts who run the NRA. See what Ted Nugent's more educated brother says about the NRA today. I agree: why the f*** would any non-criminal, non-insane gun owner NOT want background checks to at least help to keep guns out of the hands of the crooks and the crazies?

    May 19, 2013 08:57 pm at 8:57 pm |
  7. NameKatyj

    I love Prrsident Obama.

    May 19, 2013 08:57 pm at 8:57 pm |
  8. Rich

    Surprising? Hardly! The majority of Americans are not fooled by the GOP-manufactured scandals. THe real scandal is the way the Repubs have lied and falsified the evidence to try to cook up a scandal against Obama.

    May 19, 2013 08:58 pm at 8:58 pm |
  9. joe

    Since Obama-we have not invaded any country-stock market is at record highs-new home sales are up-new car sales are up-more people working. Republican's are so sore about losing the election in a landside victory by Demoratic President all they want to do is complain and cry about losing. Guess what you beat yourself by choosing bad candidates and character attacks against Obama by Fox News-Limbaugh and rest of talk show extremist. Republicans have nothing to offer american people except doom and despair that they preach.......

    May 19, 2013 08:58 pm at 8:58 pm |
  10. Steve-O

    Poll must be only taken with those in the fold.

    May 19, 2013 08:59 pm at 8:59 pm |
  11. Namedominick

    Poll numbers really? Who the hell cares about poll numbers? Is this about his legacy? We don't have answers to most of the big questions yet and you are doing poll numbers. CNN, wow is the best you can do for a feel good story on Obama.

    May 19, 2013 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  12. deee510

    That's right we love you Obama and we know that could be anybodyup there with brown skin and they hate your guts.youre doing an awesome job.Well beyond capable and qualified.you are strong beyond belief.love you

    May 19, 2013 09:04 pm at 9:04 pm |
  13. Robert Platt Bell

    Well, every President since Truman, has been attacked in his second term. It is hard to take it seriously.

    1. Benghazi: OK, we've had several hearings so far. If it didn't stick before the election, why now? Oh, right, to damage Hillary. The Republicans accuse the President of twisting the facts to his political advantage. I think they need a mirror.

    2. The IRS thing. Well, there is a 20,000 backlog of non-profits seeking tax exempt status at the IRS. No showing that these "tea party" applicants were treated any differently than any others. Oh, and they all were granted tax-exempt status within 24 months, which is about the norm. No "there" there.

    3. Subpoenaing journalist's records to catch terrorists: Well, isn't this the sort of thing Cheney did? Again, hard for the GOP to feign outrage when they condone torture.

    It is all just politics as usual. Hard to be "outraged" unless you watch too much television. I don't watch any. It is just a big baiting game.

    Only idiots watch television. And when they do, they watch Fox....

    May 19, 2013 09:07 pm at 9:07 pm |
  14. It's time to mail a box of clues to the GOP

    The GOP isn't fooling anyone but those who watch FOX. They have voted against perfectly good legislation, just to try to discredit Obama. They have tried making mountains out of molehills. They forget that when they say, "This is the worst thing to happen in the last 20 years" about Benghazi, that there was this pesky little incident that took place on Republican time called 9/11. They forget that a Republican president dragged us into one war on the premise of weapons of mass destruction that weren't there, and into a second war that would be over in "a few months" (it's been 12 years). They forget that well over a dozen incidents like Benghazi took place during Bush's 8 years, killing dozens of people. They conveniently forget that the financial meltdown of the US was due to Bush's relaxation of banking and stock market regulations. It goes on and on and on. No one is buying it except the functionally illiterate, terminally stupid mindless droids who say silly things like "No socialism in my country, but don't touch my Medicare!" The reason the Republicans and their lap dogs in the Tea Party are so angry is because they're being left in the rear view mirror by a country that is moving forward. Ta ta!!!

    May 19, 2013 09:14 pm at 9:14 pm |
  15. mikeinsjc

    If he's popular, it's because he gives away your money. Assuming you work.

    May 19, 2013 09:17 pm at 9:17 pm |
  16. Alina77

    Yea, the economy that growing without any Republican envelopment in its growth. While Europe with its austerity measures is about to hit a second rescission, American economy stays steady and growing. Scandals happens, but the economy , wars and jobs are the most important thing that is matters .. If Republicans will continue to run their "movie" on the scandals till 2016 , they will win only Rand Paul and his fantasy lend.

    May 19, 2013 09:18 pm at 9:18 pm |
  17. Jack Be Humble

    At what ievel is congressional approval? I wonder why CNN did not consider that a useful addition to this story?

    May 19, 2013 09:18 pm at 9:18 pm |
  18. Asitis

    Not surprising. There are hard core politicals on the Right but the majority are Lefties. Obama could murder all Conservatives and the Left would be happy (I believe this is sick, but true).

    May 19, 2013 09:19 pm at 9:19 pm |
  19. MeMe

    The Republican Party is bringing down this country. Accept the fact that your party did not win the election & get on with working with our President. All I see from your side is a bunch of bullies that continue to whine & complain. We are meant to work together not destroy each other. Can't you see what you are doing to us as a nation? We have people fighting on FB over the fact that a US Marine is holding an umbrella over our President's head. The statements posted on FB scare me more than any outside terrorists. Please people get a grip on reality.

    May 19, 2013 09:20 pm at 9:20 pm |
  20. Anonymous

    Who do they poll and how do they pick them? I've never been polled and I don't know anyone that has. I feel that i have a wide range of friends with different views so I'm curious. I'd like to know what questions they ask too.

    May 19, 2013 09:21 pm at 9:21 pm |
  21. westsacvoice

    Mistakes were made and let's get to the truth and then identify who is to blame. People jump (really take a big leap) with what they say when they know nothing. Sometimes we also make a big deal over what few people caused rather than calling it a government conspiracy.

    May 19, 2013 09:21 pm at 9:21 pm |
  22. LoboLoco

    The republicans are stunned, stunned that despite there most vicious attacks, their biggest names in smear tactics have actually seen a small but stunning rise in the Presidents ratings. In politics this is unheard of! They are reeling and pulling back as the fever pitch of their base is reeling and writhing in self-righteous indignation the people they need to send into mouth foaming fits of rage are going oh my the republicans are off the charts in foolishness. The benghazi foolishness is showcasing the hypocrisy in of gop leaderlesshsip. The gop base is rabid mad dogs on the loose.

    May 19, 2013 09:25 pm at 9:25 pm |
  23. steve

    as a former republican, im embarassed at the Republicans focus destroying a presidency rather than working with one. Do they not get the message, that the country has changed and it is time to change themselves. Old ideas, old ways, we are not going back.

    May 19, 2013 09:27 pm at 9:27 pm |
  24. HopefulForChange

    Sounds like they polled the same people that voted for him

    May 19, 2013 09:29 pm at 9:29 pm |
  25. Michelle

    It's because the blind following that he has. It's frightening, really.

    May 19, 2013 09:30 pm at 9:30 pm |
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