May 19th, 2013
08:57 AM ET
1 year 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. Maurice Novosad

    When you wake up some morning and find the IRS is flagging you to be investigated for whatever your IRS file shows, you'll wish the Republicans or anyone were there to defend your constitutional rights. This truly has serious overtones.

    May 19, 2013 10:08 pm at 10:08 pm |
  2. User-301

    I guess the polls show that you really can't get a good man to go down.

    May 19, 2013 10:14 pm at 10:14 pm |
  3. Patrick K

    Yea because polls are sooooo scientific and stuff.

    May 19, 2013 10:14 pm at 10:14 pm |
  4. Vanbren5

    Impeach the Republicans NOW!

    May 19, 2013 10:16 pm at 10:16 pm |
  5. LeftFeather

    Not ALL Democrats.. NOR MAJORITY Democrats; are incapable of seeing the truth. There are some,I would grant, in any given party, that will agree just to agree. I consider myself infomed and a "free-thinker"... I personally, do NOT agree with our supposed party demographic beliefs..

    I have my eyes wide ope. Although I have many diebeliefs with "the other side", Tyranny and lies do not beget me... I do NOT believe President Barack Obama has what it truly takes to run a Civil, and free society. Spout all the same things we've all heard these past several years, but make no mistake.... This President does NOT truthfully represent what we need. None of us need another Clinton or Nixon... We NEED FREEDOM! This –> OUR WE<– have in place right now! Make the criminals PAY for what they did! Tit-for-tat!!!

    I Rest my case...

    May 19, 2013 10:17 pm at 10:17 pm |
  6. nuclear mike

    The near 40% of the USA on Federal welfare/SNAP will do nothing to jeopardize their Federal dollars coming in to their households...so they will always support Obama while the taxpayers trudge on despite having to carry the burden of doing the right thing...

    May 19, 2013 10:18 pm at 10:18 pm |
  7. dana bourgeios

    Seems like a sour grapes extension of the last presidential election. THEY lost. It's over!

    May 19, 2013 10:21 pm at 10:21 pm |
  8. Patrick

    I am pretty surprised at the people that are disbelieving these polls. Do any of you actually think that the majority of us don't see this for exactly what it is? Just an extension of the same old GOP strategy of doing anything to make sure Obama fails. It's good to see that at least 51% of the population can smell the BS.

    May 19, 2013 10:28 pm at 10:28 pm |
  9. Jim

    Obama has done things wrong no doubt, but the GOP has been doing far worse by not getting on with the business of the country and most folks are tired of the rant from the likes of Ron Paul. Stop fighting with each other and get some work done, ALL OF YOU!

    May 19, 2013 10:29 pm at 10:29 pm |
  10. LeftFeather

    Based SOLELY upon the SUPPORTING document enclosed (Ref. PDF File)... MOST STRONGLY believe that the Benghazi issue IS MOST CERTAINLY and UNEQUIVOCALLY important... Alongside Media freedom issues.. There is NO doubt at ALL that WE as Americans <– Desire and DESERVE proper answers to OUR fallen victims in Benghazi!

    Let it be known; on this day, WE ALL WANT and REQUIRE answers! We ALL want and NEED the truth! We ALL KNOW the truth has yet to come out! Our FAMILY died out there for a reason.... Those children; Not only of the victims, but as a COUNTRY NEED to have to true; Unadulterated happenings of Benghazi and WE as a NATION UNDIVIDED (PERTISANLY) NEED to know WHY OUR FAMILY was NOT protected in such a LONG and MALICIOUS assault on OUR FAMILY.. Which ended up in THEIR MURDER....

    Mr. President; I urge you to PLEASE stop covering up for those that are responsible and instead; put them to trial-by-error... We; YOUR people... Know better! WE; YOUR people.. DESERVE better!|

    In the name of TRUE Democracy!

    ~Namaste

    May 19, 2013 10:31 pm at 10:31 pm |
  11. Name Uche Agonsi

    If you go after an illusion with much desparation, at a point, its smack of foolishness . If the House could set up over 5 committees in an issue like Benghazi, which is a far cry from what US experienced under GWB Administration, its irresponsibility & witch hunting or fishing expedition....havent these Repubs got something else to do.

    May 19, 2013 10:32 pm at 10:32 pm |
  12. Bush

    What do you think:? 3.5 million more voted for the President, and don't believe the right wing pandering and smoke, not for minute. Where were all the critics when there were no WMD's? Eh?

    May 19, 2013 10:34 pm at 10:34 pm |
  13. Story Girl

    I worked in Polls.. They are worded to get their desired outcome. Does the media believe people are so ill informed ?? When someone is paid by the administration, Like CNN for one of course they are scurrying to help him out. They do not care about truth in journalism. Amber Lyons former emmy award winning journalist , very left , blew the whistle on them and went underground telling the truth and urging her fellow journalists to come clean.So now comes the delusional hypnosis the media will try to lull us back into our 'Believe what we say box."

    May 19, 2013 10:35 pm at 10:35 pm |
  14. Name Uche Agonsi

    Guest..quote..under Obama, it feels like Nazi Germany ..unqote. You dont know what Nazi Germany felt like if you were not there.....come up with a real name if you are honest.

    May 19, 2013 10:39 pm at 10:39 pm |
  15. Bud

    Republicans have been working to obstruct him from day 1. It has been their only agenda. So nobody cares about their Phoney Baloney scandals.

    May 19, 2013 10:41 pm at 10:41 pm |
  16. Name willard

    I'm looking frame picture what about obama and dan pfiffier are keep pretty slaughter

    May 19, 2013 10:43 pm at 10:43 pm |
  17. Anonymous

    Don't forget folks, CNN loves Obama... so it's no surprise these numbers are in his favor. Try reading a story like this on fox news and you'll get complete opposite numbers.

    May 19, 2013 10:43 pm at 10:43 pm |
  18. Dorken Wackenburg

    The US Government should be dissolved. Discussion about a different system of government should be started. The US constitution is a 250 year old document written during musket ball and powder gun era – prior to the industrial revolution & electricity! Scrap the US government-hold a state by state vote as to whether they choose to join a NEW union and rewrite EVERYTHING! The US of A has become a laughingstock and a target for those that need someone to attack. People ARE different is the conclusion of the matter and people who WANT to work and people who WANT to live by certain standards-whether it be based on biblical ideals, comic book ideals, or the interpretation of acorn scratchings of blind one eared squirrels-should not be forced to support those that do NOT want to work and if people don't want to support things like homosexual lifestyles then they should have that freedom to NOT support it. Obamas USA is a "pi$s on the smart white America that provided American excellence and exceptionalism" and let US of A support everyone. With what?

    May 19, 2013 10:45 pm at 10:45 pm |
  19. Name willard

    Dan pfiffier and obama are like looking slaughter over scandal tea party

    May 19, 2013 10:46 pm at 10:46 pm |
  20. Dave

    Weird (well, not really) how the only people who are surprised at how the president isn't being hurt by this are Republicans and the media.

    May 19, 2013 10:47 pm at 10:47 pm |
  21. sonnie3

    The people Control liberals are chipping away at our freedoms and liberties. Government is becoming a real big problem. They seem to want to control all aspects of our lives. The polls never reach my neighborhood as 7 out of 8 think obama is out to destroy America as we know it from within. And that is just what the community organizer is good at. He ain't got a clue what made America Great. obama is a fool.

    May 19, 2013 10:47 pm at 10:47 pm |
  22. jrm03063

    The GOP are very much like the child who cried wolf. Except that they've been crying wolf each and every day, in every way, since President Obama was elected THE FIRST TIME.

    May 19, 2013 10:47 pm at 10:47 pm |
  23. The Cappy

    (Attempting to be the first non-histrionic post here...) Being realistic, Obama has a fan base that's quite unshakeable. Many voted for him for reasons other than his policies. Subconsciously, they have a sense that supporting him has sanctified them, and that opposition to him is racist. They are immune to gaffes, bad policy, missteps, scandals. No doubt the Republicans have overreacted. But that's been partisan politics since the beginning of time. The difference being that (this President notwithstanding), the press usually acts like pirañas when there's even a hint of blood in the water, and that hasn't happened here. And probably won't. Fox News has, of course. MSNBC (which is the mirror image of Fox) has not. But CNN really hasn't either. Mr Obama was a man whose legacy was already written in stone before he was elected. The press has long since decided that they weren't going to be complicit in allowing anything (real or otherwise) to tarnish the legacy which had been written for him even before he'd taken office.

    May 19, 2013 10:51 pm at 10:51 pm |
  24. lerianis

    Most people realize that the Republicans are making much ado out of nothing who have taken the time to get educated on the various 'scandals'.

    May 19, 2013 10:51 pm at 10:51 pm |
  25. sonnie3

    7 out of 8 persons in my neighbor hood think obama is just trying to gain total control of the people. They do not trust him as he promised transparency and he hides everything he can and blames others for his lack of leadership. He is trying hard to tear down America as we once knew it and attacking our freedoms and liberties at every chance that comes up. And the drive by media stands up for him and reports only favorable information. He even has a bunch of muslims working in Washington to advise him. Just who's interest is he protecting?. It is not Americas

    May 19, 2013 10:53 pm at 10:53 pm |
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