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. Adam Smith

    These scandals are to be expected from a government that has become drunk with power. People preceding say that we should just all accept that the election is over and support the admnistration. Let's see, that would be the asministration that continues to send troops of to die in Afghanistan, the largest opium exporter in the word. The same administration that has driven us $16 trillion in debt thus destroying the future of our chlldren and grandchildren.The same administration that has given us a hellthcare plan the CBO says won't control costs, provide the coverage, or maintain the quality the Obama administration claims. The GOP took the house in 2010, redistricting will help it keep it in 2014. At least we have a bulwark against anymore damage from this regime.

    May 19, 2013 10:54 pm at 10:54 pm |
  2. henry200

    OB's supporting base remains more or less the same is expected for these group of people wouldn't care what he is or what he does just as long as he is "one of them".

    May 19, 2013 10:54 pm at 10:54 pm |
  3. BlindSquirrel

    Republicans keep complaining that polls are off, that everyone should think the Democrats are bad for America....except they keep on winning. Maybe it's the current conservative mindset that's bad for America. Hate women, hate minorities, start wars, make the rich richer and the poor poorer. America is tired of the party of no. America is tired of the party of old white men. Clean up your own house before you start pointing out what's wrong with the Democrats'.

    May 19, 2013 10:55 pm at 10:55 pm |
  4. scared

    Who answers polls anymore? I stopped answering the phone when it's a pollster calling. Don't want to be wearing a pair of cement shoes, after answering a poll regarding this administration.

    May 19, 2013 11:01 pm at 11:01 pm |
  5. Sik ofit

    Rahm Emanual is behind the IRS thing. Absolutely no doubt about it.

    May 19, 2013 11:02 pm at 11:02 pm |
  6. The Truth

    Why am I never around when these so called "polls" are taken?

    May 19, 2013 11:08 pm at 11:08 pm |
  7. Polopoint

    It is surprising.

    May 19, 2013 11:09 pm at 11:09 pm |
  8. joshua

    it's getting harder and harder to find truth in the main stream media. 23% of democrats and 100% of republicans want obama impeached. that's a poll number that needs to be discussed.

    May 19, 2013 11:18 pm at 11:18 pm |
  9. Jay

    Love these stupid polls. Heck probably 20 to 30 percent didn't even know what was going on this past week. Most people really don't catch up with a lot of news for a week or so. I don't know who they are polling either, maybe Harvard or Stanford only students... I think that if they were to have a true poll, most people from their mid 30's and up would probably give him a negative rating at this moment. But then again, it depends who you are, and what you receive from the Government.

    May 19, 2013 11:20 pm at 11:20 pm |
  10. JamesinOKC

    REALLY????? A left wing liberal pole says 53%? Doesnt this mean he actually is around 15% in the overall public if a truely unbiased pole was taken? Any CNN related poll that they touch you need to add a liberal biased pole factor of about 40%......

    May 19, 2013 11:22 pm at 11:22 pm |
  11. Kanageloa

    Is the American voter so blind and dull that they can't see what the current administration is doing? The true media must be on vacation, like for the past five years.

    May 19, 2013 11:24 pm at 11:24 pm |
  12. Toda

    The only people acting and over reacting are the unacomplished Republicans. What have they done for their fellow Americans. They receive fat paychecks and top of the charts medical benefits, work very few days a year while the folks back home suffer their drama.

    May 19, 2013 11:33 pm at 11:33 pm |
  13. Kanageloa

    The politics in Washington DC is driving the individual down and making big business number one and the Democrats are at the front pushing for it. Fork tongued devils.

    May 19, 2013 11:41 pm at 11:41 pm |
  14. Anonymous

    I have seen a lot of presidents come and go. Obama is one of the better ones. We could still have Chaney, oops, I mean Bush.

    May 19, 2013 11:47 pm at 11:47 pm |
  15. hubert39

    I'm 75 years old. Obama is the FIRST president to care about..."ALL" Americans, except maybe FDR.
    I live in South Carolina. The white racist, bigots, narrow minded conservative don't like him.
    But think back.... have you ever known a conservative to like anything except war.

    May 19, 2013 11:47 pm at 11:47 pm |
  16. dmwinsd

    I would like to know the whole Benghazi story myself. Clearly someone screwed up. People screw up and sometimes should be fired. But what is crystal clear is that this whole Republican exercise is not over Benghazi outrage, it is TOTALLY about weakening Clinton as a presidential contender. I'm not sure it's going to work. Bush II trashed a sovereign country supposedly based on faulty intelligence and got re-elected. I'm not looking forward to hearing nothing but Benghazi for the next three years while the real problem is the fiscal mess we are in. I know politics is politics, but I so wish the Republicans would get in the real game and put aside the sideshows. If they had something and someone to offer, they would.

    May 19, 2013 11:52 pm at 11:52 pm |
  17. GOP turned moderate

    So in other words the "new" complaining about Benghazi is just a giant echo chamber of people who agree with each other, just like everybody expected. Heh.

    May 19, 2013 11:55 pm at 11:55 pm |
  18. TruthwillPrevail

    If you watched Venezuelan Socialist Dictator Chavez.....his polls were always in his favor, same with Castro, the crazy nut in North Korea, lets not forget Hitler also said his polls were through the roof....were these polls true??

    May 19, 2013 11:56 pm at 11:56 pm |
  19. Name

    I find these figures extremely flawed. Just about as flawed as the corrupt leadership that we currently have and the sheep that follow.

    May 19, 2013 11:59 pm at 11:59 pm |
  20. CNeder

    Nice Try CNN. . . Any chance you guys will do a story on EW Jackson being the Lt. Gov. nominee in Virginia?

    May 20, 2013 12:04 am at 12:04 am |
  21. Name

    When the government fears the people, you have democracy. When the people fear the government, you have tyranny. Wake up sheeple, face the facts and reality. Socialist ideology and government behavior is not the solution, it has failed in the past and it has failed with this very leadership.This is the most corrupt anti American ideology that we've ever seen. Stand up with your neibor and friends, stop the corruption starting with the top (obummer) down!!! End the wreckless democratic socialist behavior now!

    May 20, 2013 12:04 am at 12:04 am |
  22. caesar

    Who gave the gov't the power to collect phone records and etc...?,oh yeah republicans in the Bush administration in the form of the patriot act,and now it comes back to haunt them.Imagine what might have happened if Obama had not been elected.

    May 20, 2013 12:05 am at 12:05 am |
  23. Daniel

    Honestly I think it is more 51% of Americans approve of the Obama administration's actions as 51% of Americans still feel like we're better off with Obama in the White House than we would have been with Romney. Yikes... what does that say about how we feel about the GOP lead House of Representatives and the Republican party in general? Sad really how bad this has gotten in general. At least in the Clinton Bush Sr. contest and era I deeply respected both men and was comfortable with whichever man won the election we would be in at least competent hands. Now days? Not so much no.

    May 20, 2013 12:06 am at 12:06 am |
  24. Juanito

    Obama and his cronies are getting the press they should've gotten a long time ago.

    Benghazi, Fast and Furious, IRS-gate, the Associated Press debacle and the first terrorist attack on US soil(Boston) since 9/11.

    Had it happen on a repub's watch, libs would been screaming for impeachment.

    My job gives me access to a few high tier operatives and when discussions drift to Obama, the tightening in their lips, a slow, subtle head wagging, and a breath of relief while saying they only have little while to retire is usually how it ends. They say they've worked for a couple of administrations but this one beats them all.

    I asked if that's good, and they just look at me like I called them a slur. That's about all I get from them.

    So libs, he's your guy. If messing up this country was the plan, mission accomplished.

    His election victory(twice) is the perfect argument against universal suffrage. The ignorant simply outnumber the educated.

    May 20, 2013 12:07 am at 12:07 am |
  25. Lin

    I don't know who u r polling but the Majority ofAmericansare not proud or happy with this corrupt leadership and its drunk with power dictatorship. It is not willing to be held accountable. No one knows anything about anything. Wake up and recognize the koolaide

    May 20, 2013 12:13 am at 12:13 am |
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