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. Grampa

    The majority of the American public isn't quite as gullible as the conservatives, or the story-hungry media, would hope. These "scandals" are being blown all out of proportion. We've seen it before. Obama's fine.

    May 20, 2013 01:45 am at 1:45 am |
  2. DougJ

    Repubs hate the idea of a black man being president, and they just don't understand why everyone doesn't share their hate.

    May 20, 2013 01:49 am at 1:49 am |
  3. FED UO

    They must be using Obama Math to get their numbers!

    May 20, 2013 01:50 am at 1:50 am |
  4. Scott

    I want to see CNNs poll numbers. Now that would be surprising.

    May 20, 2013 01:50 am at 1:50 am |
  5. Belseth

    It's funny how only the press and the Republican party consider it the President's worst week. CNN loves to put a picture of the President over every scandal story without bothering to tie him to the story in any way. No one has shown the slightest wrong doing in Benghazi. The President knew nothing about the IRS scandal and no one involved has claimed he could have even known. The President knew nothing about the reporters phones being tracked and no one has said otherwise. Where is the scandal??? Name one scandal??? Regan had Iran/Contra and threatened to bomb Russia on an open mic while Bush had too many scandals to name. Now why is the President supposedily so scandal ridden? Compared to the last four he's a saint. Prove me wrong? And I mean facts not accusations.

    May 20, 2013 01:54 am at 1:54 am |
  6. Nonsensical

    Because the Republicans are not interested in furthering the interests of the American people, only their rich masters, the president will continue to weather these political storms.

    May 20, 2013 01:55 am at 1:55 am |
  7. MOCaseA

    Did anyone else notice that the numbers in the polls also pretty much fall along the party lines in the US? All these polls really say is that since the 2012 election, nothing has changed (big surprise there huh?).

    May 20, 2013 02:14 am at 2:14 am |
  8. Skarphace

    Dan: "There is a large segment of the population who will support this man no matter what. It isn't based on principle, it is based on race and its shameful."

    Wrong. Bill Clinton got 92% of the Black vote, Obama got 95%. That is a difference of only 3% and therefore cannot be considered a "large segment" of the population.

    Try a rephrase: There is a large segment of Republicans who will oppose this man no matter what. It isn't based on principle, it is based on race and its shameful.

    Now THAT would be spot on.

    May 20, 2013 02:38 am at 2:38 am |
  9. Anonymous

    It's sad that no one takes responsibility for anything these days. No one knows anything. No one is responsible for anything. –the buck stops @ the President! - Own up to your failures! where are the JOBS??? where is the solid foreign policy? the economy? where is the political cooperation Americans were promised?? Come on Obama, all you do is talk....

    May 20, 2013 02:39 am at 2:39 am |
  10. ron

    i don,t believe this....obama is really lost a lot of respect....believe me...you cannot believe what you read from the pro bias media......lot of lies

    May 20, 2013 02:45 am at 2:45 am |
  11. Chuck

    Sorry, but i dont believe polls anymore, the last election proved that they are off

    May 20, 2013 03:11 am at 3:11 am |
  12. KEVIN

    Iknew Obama was young and somewhat inexperienced, but Biden knows how these agencies work and that the white house needs to keep a leash on them. The more I investigated this hierchy and the purely domestic role of the DOJ and how he let them run wild. PLUS Obama is in charge of the National security council (Pentigon and State Department and the CIA). During his term Obama let the Department of homeland security to sit in this high council = stupid, stupid move. Thank God he did not allow the DOJ to hold such a high position on this council.

    May 20, 2013 03:13 am at 3:13 am |
  13. bill

    Obviously, Obama has turned around the GOP's failed policies that led to the real crisis, and republicans hate him for that. The only crisis here is the GOP politicizing everything to take the attention away from the pathetic job being done in the house. Spending 15% of tax payers money trying to overturn Obamacare when they know it would be vetoed if it got lucky enough to get past the senate.

    May 20, 2013 03:34 am at 3:34 am |
  14. Demigod Vadik, CA

    Goes to show that no one is listening to the Republicans...

    ...but we've been telling you this for a while...

    May 20, 2013 03:45 am at 3:45 am |
  15. CR

    The poll does not make sense given what is going on.

    May 20, 2013 03:50 am at 3:50 am |
  16. Richard Larson

    Unfortunately the many people who listen to CNN and Fox and don't live in Southern California do not understand the background of the man in Congress who is essentially pouring gasoline on the fires of Benghazi, The IRS problem, and the investigation of leaks of classified programs and activities. The Chairman of the House Oversight Committee, ine Darrell Issa, has a long and very troubling history of numerous investigations of him, his dearest political friends and supporters, and serious allegations of criminal activity that he has been able to diffuse, or derail using the power of his millions and/or political persuasion. Those in the know are convinced that he was deeply involved in the pay to play conviction of Duke Cunningham for bribery and corruption. He should have been tried as a co-conspirator, but wasn't for some very strange reasons. Questions go all the way back to family involvement in political corruption in Lebanon prior to their coming to America as some pretty well heeled refugees. He is probably the crookedest politician to ever hold the chairmanship of that committee. He has absolutely no conscience and is totally unapologetic about his radical political maneuvering. I don't know why. He is barred by the Constitution from the Presidency. Darrell Issa is a very dangerous man.

    May 20, 2013 03:51 am at 3:51 am |
  17. JFKINAZ

    More desperate attempts by the GOP to distract the public from the fact they aren't doing anything productive in Congress. Their obsession with Obama is frankly disturbing and pathetic.

    May 20, 2013 03:52 am at 3:52 am |
  18. Froda

    Its because democrats don't really care if their leader is honest, they just want more of other people's stuff.

    May 20, 2013 03:55 am at 3:55 am |
  19. JFKINAZ

    With all the embassy attacks in the last decade, and now the GOP is outraged? What shameful political exploitation of this horrible tragedy. And an obvious case hypocrisy at its finest. Keep distracting the public from doing your jobs in Congress and passing important legislation.

    May 20, 2013 04:00 am at 4:00 am |
  20. some truth

    both parties are corrupt they represent special interests lobbyists and bankers.

    May 20, 2013 04:25 am at 4:25 am |
  21. skeptic

    CNN Poll. Of course it will reflect the party line and support the shield around him. Most people who don't agree with them have "left the building". Using that logic, if they only have a 53% approval, it seems that he has lost a lot of support.
    By putting this out, they are probably hoping to calm the easily led into thinking that most people don't see his betrayal of trust as a problem.

    May 20, 2013 04:29 am at 4:29 am |
  22. Proud Independent !

    Republicans spend a lot of time worrying about thing's that most of us could care less about ! They sit around and watch biased news outlets like Fox and assume that everyone else thinks the way they do ! No wonder they are shocked when thing's don't go their way ! Maybe they need to step out the Fox news bubble for a while , they might actually learn something !

    May 20, 2013 04:47 am at 4:47 am |
  23. Robert

    Whos to say the GOP is responsible for creating all these controversies? They did just that, one right after another in quick succession, with the intent of distracting the public and the Dems from the issues.

    May 20, 2013 04:51 am at 4:51 am |
  24. ron

    not true.....i don,t believe this at all....

    May 20, 2013 05:06 am at 5:06 am |
  25. MollyBee

    Americans dead in Iraq and Afghanistan = over 6,000. Including other coalition countries=over 8,000. These were preemptive, boots on the ground wars entered into by George W, Cheney and Rumsfield....based on misinformation, lies and twisting of the truth. THAT is only one part of the GOP legacy. The other is the fallicy of Reagan's supply side, trickle down economy and the corruption/demoralization of the principles of free enterprise.

    May 20, 2013 05:27 am at 5:27 am |
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