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. Steve

    I fail to see how these are even scandals. It's not like the President has the time to micro manage everyone below him.

    May 19, 2013 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  2. jcvet33

    Sadly most of those who approve don't even know about the scandals, who the vice president is, nor do they care.

    May 19, 2013 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  3. angeson

    Anyone who hasn't seen GOPers hating the "N word prez" has been in a coma. Socialist,Commie,Hitler,anarchist,Hussein,foreigner,traitor and Hannity alone has more than that. We had a drinking game on Fox News where we take a drink every time they say IRS,Gun control or Benghazi... Everyone passed out B4 the 1st commercial.

    May 19, 2013 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  4. Grumpy2012

    I think people have made up their mind about Obama. I for one am not surprised about the scandals, I think they are consistent with Obama's persona. Obama supporters may be "disappointed" but cheer themselves by accusing Bush of even worse behavior.

    The country is polarized. It will take a major crisis to bring us back together.

    May 19, 2013 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  5. tafugate

    being president of the united states is exactly like herding cats. just like ceo's have very little sway over a company's managers, a president is really just riding the rails (unless he's making up stories about non-existent wmd). the current crop of fauxnews' talking points are in no way directly related to president obama. and yes, republicans are way over-blowing every issue positioning for 2016. if republicans ever had an idea, someone might listen.

    May 19, 2013 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  6. GD

    Why don't you talks about military promotions?

    May 19, 2013 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  7. mark scott

    the only thing that could change my opinion of this dude is if he could start doing a good job with the economy.

    May 19, 2013 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  8. Maria Rivera-Carvalho

    People still follow President Obama for a simple reason: we know the difference between a real scandal and a hysterical Republican witch hunt as they try to hang on to anything instead of doing their job.

    May 19, 2013 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  9. Matthew

    I know they're trying to get a poll done, but honestly, only 923 adults. Not what I would call a great sample of the American public.

    May 19, 2013 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  10. bvicente

    Never underestimate the sheer robotic nature and pure superficiality of Obama lemming voters.

    May 19, 2013 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  11. sally-ann

    People are a lpt better off than they were four years ago and the next four years will be even better. But there are still five million more people out of work than normal. Mostly government jobs lost to recession. People want republicans to stop blocking congress from filling those jobs.

    May 19, 2013 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  12. Mike

    It's easy to forget about an absent leader.

    May 19, 2013 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  13. Bob

    "It is deeply disturbing that half of America supports a compulsive liar and deceiver, a man with no moral compass, as president."

    Ya, I find it hard to believe that so many people voted for Bush twice too!

    May 19, 2013 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  14. Jayakumar

    The poll numbers are steady because thankfully 53% of the population are sensible people. The GOP is going crazy. Any imbecile can see that the president has nothing to do with Benghazi or the IRS. he is not God, and he cannot be everywhere at the same time. Simple as that.

    May 19, 2013 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  15. Ted

    Of course! Obama supporters (liberals) are zombies. As long as there's free meat around they will run after it. As long as they can have as much random relations and have taxpayers front for their abortions they are all for them.

    May 19, 2013 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  16. adamthefirst

    obama needs to be impeached. He is responsible for whatever happens under his watch!

    May 19, 2013 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  17. Insight

    The thinking people of America know where the attack is coming from. Republicans are desperately exhuming issues and doing postmortem to find flat with this president. But, they should realize this not going to help them win the upcoming mid term election in November. Be prudent and prove to the American people that they are genuine and honest in the future of this country. Otherwise the fate will be the same of last year. And don't forget to refresh the memory that the Government is by the people, for the people and of the people.

    May 19, 2013 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  18. jcvet33

    Just about the same % that pay no taxes. Imagine that.

    May 19, 2013 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  19. downwithnazis

    For Mark Scott, above - the economy is improving. Stock market new highs. Banks totally solvent and raising rates. Major companies: arms, oil, pharma, finance unregulated and doing better than ever. AND all of this while right wing has been sitting on the brakes. Imagine where we would be if they had merely COMPROMISED.

    May 19, 2013 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  20. mark scott

    to liberalism requires tyranny: You make a valid point.And with out the checks and balances Obama has done much damage to My America. the nannys and those who need nannys love this guy. I am just sick of paying for it.

    May 19, 2013 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  21. dave z

    amazing how the media attempts to play this guy off as legitimate. boisterous antics of the circus clowns

    May 19, 2013 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  22. independent

    Anyone that hates the "majority rules" rule and our majority elected leader while crying BIG government this and that feel "FREE" to move to Somalia, those folks got their GUNS GUNS and more GUNS with on BIG government interference whats so ever.

    May 19, 2013 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  23. dingbat36

    This is another outrageous incident. All we ever hear from this administration is the Sergeant Schultz excuse, does the President know anything about ANYTHING? It "says" he knew nothing about Fast and Furious, Benghazi, and this latest which has been going on since 2011. As Judge Judy was so fond of saying, "Don't pee on my leg and tell me it's raining". Only the most incompetent people could know nothing about these incidents.............Harry Truman was right, the buck stops at the President's desk but Obama wants to pass it off to aides!! Well this isn't a football game Mr. President.

    Nixon was impeached for less and NOBODY died during the Watergate break-in or the subsequent lies as happened during both Fast and furious (dead Border Patrol agent) and the Benghazi debacles (the Libyan Ambassador, an aide and two Navy Seals. BTW, just what is the body count for Navy seals since 2008.

    May 19, 2013 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  24. SuperDave

    These comments are amazing. If these same things happened while Bush was in office, this would be all Bush's fault. But with Obama? No, he couldn't possibly heave known therefore it is not his fault! Then, some suggest these are not scandals. The Democrats are actually LYING or COVERING UP about the IRS issues, Benghazi, etc. How is this not scandalous? You know why this is happening! Because, in the words of the importable Romney, so may people have their hands in the pockets of government that as long as this money keeps flowing people will not stand up and realize what a bad president we have. It amounts to hush money. Folks, this is a failure of leadership. The supposed leader does not have to be personally involved to be held accountable. This shows his leadership has failed. And the number one job for a US President is: LEAD. He simply does not.

    May 19, 2013 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  25. BuckeyeState

    All of these scandals involve the complete abuse of power by a government that has gotten too big to manage (especially from the golf course). There is no possible way to overreact in this case. Massive firings and prison time must be demanded by the American people!

    May 19, 2013 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41