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. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    So far the President has ended an illegitimate Iraq war, saving countless lives and billions of dollars in the process. He has begun winding down the Afghan war, doing the same in the process. He has saved over 4 million public sector jobs, saved our auto industry and created over 10 million private sector jobs despite the deliberate roadblocks from the right. He has reduced our national debt by 2 trillion dollars, made healthcare more affordable and available for an additional 30 million Americans, reform Wall Street, safeguarding against another financial meltdown and he has restored our image, trust and credibility abroad and a lot more despite all attempts by conservatives to undermine his administration and destroy this country. I'd give the President a Nobel Peace Prize if I could.

    May 19, 2013 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  2. Joan

    When people are questioned about government handling of different issues, that includes Congress. So if any questions regarding how government is doing seem low, that could mean people are not happy with how the Congress is handling it too. Why wasn't there a job approval question regarding the Republican led Congress? It has been under 20% so I wonder if it has improved. All three of these issues are going to blow over just as the outrage over Fast and Furious did because there is not enough facts to really make them scandals se the Republicans and some in the media are trying to do? The Congress cut government spending for security by the millions and now screams there wasn't enough done. So hypocritical. Why isn't there more coverage of the letter this week to Boehner from a religious organization calling on them to continue to hit the Obama administration. Why? Just wondering.

    May 19, 2013 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  3. dave z

    the joker, the riddler and the penguin. that is this current Administration.

    May 19, 2013 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  4. mchris65

    ask yourself seriously if Bush had said he found out through the news just like us, would you take him seriously?

    May 19, 2013 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
  5. bejee45

    The Republicans cut funding for our embassies, and now they want to point fingers and play the blame game - shame on them.

    The bottom line is that we can't protect our embassy employees in many countries, and we never will be able to - so this won't be the last time.

    May 19, 2013 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
  6. wade

    Roughly 1400 days in office Obama has the same approval rating as Bush did in the same 1400 day period. Now I will not dispute the numbers at however I will say that they mean very little as most Americans also agree that the GOV could have prevented Benghazi and that the GOP is not over reaching and that they are feeling better about the economy in spite the unemployment rate being the same as when Obama took office. When you see the MKT go up and up your brain starts to believe the economy is doing well. Nothing to do with it. Investment is not the same as economy growing. Still the economy is doing better little by little mostly in GOP states controlled by GOP GOV. So lets see where all the scandals that are just getting started lead and how the economy really fairs and then talk about how people see Obama. Remember at least 50 % of the people say they approve of Obama solely because he is the first Half black president and they do not want to appear racist or they are black and would always approve of Obama because they are racist. With all the failures and scandals that Obama has had if he were a White male the country would have stormed the White House by now.

    May 19, 2013 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
  7. Mike

    These are just bogus controversies by GOP trying to distract Americans from the good numbers on the economy front with record high in the stock market and continuous recovery from the Bush recession!

    May 19, 2013 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
  8. Meki60

    evil person

    May 19, 2013 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  9. mchris65

    ask yourself if Bush said he found out through the news would you take him seriously?

    May 19, 2013 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  10. Donkey Party

    Just look at all the ignorant, illiterate, racist comments from the right-wing filth. And to claim the GOP isn't racist, well, that's just as big a lie as claiming to be the party of "family values". Hell is too nice a place for you right-wingers to go.

    May 19, 2013 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  11. Frank Garcia

    pools go to prove how ignorant Americans are. The President DID know...these are the things that cabinet members report to him on a daily basis. Where is the picture of him in the situation room monitoring the Benghazi situation...there is none! he did not care. The Osama thing was staged for the photo op! Open your eyes! POTUS has no idea on how to handle Syria, no idea on Benghazi, uses the IRS against political opponents, spies on and intimidates the press...truly a gem of a president. And yes I mention this because he is black.....NOT!

    May 19, 2013 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  12. Marie

    Why would Obama's poll numbers change or even get worse. He isn't personally responsible for these messes. Yes, he may need to run a tighter ship, but it's not as if he is dreaming up scandals so people can hate him. Anyone who hates him now has from the beginning.

    Where is our government? All I see is bickering back and forth and we're paying these children to run our country!!!!

    May 19, 2013 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  13. Edie Simmons

    I voted for Obama because he under stands how the rest of us live , Obama has kept out out of War and we are broke and don't need the expense The Republicans would of wanted a War over Benganzi and We are just pulling the economy out from their last War that's Republicans biggest problem Gossip hatred and War fever Revenge , The brave men died and are Hero's I don't think they would of wanted more men to die that we sent in, Republicans friends of mine are tired of the Republicans not raising min wage and passing a Bill to stop over time pay The Republicans better wake up and pass some job bills instead of blocking them America is a wake

    May 19, 2013 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  14. Frank Garcia

    polls go to prove how ignorant Americans are. The President DID know...these are the things that cabinet members report to him on a daily basis. Where is the picture of him in the situation room monitoring the Benghazi situation...there is none! he did not care. The Osama thing was staged for the photo op! Open your eyes! POTUS has no idea on how to handle Syria, no idea on Benghazi, uses the IRS against political opponents, spies on and intimidates the press...truly a gem of a president. And yes I mention this because he is black.....NOT!

    May 19, 2013 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  15. joe

    I for one was an Obama supporter but had changed aides over the years. I see Obama dividing this awesome country and when he leaves in 2016 and leave the mess for some other President to fix reminds me of Bush. Im vwry disappointed

    May 19, 2013 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  16. Truth2012

    Why? Because the majority of Americans that voted for him know who the real culprit is, The Do Nothing GOP Congress who's only mission is to impeach Obama at a time when the American people needed them most to work with the rightfully elected majority, the GOP chose to make the American people suffer because they we're sore losers...
    We have a word for Americans who refuse to help Americans in a time of war....

    May 19, 2013 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  17. ronnie

    The Liberal left media has done everything in their power to bury these stories or just not reporting the facts as they are known to be. A cover up is self evident and the bias is undoubtedly going to come back to haunt them.

    May 19, 2013 10:07 am at 10:07 am |
  18. Stevmg

    Most people are concerned with jobs and the economy. These "scandals" serve to entrench those who hate Obama (yes, HATE) to hate him even more. Those who don't hate him, want the Congress and him go solve our economic woes and therefore are not phased by these.
    The '12 election was a division of the country who HATED and still hate him versus moderates who did not love him but didn't want the GOP agenda which brought along with it many other features such as overturning Roe v. Wade, anti-immigration, decreased funding for public education, enforcement of Christianity as a national religion with Creationism taught instead of science, etc. Those who voted for Romney hated Obama with a visceral reaction which spewed bile and even talk of open rebellion. Those who voted for him did not hate Romney and voted for Obama in a half-hearted way. That is what this polling is picking up. Those who do not disapprove are more afraid of what the GOP would replace Obama with than him.

    When I hear Creationism pushed onto public schools by Republicans, I cringe and have more fear of religious zealots who do not even understand Scripture taking over than I do of any wrong-doing that Obama may or may not have done.

    This was the same with Clinton in '97. The Lewinsky affair just entrenched the Clinton-haters while the others didn't want what the GOP had to offer. It was not love for Clinton.

    May 19, 2013 10:07 am at 10:07 am |
  19. roike

    Unlike Repugs we stick together no matter what. All these so called scandals are meant to distract us from the course. Hillary will be the next president and she will finish the work that Obama started. She will get rid of guns, conservative talk radio (I just threw up in my mouth on that one) and white christians. I look for her to give top level positions to Bill and Barack. Oh happy days!!!!!

    May 19, 2013 10:08 am at 10:08 am |
  20. Sharon Mahart

    This should surprise nobody. What we're learning here is that either the media is unwilling to tell the truth, or the sheep who follow this criminal are too ignorant to abandon his sinking ship even in the face of overwhelming injustice against America. Either way, this is further proof of just how doomed we are as a nation.

    May 19, 2013 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  21. sally-ann

    Jobs report last Friday was 165,000 new jobs. You think the GOP is trying to hide something.

    May 19, 2013 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  22. ricardo1968

    I think most people understand that the president cannot stand over the shoulder of every middle manager in the IRS, or even the state department. Trying to dig up every instance of human error in the government is not a winning strategy for the GOP. They need to worry less about 2016 or they might get a shock in 2014. I really hope they do.

    May 19, 2013 10:10 am at 10:10 am |
  23. David Vernon

    Stories of the scandals are barely covered by the main stream media, and when they are, it's all about those nasty Republicans trying to tarnish the president. Voters don't know much about Benghazi, the death of our ambassador and the Utube video cover-up story. The Dems have it figured right, promise them someone else's money and you can get away with just about anything.

    May 19, 2013 10:10 am at 10:10 am |
  24. Schmoogalicious

    The only folks who consider these incidents "scandals" are the Tea Baggers and other right-wing loony tunes.

    May 19, 2013 10:10 am at 10:10 am |
  25. JC Copeland

    Consider where this "poll" was taken from. A cross section of the American people race-wise or a selected group. Obama won based upon 93% of Afro-American, 71% of Hispanic, and 73% of Asian votes. If his current "rating" is based upon those same statistics, he is in deep kimshee. If those polled are mostly WASP, he is only in ankle-deep kimshee. BTW, he does have time to see how his country is running and should be aware of everything going on about him. That is why he is president, not just another pretty face..........

    May 19, 2013 10:11 am at 10:11 am |
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