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. budshot

    Of COURSE his poll numbers haven't dropped. They'll probably rise.

    Republican lies and dirty tricks tend to do those things.

    May 19, 2013 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  2. Jung

    I think most people can see that these are fake scandals manufactured by the GOP. I think these Republicans should be labeled as traitors and booted since they are not loyal or its people or president.

    May 19, 2013 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  3. sammy750

    The Republicans are the party that has destroyed this nation more then once. Created fake wars, created a depression under Bush, and tens of millions of lost jobs. The Republicans are the party who have been the worst for this nation. Now in Republican controlled states they are taking away the rights of the people, women rights, voters rights, union rights. The Republicans talk about small government and no taxes, but what party has created large government and more taxes. The Republicans. anyone can research this information, because Republicans don't want the information to be known. The Republicans are the real Terrorist in this nation and will destroy this nation and the people if they can.

    May 19, 2013 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  4. DonN

    Yes, because the Republican are preaching to their choir. The rest of us know all these "scandals" are pure bunk!

    May 19, 2013 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  5. Ray

    I can't for the life of me figure out why every thing is G.W.Bushes fault?The Great Lord O has done just what he said he wanted to do.Transform America. He had what he wants. America is a mess. He don't know a thing about anything. If this was a Republican President,WE would be hearing IMPEACH the ass. But this is The Great Lord O, We have to let him pass. Jimmy Carter is a happy little peanut farmer today, Nixon is the main person Obama is compared to now. Like Nixon Obama should be Impeached, But unlike Nixon Obama needs to go to jail for life. He has lied to the American people from day one. He is still lieing today. He has the nerve to say he knew nothing about the IRS, The phone taps or Benghazi. He is the President of the United States of America. He is the top guy.It is up to him to know all of these things.If he spent more time doing his job,Instead of going on vacation or on the links.He might have a clue as to what HIS people are up to. I for one think he knows a lot and is just playing stupid. He needs a lesson in class. He is a Lier and the American people are coming to to the light. Time is short for the Great Lord O.

    May 19, 2013 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  6. George

    If you keep using the Sgt. Shultz excuse "I know nothing" that in it's self is cause for concern.
    Any competent leader must know what is going on. How can people continue to support
    a leader who doesn't know what is going on???

    May 19, 2013 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  7. Terry

    of course his poll numbers are the same... 95% of the black population voted for Obama, because he is black.... he is still black.

    May 19, 2013 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  8. marble321

    All this fuss about Obamas controversies ... and its not even his fault.

    May 19, 2013 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  9. abnguy

    President Obamas had a rough week, Americans have had a rough 5 years.

    May 19, 2013 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  10. Michael

    It's a bunch of GOP manufactured stupidity... well, the Benghazi "scandal" is, anyway. The reaction to all of this has been blown out of proportion, and the fingerpointing at Obama is ridiculous. Two months from now, everyone will have moved on from all of this and the GOPers will have the American people telling them to stop stalling and DO THEIR JOBS.

    May 19, 2013 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  11. Just

    No way the numbers are unchanged. Are the jobs number people the same people that did this stat? Maybe it was the immigration counter folks who claim the border invaders are not coming here anymore?

    May 19, 2013 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  12. cgs

    Haha This morning Candy Crowley did everything she could to shore up the pres. Laughable! No mention of him dodging reporter's questions and that his administration can't remember any names of those who should be held accountable for all of the scandals. CNN is pathetic pretending that BO is trying to fix everything when his administration is behind so many lies, cover-ups, deceptions...I guess it's just a continuation of how Crowley moderates debates!

    May 19, 2013 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  13. mark scott

    my 30 yr old daughter is back living with us.pretty sure she voted for this guy

    May 19, 2013 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  14. upstateny

    Personally, I don't think people really care anymore. Same thing different day...no matter who is in office. It's really not about the middle class, it's about the cry babies, corporations, lobbyists. special interest groups, ILLEGAL immigrants let's not forget those that don't contribute. People have become so desensitized about the lying, cover ups that people aren't shocked anymore...as I said it's the same stuff different day. SAD....It's not about who's in office it's about decades of corruption and deceiving the American people.

    May 19, 2013 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  15. VoterRemorse

    These polls obviously don't include white voters, like myself, who voted obama for his first term and now regret that decision. Obama had the black, latino and many white independent votes. Hillary or whoever the dems nominate won't be able to draw those same numbers from the same groups. Does she inspire anyone except dedicated liberals or those who benefit from democratic leadership? Obama has now become powerless, neutered, and will flail around in the white house, (and hot seat) until he packs his bags and goes back where he came from. A wasted opportunity to deliver on that 'hope and change' theme.

    May 19, 2013 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  16. Tutuvabene

    Obama is too cool to have low numbers. Didn't ya know.

    May 19, 2013 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  17. gotdayumit

    I would like to see Obama gets his ballz chopped from hiss scrotal housing in Washington Squre Park!

    May 19, 2013 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  18. leftorright

    Why does'nt she go give this speech somewhere in the ghetto in Chicago where they really need to hear it instead of some college? Now she will be looked at like Bill Cosby was when he told the truth...

    May 19, 2013 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  19. The Dude

    This really shows how far gone this country is....People are just completely ignorant. Obama is a king. Him and his wife live the lavish life of parties, exclusive vacations, golf trips, while the rest of struggle daily. Their lifestyle has not been sequestered...Three of the richest counties are now around the seat of power in DC where even low level gov jobs pay >100,000 and the sycophants and influence peddlers rake in millions....Oh yeah and the HHS dept. is extorting, the IRS acts as an attack arm of the Democrats, lies cover up the deaths of Americans, and DOJ squashes freedom of the press and seeks to intimidate those who would report the truth on the tyranny of the Obama Admin...

    May 19, 2013 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  20. OldSchool

    The only thing here that is even close to fitting the "scandal" label is the IRS issue. As a liberal I also find this concerning, however it appears to be isolated and not all of the facts have been brought to light yet. However, as someone who could in many ways be described as a socialist, those who call Obama a socialist have absolutely no idea what they are talking about, and I WISH Obama was a socialist...

    May 19, 2013 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  21. Jorge Sedano

    The polls are purely race politics...

    May 19, 2013 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  22. Name

    Does anybody know who Obama is picking for this years CFB Championship, that's all he's good for!

    May 19, 2013 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  23. pubesrtoast

    These so-called "scandals" are nothing compared against the disaster the nation experienced under Bush. The GOP politicians and fans have totally crushed their credibility when they supported that moronic president. This is the main reason real Americans do not pay attention to these wingnuts – this must be very frustrating for them.

    May 19, 2013 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  24. Wisconsin77

    This fits well with Obama's celebrity image. He presents himself and travels the country like a Hollywood celebrity not like a President, and that reflects in his poll numbers. Celebrities don't lose popularity when they get arrested for DWI or tax evasion, their numbers stay the same (heck, even pedophilia will get you a standing ovation at the Oscars as we saw with Polasnkie. Most negative things don't effect their popularity, just like Obama. It's a shame, but reflects the TMZ/Page 6 mentality that America has become today.

    May 19, 2013 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  25. Your mom

    Blind voters just taking in all the lies that Obama goes them.

    May 19, 2013 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
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