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. penguin

    I love polls that ask about questions of fact and then imply that the "truth" is what the majority opines. If a poll was taken and more than 50% said the moon was made of blue cheese that means the moon is actually made of blue cheese.

    May 19, 2013 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  2. Mara Tam

    If he were white, there wouldn't be any problem. How dare a black guy get elected to the WHITE House?

    May 19, 2013 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  3. xsgovt

    What does it take for you liberal sheeple to admit that Obama is the corrupt figurehead of an administration that has 1000's of rogue employees doing whatever they want and targeting political enemies using government agencies. Most of you are right, though, Obama is not comparable to Nixon because all 3 of his scandals are 10 times worse than Nixon. People lost their lives in Benghazi and Obama did not save them because he was worried about losing the election. The IRS scandal can be interpreted as the IRS is above the law and can do whatever it wants to whom ever it wants. Wait until next year when they have direct real time access to everyone's bank accounts then maybe you morons will see how serious this really is. Then you have the head US attorney giving guns to drug cartels, stealing phone records from reporters to discourage the freedom of speech and, to sum everything up, legislating through the executive branch. All the while King Obama's answers to this are I didn't know about it or I will take action and fire the IRS chief who was leaving in 2 weeks anyway. This is unacceptable and the fact that these scandals have been going on for years means that he does and did know about them and should be held accountable. Liberals get your head out of the sand the days of rainbows and unicorns are over.

    May 19, 2013 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  4. terrii

    The American people know the Republicans, who have done nothing to help the average american, are just trying to get the American people from noticing this fact.

    May 19, 2013 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  5. optimistmiser

    Benghazi, IRS scandal, AP theft of phone data, gun smuggling, attempt to end the 2 term limitation for president, attempting to make all phone and internet activity open to govt scrutiny with no need of cause or warrant, legal harassment of businesses and individuals by attorney generals office, 1000s of new regulations being released that where placed on hold until after the election. There is a pattern of subversive behavior by Obama and other leading Democrats.

    May 19, 2013 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  6. Billy

    Growing up, I was more or less taught that the Republicans were the party of no nonsense, fiscally responsible, straight shooting statesman who always aim to be above the fray.
    Eight years of George W. Bush and six years of Obama have decimated that impression.
    George W. Bush was the president who was on the tail end of the Reagan/80's idea of greed being good. That government just needs to stay out of the way of business because they will always do the right thing by everyone. The fraud of Enron, WorldCom and the 08 financial crisis were/are a classis example of chickens coming home to roost.
    So now republicans want to hang the president (pun intended) for Benghazi, the IRS targeting the Tea Party and for the press having their phone records looked at.
    Well. the President turned over all emails focused on Benghazi....Interesting how republicans changed the original wording on the emails that were initially leaked. The President demanded the resignation of the head of the IRS.
    Personally, I like the way he's handled that so far....He's shown leadership. Something that Nixon, (Watergate) Reagan (Iran Contra) and George W. (9/11, Hurricane Katrina) were all too slow to do.

    May 19, 2013 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  7. caesarbc

    I like the way the DOW is moving, I'd vote for Obama again.... with Republicans, it usually moves the other way.

    May 19, 2013 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  8. John

    Most Americans don't care. As long as their food stamps keep coming in, that is what matters to them.

    May 19, 2013 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  9. kenman

    It has been said that leaders such as Obama are a disaster and upsetting, but what is more so is the fools that would elect him, and reelect him, stubbornly doubling down on what might be forgiven as naïve the first time since so little was actually known, and people were encouraged to fill the empty suit with their own visions.

    But to reelect such an unqualified and petty narcissist, with little regard for the nation's or its people's future, does not bode well for that future. And, again, stubbornly refusing to link "concern" over multiple crises of leadership with the leader means that our country might have reached that tipping point where more people want something from even a corrupt government than the number that will do the right thing and work to preserve the union for the futures of their children and the nation!

    It was reflected first in Clinton, when character was proven to matter less than charisma, and now Obama has proven that enough will follow anyone, even of checkered or unknown past, if they hear authoritative words from them being read from a teleprompter! I weep for our children because, though God certainly blessed the beginning of our country, we have spit in His face for years now and grown spiritually cold, and replaced Him with earthly gods of our own imagination – and that makes our nation's future suspect.

    May 19, 2013 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  10. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    @dingba

    And I supposed republican David Petreaus who had his pants off while having an affair with one woman and allowing the other woman access to classified information while our consolate was being attacked had nothing to do with the botched intelligenced right? So far President Obama, Susan Rice and Hillary Clinton have been under the scope for Benghazi but don't you think its time we hear from Mr. Romeo?

    And by the way, while you mentioned Water Gate and you said no one died in Water Gate, you ommitted GWB's failure to defend us from the 9/11 attacks on our homeland, which were worst than Pearl Harbor and you ommitted the casualties from the illegitimate Iraqi war, the casualties from the prolonged Afghan war, the tens of thousands of decapitated and injured Veterans who's lives are ruined forever ands the trillions of dollars wasted in those wars. Furthermore, you should google Fast and Furious, it was established by the Bush administration.

    May 19, 2013 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  11. Howie

    Obamas ratings are same because most dems cannot or choose not to read the news this is the downfall of a once great nation. Such a sad situation our country is in.

    May 19, 2013 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  12. Giovanni

    Obama is NOT the problem.
    The problem is with the people who voted for him and now know he is NOT perfect.

    The biased press (on both sides) makes me want to vomit. Where is Walter Kronkite? Is anyone willing to simply "report" the news? Or is it all about celebrity pundit-wits (on both sides).

    May 19, 2013 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  13. Tenie

    Well, when you only poll outside welfare and laraza offices what do you expect?

    May 19, 2013 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  14. Bill Mitchell

    As usual, only 24% of respondents were Republicans. Yawn, next,

    May 19, 2013 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  15. nunya

    dingbat.. So who was President Bush trying to had off responsibility for the Contra Scandal? No difference, Were in the Bill Clinton Blue Dress Phase of the presidents term.. So I say STOP Waisting our money on frivoulous investigations of stiff that already happend and start looking at stuff that will make a difference in the American Puplics future... Stop the playground bullying We are so very tired of the polotics. Mud slinging. Go to your rooms and get some real work done... I dont want to hear another word out of our politicians unless you have something constructive to say... BYE!

    May 19, 2013 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  16. optimistmiser

    It is very likely the layers of people involved in the instigation of the IRS targeting conservative and TEA party groups and those individuals working and/or contributing to them runs deep to protect the politicians who engineered this.

    May 19, 2013 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  17. waitaminute

    In no uncertain terms and with no hedging, The New York Times reports that the Obama administration was aware of the fact that the IRS was targeting Tea Party groups as far back as June of 2012. Thought you guys want to here news because they don't report it here.

    May 19, 2013 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  18. carlos aponte

    D problem with d media is very simple who owns d gold makes d rules and reports what deems neccessary toinclude cnn. Americans know there isa smoke screen d sad part is us d readers have to put with your indosincrasia. president Obama has my highest mark as my president and my fellow human brother we r lucky and blessed to have him as our president.

    May 19, 2013 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  19. josh p.

    I have always noticed,how our presidents always seem to age 10 fold after just a few years in office.
    Could it be the fact that it,s because they can,t sleep at night,for the amount of people they go around Murdering,based on fabricated LIES.

    May 19, 2013 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  20. rand

    This just shows how dumbed down the American voting public is at this point in history............

    starting with Terri's comment above "The American people know the Republicans, who have done nothing to help the average man" etc.

    In fact Obamacare is the biggest job hindrance to the "average" American in recent history as businesses let people go to keep numbers low and fees fines and mandates at bay.............

    May 19, 2013 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  21. NSHSDad

    How about: pass a budget, Congress, then we'll listen to you whine, OK?

    May 19, 2013 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  22. Gary

    Why would the I.R.S. target a group called the tea party? Doesn't the name imply that they would never do anything illegal or wrong when it comes to paying taxes? Wasn't the Boston Tea party a demonstration to show the British that we support their taxes and would like to pay more?
    That group of obese, white,racists would never cheat or lie about paying their fair share or being exempt altogether.
    I mean, who would they turn to the next time a tornado blows through their trailer park?

    May 19, 2013 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  23. TOOBAD S. SAD

    I would like to see the questions used for the survey. You can get a poll to say whatever you want. Ask the right questions and approach the right demographics and you're home free.

    May 19, 2013 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  24. Howie

    It is difficult to understand the cries of 'if he was white blah blah'. The fact is he is white. His mother was white. The dems don't even know that it seems. More proof that dems are largely illerate.

    May 19, 2013 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  25. caesarbc

    I would vote for Obama again... I like the way the DOW is moving. It usually goes the other direction with Republicans.

    May 19, 2013 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
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