Second-term polls: How do Obama and Clinton compare?
May 20th, 2013
11:21 AM ET
5 years ago

Second-term polls: How do Obama and Clinton compare?

(CNN) - A second term Democratic president, battling back against series of controversies.

Sound familiar?

President Barack Obama is facing a political situation not altogether unlike what the last Democrat in the White House, Bill Clinton, experienced during his second term.

For Obama it's the controversies over the Internal Revenue service's targeting of tea party and other conservative groups who applied for tax exempt status, the administration's handling and reaction to last September's attack in Benghazi that left the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans dead, and the Justice Department's secret collection of phone records from the Associated Press as part of a government investigation into classified leaks.

According to a new national poll, even though a majority of Americans take all three matters very seriously, Obama appears to have come out of what was arguably the worst week of his presidency with his approval rating holding steady.

According to the CNN/ORC International 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. The two point rise is well within the survey's sampling error.

Now flash back to 1998 when President Clinton–following 1997's campaign finance controversy of improper fundraising and Chinese contributions–was dealing with an emerging scandal over a sexual relationship he had in his first term with a 22-year old White House intern named Monica Lewinsky.

When the scandal first broke, at the beginning of 1998, Clinton's approval rating in a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll stood at 59%.

"With regard to Clinton's approval rating, the key moment was his State of the Union speech in January, 1998, shortly after the Lewinsky scandal broke. His approval rating jumped ten points, to 69%, after that speech, and it stayed above 60% throughout his impeachment," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.

"That speech presented Clinton as on the job and ready to solve the country's problems, and congressional Republicans looked bad by contrast. Add to Clinton's high approval ratings the fact that the GOP lost five House seats in the 1998 midterm elections, and it seems clear in retrospect that politically played their hand."

After House Republicans impeached the president in December 1998, Clinton's approval rating soared to 73% and stood at 68% two months later, when the Senate acquitted him.

Clinton finished out his second term and left office in January 2001 with a 66% approval rating in CNN/Gallup/USA Today polling.

- CNN's Tim McCaughan contributed to this report.

soundoff (303 Responses)
  1. Richard Long

    Comparing Apples and Oranges.
    Bill Clinton: President
    Barack Obama: Community Organizer
    Note: Currently on fundraising tour rather than running the country

    May 20, 2013 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  2. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    According to a new national poll, even though a majority of Americans take all three matters very seriously, Obama appears to have come out of what was arguably the worst week of his presidency with his approval rating holding steady
    This is because the jig if up for the GOP in regards to the American voter seeing through these so-called scandals.
    The Birthers have morphed into the Benghazi crowd, and the AP crowd, and the IRS crowd.
    You're trying to create a false equivalency here CNN.
    Clinton did in fact face a very real self-created scandal for which he was rightfully held completely culpable.
    Not so with President Obama. Just a whole lot of wishful thinking on your part and the GOPeeing Teatards and it warms the cuckolds of my heart that people are no longer falling for yours or the GOP's half-baked crock of crap.
    Good for you America!!

    May 20, 2013 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  3. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Take Back The House -aka- No Redemption Votes

    And while the economy is getting stronger, so will the President's approval ratings.

    May 20, 2013 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  4. JohnRJohnson

    The Republicans in Congress are doing to Obama exactly what they did to Clinton in his second term. It's all out offensive on every facet of the President, even things he has no control over. The difference between what Obama is facing and what Clinton faced is that Clinton only had to deal with it for his last term. Obama has had it in his face since his inauguration.

    May 20, 2013 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  5. Bull

    Maybe the Clinton and Obama administrations weren't perfect in every way, but Bush's wars still killed many more Americans than 9/11 and accomplished nothing but a huge deficit.

    May 20, 2013 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  6. Rick McDaniel

    The same way they compared to begin with........both started off trying to do health care. One only succeeded with health care for poor kids, and the other created a monster that may destroy us all.

    Both lost control of Congress because of their excesses in the first 2 years.

    Both started to fall apart, after the start of the second term.

    The main difference, was that Clinton worked with Congress, and Obama will not allow anything through Congress that is not something he wants. he would rather do NOTHING, than not get his way. He is the worst kind of who would be dictator.

    May 20, 2013 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  7. mahmoud el-darwish

    worthless. show us scatter chart or bar graph. Your text is useless.

    May 20, 2013 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  8. Ed T Duck

    A series of fabricated controversies.

    May 20, 2013 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  9. us_1776

    The GOP is its own worst enemy.


    May 20, 2013 11:45 am at 11:45 am |

    Love them both!

    May 20, 2013 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  11. Dave

    Troubling to see that people still treat the presidency as more of a popularity/pop culture thing. I guess we haven't progressed much from 1998.

    May 20, 2013 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  12. Dubs

    Percentage of people that just want to see some CHANGE in American politics: 100%

    May 20, 2013 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  13. ak_steve

    Yes it sounds familiar. It sounds like Republicans doing whatever they can to make a Democratic president look bad. But now, instead of trying to tank the whole economy by not passing laws to help fix the past recession they are going to try to go after the president for so called "scandals".

    It's amazing how narrow sighted they are. "w"s scandals were glaringly obvious – Iraq, Plame, etc. In fact we had over 50 diplomats killed in attacks when he was president.

    May 20, 2013 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  14. Gurgyl

    Idiotic to compare...

    May 20, 2013 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  15. Anonymous

    I question the validity of this poll, and would like more detail into their methodology.

    May 20, 2013 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  16. Lynda/Minnesota

    Quite a bit of imaginative thought went into this non story. Perhaps if CNN and other media outlets were more in tune with how mainstream Americans actually think ... our US media wouldn't keep patting itself on the back for what even they must consider - while sitting in their own respective political tents - as anti-Obama propaganda going nowhere fast.

    But, hey. When was the media - any media - last concerned with anything but their own profit making money machines based on a he said / he said market of innuendo, and in many instances, blanket lies being bought and sold through GOP talking points as actually passing for truth?

    May 20, 2013 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  17. chet

    Amazing how the American public views its politicians, especially the Liberal vs Conservative. If this was going on while a Republican was in office the yelling and screaming would be deafening! But seeing how as it is a Democrat things seem on an even keel! AMAZING!

    May 20, 2013 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  18. Peoples State of Illinois

    A better comparison would be Obama and Jimmy Carter. Obama still loses, but not by much.

    May 20, 2013 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  19. Fair is Fair

    Kind of an apples to oranges comparison, don't you think?

    May 20, 2013 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  20. lottie

    the republican party needs to regroup this was their worst week. Tired of them looking for scandal at every turn. How about working for the American people for a change instead of bashing the administration and running for office.

    May 20, 2013 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  21. Ronnie Jackson

    Richard Long- Get Off the TV and Fox News and see the improvement in the stock market, the debt, and the unemployment numbers and that is will infinite obstruction.

    May 20, 2013 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  22. tepeters

    Because it is obvious the GOP has no other reason to exist than to try and destroy this and any Democratic President with orchestrated drama – and the majority of the public knows that

    May 20, 2013 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  23. America Above Parties

    It is hirarous that these people are still calling POTUS "Community Organizer" in condescending ways. CO is one of the best foundation a president should have. After all the country as a whole is a large community. Who is better to equipped as a leader to get us out of from the economic abyss that Bush/GOP left us with. Obama is democratically elected (not selected) president. If you can's obay the constitution and work for betterment of the community, move out of this country.

    May 20, 2013 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  24. John

    Obama is far from being Bill Clinton. Clinton was willing to cross the aisle and work with the other party. Obama is running a his way or no way agenda.

    May 20, 2013 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  25. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    President Clinton didn't inherit two wars and an economic crisis and he didn't have to deal with a divided and bias congress that said from day one that they wanted him and the country to fail. Furthermore, President Clinton never did receive death threats for trying to move the country forward and looking out for the American people and during his tenure, conservatives in America didn't drive around with bumper stickers belittling his heritage and calling for his assassination.

    President Obama has accomplished a lot more than that accomplished by any 8 year administration in U.S. history, yet half the country hates him because while they don't like black people who sit around and make nothing constructive of their lives, they also hate educated black people who try to make something of themselves and a difference in our society. Damn if you do, damn if you don't.

    Though a lot has changed in America since passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Legislation, we still have a long way to go before African-Americans in this country are judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character! Then we can say "we are free at 'last."

    May 20, 2013 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
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