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. Vijay

    The comparison should be between Obama and Bush W. At the end of the term, republicans would surpass the filibustering what they are holding into. No Republicans ever respect our president, since he is black. Tell me all the Obama haters, why republicans hate black, hispanic and women? Before the end of his term, we will be surplus like when Bill left us.

    May 20, 2013 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  2. Harlon Katz

    Obama has not "reached across the aisle" – he is a Chicago style politician as shown by the selective actions of the IRS and the Justice department.

    May 20, 2013 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  3. wade

    RIC HOLDER'S JUSTICE DEPARTMENT, already under fire for seizing AP phone records, also obtained records pertaining to Fox News' chief Washington correspondent James Rosen's efforts to report leaked material, even calling Rosen a criminal 'co-conspirator' — a charge the news organization called 'chilling.' Of course CNN will not print this story because it proves what a low life criminal Holder is. CNN always looking to promote Obama.

    May 20, 2013 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  4. n222s

    Nodack, it is very understandable to desire healthcare for everyone. I want that as well. However, it is not free and there are finite resources. While universal health will benefit some it will be to the detriment of others. There is no scenario that can be painted where the level of care will be the same for everyone at an affordable price.

    That is why people from other countries have to wait in line for complicated, involved procedures while cheap preventive care is more readily available. 4x4s (I assume from your medical knowledge you know what they are) are less expensive than open heart surgery.

    And can you be sure that the physician assigned to see you is of the same quality as is available to someone else? If you see a quack and I see a great doctor, is that fair? Yes, it happens now, but you don't have the government deciding for you whether you are free to see another physician. Right now, if you receive poor treatment you have several lines of recourse including the last stop, the government. However, with universal health, the government becomes the insurance company AND the arbiter of justice. Guess who has the upper hand?

    May 20, 2013 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  5. Malory Archer

    I always laugh when I read or hear someone say "it is disheartning to be in line at the supermarket and watch food stamps being handed for payment and then groceries loaded into a fancy new car."

    I visit the supermarket on a regular basis and am far too busy with my shopping and placing of items on the checkout conveyor to worry about what those around me are doing. Those who always know what food assistance recipients are driving must go to their local supermarkets for the sole purpose of following customers around the store. Creepy and stalkerish to say the least.

    May 20, 2013 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  6. Paulmsn

    Conservatives are bringing out all the old myths trying to lay blame on Obama. I see the "food stamp user drives away in a Mercedes" lie came up again.

    May 20, 2013 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  7. wild man

    they are both as hillary would say "modern progressives" (socialists) meaning they are career liars and thieves i would say the last three presidents have been the worst presidents in american history

    May 20, 2013 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  8. Marie MD

    @rhondakelly, you are the reason that our country is down the toilet and we are last in education,or near last.
    More died under Obama than bush? Who started the Iraq war under a cloud of lies? If anything, President Obama ended the lie of WMDs war in Iraq and he gave the order to kill bin laden who murdered thousands on 9/11 while your cretin of a president read a children's book and whose reaction was that of yo left the water running back home!!!
    In what planet do you people live in??? It's not worth trying to bother with the facts because you people will never get it. W OW!!!

    May 20, 2013 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  9. The Real Tom Paine

    -John McMath

    This is something that I have difficulty believing. CNN/ORC International published a poll today that gives President Obama a 53% approval rating. This supposedly was just taken. It Supposedly comes after last weeks IRS debacle. What is important is that they do not publish the number of respondents(size of the survey) nor do they publish the demographic. It is easy to get the results you want in a statistical survey if you limit the size and demographic. Example if you poll 8,000(total number poled) people in California, Illinois, and New York; you will get a different result from 8,000 people poled in equal number from all 50 states. it looks like creative accounting to me . . .I'm just say'n . . .
    If you want to see creative polling, cast your mind back to one Dick Morris, and his tortured explanations as to how Romney would win in a walk.

    May 20, 2013 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  10. Franky

    I'm trying to figure out what free stuff Obama is handing out. I'm so sick of this tupid comment? People act like Obama invented the food stamp program, oh ... what's the other one the Obama phone, ... the phone subsidy program started under Reagan. The fact is Obama has not fundamentally changed the way this country works so stop pretending like he has, in regards, to social services.

    May 20, 2013 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  11. Deb

    Will be so glad when this lame president's 2nd term is over with.

    May 20, 2013 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  12. BD

    Both parties are equally corrupt and incompetent and their handlers are not interested in what's best for America. They both have plundered the wealth of this country and are equally complicit in the death spiral we are in today. The people of this country need to unite, put aside the stupid party politics governing their behavior and elect some third party member who embraces the conservative pillars that guarantee life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Term limits are required if we ever hope to save this country. We need to start over with all new members of Congress.

    May 20, 2013 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  13. Palin Power

    We need Sarah Palin as our next President! She will be our greatest President of all times. She will have 100% approval ratings in all the polls during her 8 years.

    May 20, 2013 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  14. Malory Archer


    Rome is not built in one day and America could not be distroyed in one term!!!!!!!!!


    No, but the previous occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue was quite good at doing just that before finishing off the ENTIRE WORLD'S economy in his second term.

    May 20, 2013 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  15. Malory Archer

    We Like Ike

    This survey to see who's fav political dynasty people have/havn't enjoyed in order to collect material for the next Show



    May 20, 2013 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  16. omeany

    Dear GOP:

    We are tired of the repeated conspiracy tales you folks keep coming up with. They are NOT working. Good news though, I have an idea...Why don't you get on board with the majority of Americans and stop the war, get us the same access to affordable health care that you and your families enjoy, free up funds so average Americans can afford to go to college and build up our crumbling infrastructure.

    I know this will be repugnant to you but it will keep your party from going extinct in the next 4 years. Good Luck!

    May 20, 2013 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  17. Franky

    Oh, please, Obama has not reached across the aisle? What is reaching across the aisle. When has the GOP ever voted in agreement with anything Obama has done. Again another partisan non-sense, it's irrelevant whether Obama reaches across the aisle or not in this age of hyper-partisan politics especially on the conservative side, compromise is seen as a dirty word or go against some sacred belief system. The GOP has no intentions of reaching for any extended hand, period.

    May 20, 2013 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  18. Steve

    Malory Archer. I do not stalk anyone. Insulting but not surprised. I am handicapped and her car was parked right next to mine. You don't know me but I have learned a little about your character.

    May 20, 2013 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  19. wild man

    by the way most of you that post comments on this site are either on cnn 's pay roll or are mindless government slaves and don't even know it. freedom of speech

    May 20, 2013 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  20. Malory Archer


    That he (President Obama) is at 53% approval with all the scandal stuff going is pretty good. It looks like the 3 scandals aren't going to hurt him at all.


    Because the so-called "scandals" are nothing more than fabrications from a group of haters who declared 4+ years ago that their sole mission in life was to bring him down and "put him in his place" and anyone with more than two working brain cells is well aware of that.

    May 20, 2013 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  21. Malory Archer

    Harlon Katz

    Obama has not "reached across the aisle"


    You're joking, right?

    May 20, 2013 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  22. Malory Archer


    RIC HOLDER'S JUSTICE DEPARTMENT, already under fire for seizing AP phone records, also obtained records pertaining to Fox News' chief Washington correspondent James Rosen's efforts to report leaked material, even calling Rosen a criminal 'co-conspirator' — a charge the news organization called 'chilling.'


    If the shoe fits! That being said, the guy who wrote the article to which you refer made a full disclosure that the reporter in question is a good friend, hence his "rightous indignation".

    May 20, 2013 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  23. Steve

    The Mallory Archers of the world are scary people who make judgements without knowledge. First hand accounts sure beat idle rhetoric on a keyboard acting like you know something. When you have no first hand knowledge of what is being reported but you sure know the facts. Scary!

    May 20, 2013 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  24. Pete

    @JJ,Pres.Obama has continually reached across the aisle to have them slapped back!!Yah don't remember the disrespect leveled at our POTUS in his first days in office as a Mitch McConnell said his only plan for him as a republican was to make Pres.Obama a one term president,now is that the proper way of reaching across to be bipartisan to work with a newly elected president, quite the opposite.. Or the S.Carolina senator Joe Wilson calling the president a liar during his first televised public address,is that respect shown his boss commander in chief!!Or that incompetent Ariz.Gov.Jan Brewer standing on the airport tarmac in Arizona sticking her demeaning finger in Pres.Obamas face to scold him for supposid things said while she visited him in the WH and after leaving he promised her and did sent her a recording of said meeting showing Brewer with egg on her face being totally wrong but again no apologies,no response from her,does he need or warrent that from anyone,I think not..Or what about justice Roberts shaking his head in disapproval during again a televised speech about the ACA bill just recently signed and does SCOTUS lost their marbles in not showing respect from them themselves being the examples of respectability,what ignorence,bigotry that Pres.Clinton or no other president has ever seen or felt because of he our first africanamerican president is the only one to still feel the heat of hate from the immature ,bigotted ones that supposidly call themselves Americans,patriots our republican ones mine you that voted for the biggest imbecile in presidencial history in Pres.Bush..You know him best as the creator of unfunded wars in Iraq,Afghanistan,Patriot Act,Homeland Security and countless other political,foriegn,economic policy debacles too many to count or hurtful to remember!!And if you ask many a republican or independent that's actually a discontented republican in disguise who they voted for back then they'll look at you straight in the eyes and say in a slow and mumbling manner low in tone "Bush"and say with it "don't publize it "either in disgust ,that's the republicans I've run across showing not only their alliegence but their ignorence as well for their past presidents and the party of "NO"!!!

    May 20, 2013 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  25. sly

    Great times for America – stock market soaring to 16,000, unemployment plummiting, health care for the people.

    President Obama – thank you for killing America's worst enemy of all time, ending the 2 Bush Oil Wars, and keeping America safe from all major terrorist attacks.

    Our nation is great once again! And these polls show the people know it.

    May 20, 2013 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
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