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. Gurgyl

    Did these idiotic haters of this president know deficit is already reduced to 32 percent??? Nasty idiots still hate. It is ok, by 2018 whites are going to be minority. This president is nice for this nation. We need to change entire legal system. Attorneys are robbing this nation with no ethics, morality. Nab them first.

    May 20, 2013 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  2. Wake up People!

    @Mallory Archer and Franky.

    Thank you both. Like you Mallory, when I'm in the grocery store shopping, I don't have time to watch others. I'm too busy calculating my total in my head and as far as seeing what someone else drives.....that is bordering on stalking. As for food stamps, they don't even make them anymore. The new thing is the EBT card and you have to really be watching the next person to know if they are using the EBT or a plain old debit card.

    May 20, 2013 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  3. anonymous

    Obama is the new teflon President.

    or the new felon President. Depends what the investigations, that are just starting, turn up.

    May 20, 2013 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  4. qar12

    Shame on the Democrats. Liars every one of them. This president is a total disgrace as well as the media that supported him.

    May 20, 2013 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  5. skytag

    I don't see much value in comparing Obama with Clinton. Clinton had it a lot easier because a) Republicans weren't so extreme back then and b) Clinton inherited a much better economy and no wars. Obama inherited a mess everywhere he looked and Republicans hated him before he even took office.

    May 20, 2013 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  6. Pete

    Obama inherited two unfunded wars, and an economy in a tailspin. The economy is now stabilized, the stock market is booming, and the deficits–which were run up by the wars, the Bush tax cuts, and the stimulus necessary to get the economy going again–are falling faster than expected.

    May 20, 2013 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  7. skytag

    There is a significant segment of the American people who have been brainwashed to hate this president since before he even took office. They are easy to identify, but it is impossible to reason with them.

    May 20, 2013 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  8. AEJ

    If Obama was a white President – with the Sock MARKET at an all time high, (no other President got the stock market to this level), coming out of the GREATEST RECESSION THE REPUBLICANS PUT THE WHOLE WORLD THROUGH, along with his handling of the economy, and all his other GREAT ACHIEVEMENTS since 2009 when he came into office, his approval rating would be in the HIGH 60%. Period!!!!! White old Republicans cannot stand that a black president is doing this well. That is why they are seeking and hunting a scandal everyday without any facts on their sides. What a disgrace.

    May 20, 2013 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  9. anonymous

    People act like Obama invented the food stamp program,

    While he didn't invent it, he did double the number of people on it by lowering the requirements. And of course, when you keep a record number of people unemployed for a record length of time, you sort of get blamed for them having to go on food stamps too. Like it or not, Obama IS the Food Stamp President.

    May 20, 2013 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  10. Time for change

    This is the only mention of the IRS, DOJ or Benghazi scandal on CNN today, and the only mention was "series of controversies". Liberal media at it's finest.

    May 20, 2013 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  11. Malory Archer


    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.


    Why were you even watching what "she" used to pay for her groceries, or did you do so just because was she one of "those people"? If anyone has "character" issues it's you.

    May 20, 2013 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  12. Thomas

    It's Monday , all the right wing neo coservative non profit cattle are posting again..

    Shame on the Democrats. Liars every one of them. This president is a total disgrace as well as the media that supported him.

    Palin Power ?
    Palin will be the best president the moose club has ever had is what your really saying ..

    Why do you people post here ? I'm sure there is a non profit neocon anger managment support group in your aria .Or did you lossers cut that funding also ?

    All I can say CNN is great photo of Bills hair.

    May 20, 2013 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  13. Malory Archer


    Shame on the rethugs. Liars every one of them. This congress is a total disgrace as well as the media that have supported and their so-called "scandals".


    May 20, 2013 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  14. reasonablebe

    given the hand obama was dealt, including the wars, economy in the tank, and recalcitrant gop that believes the most important thing on their agenda is to keep obama from succeeding at anything, despite what is in the nation's and people's best interest, i think mr. even temper is doing a good job. he would do better if he got even some gop co-operation or attempt at real negotiation.

    May 20, 2013 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  15. Motoxdoc

    @ sly........yup, what you nailed it!!!!!

    May 20, 2013 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  16. flatpicker

    Of course his ratings are the same. Liberals are like sheep.

    May 20, 2013 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  17. just askin

    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.

    16,000? "unemployment plumeting"?? We already had healthcare. US SEALS killed bin Laden, the wars had nothing to do with oil and the USA has suffered through numerous terrorist attacks while Obama has been President, one of which he calls "work place violence".

    Do you live on this planet or are you posting from Uranus?

    May 20, 2013 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  18. skytag

    Most, if not all administrations have had their scandals and failures, some worse than others. Somehow when people don't like the current president their memories fail them and suddenly no other president has been the disaster they want to believe the one they hate so irrationally is.

    Obama hasn't been a great president and his administration has had its less-than-shining moments, but if one compares it objectively and honestly with past administrations its performance hasn't been that bad at all.

    Nothing in this administration compares to Watergate, Nixon's enemies list, Reagan's Iran-Contra scandal, the Vietnam war, the Bay of Pigs, starting a trillion-dollar full blown unprovoked war to keep us safe from WMDs no one ever found, or the damage done to our economy while Bush was president. Obama's detractors seem to have forgotten all of that. (Or at least the problems that happened under Republican presidents. 😉

    May 20, 2013 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  19. may40

    Do you have a clue about the criminal acts Obama has committed? I guess you're all bullies, thugs and liars because birds of a feather flock together. My taxes are killing me and quite frankly I DON'T appreciate being targeted because I'm a conservative, but of course you libs are all for this because you are BULLIES and enjoy controlling others...try getting a life!!!!

    May 20, 2013 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  20. Steve

    Mallory archer. The great American. While the rest of us wait on her next opinion. Simple answer lady, She was argung over how much credit she got for the food credits. So everyone at the register heard it. You are unreal. You jump to conclusions without any basis of fact. Sound familair to what you accuse others of. Read your own posts.

    May 20, 2013 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  21. Blackman

    1000 comments but if you read them with open mind you will find out only few dozen of lazy American not sure of the age are busy commenting while keep changing their names. It will never help to improve your personal life by sitting the whole day complaining about current POTUS on the net. 4 dead in benghazi' so what ! Do you think those 4 lifes is most valuable than the life of your brother sister son uncle wife fiancee father mom neighbour who lost their life in 10 of thousands on unnecessary wars! Wakeup guys and do something better than that

    May 20, 2013 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  22. Francisco Decastro

    How many seats will Congress republicans lose on their next midterm election? If they lose a lot of seats, how much will the country change in the last 2 years of Obama's term? I believe Obama will try to get everything through in the last 2 years and the country will finally prosper much faster. If Obama was able to make it slowly better with all this opposition and republicans refusing or not voting on many of Obama's bills, I wonder how much it will prospoer with Congress on Obama's side? It will be the best thing this country can ever have. And then another democrat will win the next election once again.

    May 20, 2013 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  23. skytag

    @qar12: "Shame on the Democrats. Liars every one of them."

    How many examples of Republicans lying would you like me to give you?

    May 20, 2013 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  24. PushingBack

    This is great news for Obama and shows the American people, for the most part, see through what the GOP is trying to do. But comparing the two in this fashion does not take into account the other variables against Obama. Like inheriting troops on the ground in two wars, horrific unemployment and financial numbers coming in from the previous administration and the fact that our number one enemy abroad was still out there. But slowly Obama has been able to cut through these issues.

    May 20, 2013 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  25. may40

    Dear Wake up People0-are you for real? They don't make food stamps anymore? What the heck is wrong with you? Under this president there are more EBT's, and food stamps has at least doubled under Obama. Wow, I guess you liberals enjoy being clueless and uninformed. What an embarrassment!!!!!

    May 20, 2013 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
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