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. abbot

    Its great to see sheeps thinking that the stock market is up so our ecconomy is good. Most of these people dont know how the stock markets work and many of them dont even own stocks.

    May 20, 2013 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  2. Name

    Liberal idiots, do you realize that the IRS targeted republican groups, and made it near impossible to get their rightfully so tax exempt status! Do you not realize this is WRONG! CNN has not reported hardly anything about all of the WRONG thing this administration has done because its a pupet for the White House.

    May 20, 2013 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  3. Malory Archer


    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.


    So in other words, you're making this us as you go along! LOL!

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

    I don't understans what the big deal is whether one approves or disapproves of Obama's performance either way he's going to be the president for the next 3 and half plus years then he rides off into the sunset to be replaced by another rich bozo.

    May 20, 2013 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  5. GUTSY333

    Keep on going Mr. President Obama, this whitie (I) voted for you and you fulfilled my dreams, thank you so much! VIVA PRESIDENT OBAMA, RA RA RA :))))))))))) A TRIED AND TRUE LEADERS 🙂 CHEERS DEAR BROTHERS AND SISTERS!

    May 20, 2013 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  6. skytag

    @anonymous: "While he didn't invent [the Food Stamp program], he did double the number of people on it by lowering the requirements."

    This is a lie. The increase in the number of people on it was a direct result of the recession that started 13 months before he took office, not because he did anything to allow more people to qualify for it. By the time he took office 4.4 million jobs had already been lost and the highest month for job losses was the month he took office. How can you people be so dishonest about what really happened when everyone knows the truth?

    "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."

    The is nothing more than rhetoric that has no basis in fact. There is no reason to believe Obama has "kept" people unemployed. Recovery has been slow for reasons well known to people who have taken the time to learn the causes of the financial crisis and the damage it did to our economy. I see nothing honorable in denying those realities in such an unbridled attempt to blame Obama for everything in the country you don't like.

    It always takes several years to recover from large financial crises. Always. The unemployment rate was 7.5% when Reagan first took office in January 1981. 43 months later, in August 1984, the unemployment rate was 7.5%. Reagan was in office five years before the unemployment rate dropped below 7%, and almost seven years before it stayed below 6%. There is only so much influence any president can have over the economy.

    Finally, Republicans have done everything they can to block Obama's attempts to help the recovery and their constant negativity about it only undermines consumer confidence. Whether you agree with his ideas or not, the fact is that you can't legitimately claim he's failed if he hasn't been given a free hand to try his ideas. You can't have it both ways. If you want him to bear all the responsibility you have to let him do things his way, and we know Republicans haven't done that.

    May 20, 2013 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  7. ezduzit757

    Not a fair comparrisonm, really. Clinton didn't have it quite as bad as Obama. Obama came into office with two wars going and the economy in absolute free fall. Not to mention Clinton was white, so the Republicans didn't hate him with quite as much passion as they hate Obama and they didn't obstruct quite as much as they do now.

    May 20, 2013 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  8. ronjayaz

    As Sarah Palin suggested during the last elections: "Go rogue." Will the Dems mention 9/11 when we lost 3,000 plus! Benghazi was a tea party (oops!) by comparison.

    May 20, 2013 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  9. Peoples State of Illinois


    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!
    I have observed similar activities in supermarkets as you. The mallory archers of the world are just racists. There are quite a few of them on the CNN blog.

    May 20, 2013 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  10. Realconservative

    What a joke! Do you blind libs really believe these numbers?
    Let me see!
    Guns to Mexico with a US border guard as a sacrifice.
    Benghazi cover-up
    IRS harassment of conservative groups.
    AP wiretaps.
    Troops sent into Libya with no congressional approval.
    It goes on and on.

    May 20, 2013 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  11. The Real Tom Paine


    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!!!!
    This coming from the party that transformed us into the greatest debtor nation on earth, and still refuses to admit it? Please. We're holding you accountable for almost fatally undermining the greatest nation on earth: you should be thanking us what you've not been able to outsource.

    May 20, 2013 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  12. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    YES! YES! YES to what Nodack said May 20, 2013 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm .
    YESSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!! And thank you!

    May 20, 2013 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  13. The Real Tom Paine


    Its great to see sheeps thinking that the stock market is up so our ecconomy is good. Most of these people dont know how the stock markets work and many of them dont even own stocks.
    The word is spelled " economy": by the way, my portfolio is doing great. Still working as a Wal-Mart greeter?

    May 20, 2013 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  14. skytag

    @flatpicker: "Of course his ratings are the same. Liberals are like sheep."

    It seems to me the biggest sheep of all are the people who troll the Internet bashing liberals because that's all their shepherds have trained them to do.

    For years I warned his rabid detractors about their obsession for attacking and demonizing him over every offense, real or imagined, no matter how insignificant. You people have only yourselves to blame for the fact no one outside your choir takes your criticisms of Obama seriously. You destroyed your credibility when you made it clear you would attack him over the most trivial non-issues, revealing the fact that your opposition to him is personal and without any legitimate policy basis.

    Sean Hannity did a piece attacking Obama because of the kind of mustard he likes. His detractors have made countless snide remarks because he plays golf, even though he plays no more golf than many presidents, including Dwight D. Eisenhower, who had a putting green installed on the White House grounds. He's been attacked for not releasing his school records even though no president has released his school records and virtually not presidential candidates have. (Bush did not release his, they were leaked.) He has been attacked for taking vacations even though he has not spent as many days on vacation as some other presidents at the same point in their presidencies, such as Reagan and Bush, the latter of whom spent more time on vacation than any president, including FDR who was president for 12 years.

    Over and over again you people have attacked this president relentlessly over issues that aren't even issues to any rational thinking person. How many times did you people think you could cry "Wolf!" and still be taken seriously?

    May 20, 2013 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  15. skytag

    @abbot: "Its great to see sheeps thinking that the stock market is up so our ecconomy is good. Most of these people dont know how the stock markets work and many of them dont even own stocks."

    What about the sheep who insist the economy was good for the first six years under Bush even though it was propped up by a dramatic rise in deficit spending, skyrocketing consumer debt, and a housing bubble?

    May 20, 2013 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  16. VstarGuy

    Comparing Obama and Clinton is a grossly unfair comparison. Obama works in the OVAL office where as Slick Willie
    did his thing in his ORAL office! Obama has more class in his little finger than Clinton has in his whole body!
    Obama will be remembered as one of our greatest Presidents...Clinton will be remembered as one of our sleaziest presidents. BTW, I'm a white you bigots out there, don't try to put a racial spin on this.

    May 20, 2013 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  17. We Like Ike

    Dynasty was the desperatehousewives of its day, as you see on here everyone has their own fav politcal dynasty season.

    May 20, 2013 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  18. We Like Ike

    Thanks steve for taking us off topic, do you pay in gold or ride a horse? and I for one find Mallory Archer to be Hot!

    May 20, 2013 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  19. The REAL Truth...

    @Steve – But it is disheartning to be in line at Kroger and watch food stamps being handed for payment and then groceries loaded in a new Mercedes. But this is age old issue that this country must address. It is time for some folks to become accountable for themselves again.
    It IS an age-old issue. Nothing new. It was happening 30 yrs ago too. Seen it. Watched a ladypay for food with food stamps, walk out to her Jag parked in the Handicap spot up front. No kidding. Probably the local Mayor's wife. Some people know how to game the system. That doesn't mean that 47% of the population are living off the Govt. I'm sure there are there those that do, but I've only ever met one (tho heard of a number). The lady in question was forced to because her husband had Parkinson's. Insurance wouldn't pay, so to get medical coverage she had to quit her job to qualify for Medicaid or be bankrupt in about 6 months. I know she is NOT gaming the system, but had no choice. Do it or husband would be dead soon.

    May 20, 2013 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  20. skytag

    @may40: "They don't make food stamps anymore? What the heck is wrong with you?"

    I love it when the trained bots on the right belittle liberals when they are correct. No, we don't have "food stamps" anymore. The program still exists, but the "stamps" don't. The "food stamp" program is called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and it uses an Electronic Transfer Benefit (ETB) card that works like a debit card instead of the old stamps the program used to use. So it is correct to say we don't have "food stamps" anymore.

    "Under this president there are more EBT's, and food stamps has at least doubled under Obama."

    The "under Obama" argument is a known form of logical fallacy because correlation is not proof of causastion. Just because something happens "under" a president doesn't mean he has any responsibility for it. The attacks on 9/11 happened "under" George Bush. The housing crisis happened under Bush. The worst economic crisis since the Great Depression happened under Bush. Do blame Bush for all of those things as well?

    The number of people on SNAP has risen dramatically as a direct result of the financial crisis and recession that started more than a year before Obama took office. It's intellectually dishonest in the extreme to ignore that well known reality and try to pin it on Obama simply because he was there when it happened.

    "Wow, I guess you liberals enjoy being clueless and uninformed. What an embarrassment!!!!!"

    You do not strengthen your position belittling liberals, you weaken it, because such comments only make you appear to be trying to compensate for feelings of inferiority.

    May 20, 2013 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  21. The REAL Truth...

    @skytag – Over and over again you people have attacked this president relentlessly over issues that aren't even issues to any rational thinking person. How many times did you people think you could cry "Wolf!" and still be taken seriously?
    Thank you. Best explanation to the sheeple I've read in a long time!

    May 20, 2013 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  22. skytag

    @Realconservative: "What a joke! Do you blind libs really believe these numbers?"

    People who lead off comments with cheap shots at liberals do so because they don't have valid arguments.

    "Let me see!
    Guns to Mexico with a US border guard as a sacrifice."

    There is no evidence that he was killed by a gun obtained through the Fast and Furious program, and no rational reason to believe the perpetrators in that crime wouldn't have been able to get guns from other sources in the absence of the program.

    Honestly, do you think the Fast and Furious program was any more egregious than selling arms illegally to Iran the way the Reagan administration did to raise money for the Contras in Nicaragua after Congress refused to fund them?

    How many Americans died in Iraq because of the last president's foolish decision to start a war there? In case you don't remember, it was 4,500. Are you 4,500 times as outraged about that as you are the death of one border patrol officer? If not I can't take your outrage over the latter seriously.

    May 20, 2013 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  23. skytag

    @Realconservative: "Benghazi cover-up"

    Much ado about nothing. Mistakes were made, as mistakes are made in all administrations. The administration tried to downplay them in light of the upcoming election. I don't condone that, as it wasn't honest, but it's not like they tried to cover up overtly illegal activities on their part as was the case with Watergate and Iran-Contra.

    May 20, 2013 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  24. skytag

    @Realconservative: "Benghazi cover-up""IRS harassment of conservative groups."

    Where is the evidence this was done at the behest of the administration? If you want to see real abuse of power targeting political enemies look into Nixon's enemies list. Nixon had the FBI doing background checks on political enemies looking for dirt they could use against them.

    May 20, 2013 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  25. skytag

    @Realconservative: "AP wiretaps."

    As I understand it there were no wiretaps.

    "Troops sent into Libya with no congressional approval."

    I've seen no evidence we sent troops to Libya.

    May 20, 2013 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
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