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. TONY

    What are you talking about, when bush lie about going to war, outed a CIA agent i did not hear any noise. Another thing is, the democrats have always presided over a good economy the republicans never, it is always a tanked economy when they come out of office.

    May 20, 2013 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  2. Lenny Pincus

    AH, ha ha hah. "Clinton started to work with Congress." Ah ha ha hah. Congress impeached him. Clinton eventually departed office extremely popular, and Congress has been regarded poorly ever since.

    Now Republicans are clutching their pearls and trying to do it again. Good luck. Meanwhile, Obama's popularity is at 53% and rising.

    May 20, 2013 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  3. Nelson Colorado Springs Co

    President Obama is doing a great job as President Of The United State Of American, With all the bullsh–t that going on from the teaparty, attack in Benghazi and collection of phone records. For as the weaparty whing the IRS are doing there job checking out who needs a C4 and America need to think back to President Bush on Benghazi . If the Associated Press had givien up the phone records when asked. America don't believe the hype talking point.. Go President Obama

    May 20, 2013 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  4. zotquix

    Amazingly people actually respond to good leadership and are able to filter out all the GOP noise.

    May 20, 2013 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  5. Chris

    Since when did polls matter? Is Obama running for a 3rd term?

    May 20, 2013 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  6. Johnny DC

    And how did that work out for Clinton's party shortly thereafter, CNN? For the first time in decades, the GOP wound up with full control of both elected branches of government.

    May 20, 2013 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  7. PeterD

    President Obama Lectures Morehouse Graduates "No Time for Excuses". At tha same time he and Eric Holder are making all kind of Excuses over IRS, Bengazhi, AP Spying and many more.

    May 20, 2013 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |

    I am sick and tired of all this fighting. I hope the Republicans are thrown out of office in the next election. The have slowed down the two most important bills jobs and immigration. Thee American people want these taken care of this is why the voted for Obama. Now the Republicans only interest is to slow down Obama and who knows have him impeached? I don't understand where they the Republicans are is because he is a democrat or humm probably because he is a Black man who happens to be president. Shame on the Republicans Shame Shame

    May 20, 2013 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  9. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    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".
    Actually they are doing BOTH.

    May 20, 2013 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  10. al

    I believe that a lot of voters are just getting sick and tired of all the BS from the republicans and their negative approach to governing. Yes, I am not happy about the IRS and AP issues but it is not such a horrible scandal as the republicans are trying to make it out to be.

    May 20, 2013 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  11. TONY

    @ DAVE
    Can you detail why Obama is the worst President of all times, or that would be too hard a task for your litte brains.

    May 20, 2013 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  12. ABarker

    All the poll speaks to is that liberals and democrats have no more morals and values that that of the people they want in office.

    May 20, 2013 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  13. Thatguy371

    I laugh at those questioning the reality of the actual figures quoted in the article. Just like I laugh at repubs in general for not waking up and realizing that being jaded and bitter old relics will never give them a platform to sustain their party. Oh well, fine with me. Just makes a bigger chance we'll finally make some progress in fixing this nation. I don't agree with everything Obama has done... but I am certainly on board with the majority of it. It's called progress, repubs. Time you got new parts for your brains and got with the program.

    May 20, 2013 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  14. Phillyrules

    Clinton did not pontificate like this current president. He is imminently more likable than King Barack. When Clinton spoke, you always felt like he was having a dialog with the people. When Obama speaks, it's like he's admonishing the people for not agreeing with him. I can't wait until 2016 when hopefully we'll again see a president who relates to the people. It just goes to show you that intellect is no substitute for communication.

    May 20, 2013 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  15. ChalupaBatman

    Lesson: You can do anything as a Democrat, and come out smelling like roses.

    May 20, 2013 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  16. JLS639

    Given the relative states of the economy in 1997 v. 2013, I do not think this is a good comparison.

    May 20, 2013 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  17. T

    .....How about comparing CONGRESSIONAL approval ratings to..............a DEAD SKUNK..................

    May 20, 2013 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  18. Just sayin

    Guess people just like President Obama because he's smart, thoughtful and principled.

    May 20, 2013 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  19. just sayin

    Lesson: You can do anything as a Democrat, and come out smelling like roses.

    because you have the left wing controlled lsm acting as his cheer leader and doing nothing but spouting the democrat party line and attacks on opponents. the lsm endlessly attacked bush for things that they give obama a complete pass on. they participated in the benghazi cover up so obama wouldn't have it affect him in the election.

    May 20, 2013 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  20. are122

    Bill Clinton's economy was booming and debt non-existent. Obama is just the opposite, an all around failure.

    May 20, 2013 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  21. Respect101

    Wow, it sounds like a girls locker room in here ! Obama cheerleaders.

    May 20, 2013 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  22. Dominican mama 4 Obama



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

    is that because it doesn't fit your viewpoint? if it said Obama's ratings were tanking, would you be screaming "see how bad Obama is?" as a validation of the results?
    In the vernacular of the day: And you know this, maaaaaaaan!!!

    May 20, 2013 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  23. OnceUponATimeInAmerica

    "Listen, I did not have sexual relations with that woman..." and the rest was history and ammo for the GOP and many a late night talk show host and comedians alike.

    I like Mr. Clinton, but damn, why lie about that? He should have just (pardon the expression), came clean with it and moved on.

    When you error, don't back-track, erase and/or play on words. Integrity is a must when sitting on Mt. Olympus and the same goes for the underlings working there.

    May 20, 2013 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |

    what is your opinion? You only comment on someone's comment?
    Like me I comment on your LOL

    May 20, 2013 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  25. liberal hypocrite = redundancy

    considering all they do is poll hard core libs, this is bullpucky to say the least

    May 20, 2013 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
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