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. Chris

    The criminal Darrell Issa now leading the Benghazi investigation is the one that needs to be investigated for insurance fraud.

    May 20, 2013 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  2. JC

    A Chicago based firm owns ORC International; so, I don't trust the poling here is anyway accurate.

    May 20, 2013 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  3. Only want to know one thing

    Where are all the pictures of Obama and Clinton in the Situation Room the night our Americans in Benghazi were under attack and fighting for their lives? Where was he and what was he doing during these 8-9 hours? Why wasn't he doing ANYTHING to help them???

    May 20, 2013 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  4. Dean


    By Nov 2014 all the wars will be over, all the poor will have heath care ,and tens of millions of people will be getting generous tax subsidies to help pay for health care premiums----And the middle class workers ( about 30% of the population) will again be paying the bill for those healthcare of around $20,000 for a family of four, that in addition to the premiums will have a deductible of about $4000.00 before any benefits kick in and the co-pay will be as high as 40% for those with minimum coverage.

    May 20, 2013 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  5. vemaseku

    I don't trust these polls now a days ,media is partial and they can change numbers. if you investigate truth comes out.

    May 20, 2013 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  6. Anthony in California

    Can you detail why Obama is the worst President of all times,

    Seriously??? If you have to ask this ridiculous question after 4.5 years of this failure, there is no way you will comprehend the response detailing why he is the worse President of all times, BAR NONE. Please just take another sip of koolaide and enjoy your unemployment check.


    Still DID NOT answer the question.....

    AND FYI.. I am a veteran, a college grad, and happily make 6 figures.

    May 20, 2013 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  7. me123me

    Im sorry but Clinton has no chance whatsoever of being President. She proved her total incompetence with her handling of Bhengazi both before and after the bombing. This isnt the least bit surprising to some of us who dont have our heads in the sand. Although, anyone would be an improvement over the criminal in charge now.

    May 20, 2013 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  8. Gretchen

    I feel sorry for Obama. He has held up this far because he is so popular with the "journalists" out there and they don't want to have their name associated with writing anything negative about him. I don't think Obama expected to or really wanted to work this job for another four years.

    Clinton did help the country and he is a leader, I think he is proud to be an American & does love this country & care for this country.

    May 20, 2013 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  9. Rudy NYC

    anonymous wrote:

    "TONY – Can you detail why Obama is the worst President of all times,"

    Seriously??? If you have to ask this ridiculous question after 4.5 years of this failure, there is no way you will comprehend the response detailing why he is the worse President of all times, BAR NONE. Please just take another sip of koolaide and enjoy your unemployment check.
    Seriously. No one on the right wing offers an explanation, other than something to the effect that it is self-explantory, which is the same as no answer at all. It's a valid question. The right wing has been saying that since the end of the 2nd week of his first term when the January 2009 jobs figures came in at (750,000). The right wing has saying it ever since. Why?

    May 20, 2013 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  10. Bermille

    Go ahead and impreach Obama, republicans and see his approval rating shoot through the roof.

    May 20, 2013 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  11. JustAO

    Our economy is improving and the president is promoting prosperity and equal rights for Americans. What are the GOP talking about, Obama and how bad he is? Look GOP, you have been playing this broken record for 5 years now and all we want it for you to accept Americans have voted in a non-white president and start work on not blocking jobs bill that protect workers and consumers.

    I guess 2014 & 2016 you'll hopefully get the message when we vote more of you out of our government.

    May 20, 2013 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  12. Pete

    It's pretty simple: Americans support Obama because the economy has improved under his watch. No one has forgotten the economic mess he inherited. We were on the verge of the second great depression. But now after just four years, the stock market is hitting record highs, and unemployment continues to go down month after month. The Obama haters will hate. But as we see from these polls, most Americans think Obama is doing a pretty good job.

    May 20, 2013 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  13. DemocratFaithful

    I hear lots of talk comparing Obama to Nixon. At this point Obama is far worse than Nixon ever was. Obama is investigating reporters, having the IRS harass those politically opposed, cover-ups on terrorism and petty lies on a daily basis. Just trot out some flunky that knows nothing to the news shows to direct blame. Susan Rice and now that idiot on Sunday. Then you go and "promote" the person in charge of all that IRS crap to head up the ObamaCare taxes? This guy is using the government against his own people...for political gain! And he wants us to trust government? This guy ought to resign. Even Nixon wasn't this shady.

    May 20, 2013 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  14. smgm58

    To: Dominican mama 4 Obama, who wrote "Meanwhile the GOP couldn't even organize a decent "Tea Party".
    Stick that in your pot and sip it." Just an example of person with a low level of intelligence and maturity that blindly supports one person... as if that person is a god.

    It's too bad more people can't be objective and ignore whether someone has an R or D behind their name. Right is right and wrong is wrong. I think supporters of both parties could come closer to meeting in the middle on certain issues if both felt like the other was being reasonable. The IRS actions are wrong. The Benghazi situation was wrong. The Justice Department's actions were wrong. This is not to say that Obama is personnally responsible, but in the real world, the head honcho must answer to the wrongs and make certain they are properly addressed. If not, all tax-paying Americans have a lot to worry about ... not for ourselves, but the future of our children and grandchildren.

    May 20, 2013 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  15. AmiyunweahCherokee

    Chris-Trumped up mountains from molehills hmm? What if I were to say "a certain group of people REALLY don't want it to be known that they fiananced sarin gas being transported through lybia on that fine evening in bengahzi? Can you say....bye bye communist left....bye bye. Watch em squirm!

    May 20, 2013 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  16. wluv777

    No Obama vs Bush II comparisons. GOP are scared to do that one.

    May 20, 2013 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  17. Liberal Sense (Or lack thereof)

    Obama administration spied on Fox News reporter James Rosen:
    This administration is chest deep in it and it's getting higher.

    May 20, 2013 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  18. jamesww7

    The GOP seems to specialize in manufacturing crisis that do not really exist. The embassy attack, we will probably never know everything about what happened. That why it is called terrorism. The IRS, largely lower level employees who disagreed with a certain philosophy. We have that in Colorado with county sheriffs who do not agree with gun laws so they do not plan on enforcing them. Sorry guys but you took an oath to uphold the law whether or not you like it. The AP records. Seems to me that George W did a good job of shredding the 4th amendment with the Patriot Act and the molest downs we have to go through at the airport. Obamacare, look back on the implementation of Medicare, Social Security and any major program. Look at your own companies when they put in a major restructuring plan. In all cases there are bumps in the road. Here we have a congress that is adding bumps to see how much harm they can do. Perhaps we need congress persons to wear NASCAR jackets showing all of the people who they are owned by so we can really see who they support. Take your tin foil hats off and drop the great conspiracy theories.

    May 20, 2013 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  19. wluv777

    Do a Obama vs Bush II comparison. Why compare him and skip over his predecessor?

    May 20, 2013 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  20. AmiyunweahCherokee

    When are YOU PEOPLE going to understand...Bush Clinton and obama are ALL on the same team. They are ALL communists!!!

    May 20, 2013 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  21. jaime

    I've never met someone whom I considered to be intelligent unless they're a bit paranoid. I don't care if you have an IQ of 180 and think our president is amazing because of what is on paper. Intelligent people understand they have cloth over their eyes, the same as the rest of us. Intelligent folk are not privy to information that others aren't able to access. All of you folks who trust our leaders to be forthright because you voted them are being willfully ignorant. Things don't need to be on paper for you to surmise what the truth may be. It boggles my mind that so many "smart people" think he can do no wrong. They won't say it, but ask them about any issue and there will be an excuse. People are so used to corruption they will excuse their leaders as long as they represent their interests. It's quite sad.

    May 20, 2013 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  22. Msanders

    Hey much of the stock market rally can be linked to inflation of the US dollar that nobody seems to want to do anything about? Spending is out of control. This country is not going in the right direction.

    May 20, 2013 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  23. Pat

    Pete stated it quite well: Obama inherited a mess, got it fixed, has the country on a positive track while his opponents have added no value. Why wouldn't Obama's numbers be up?

    May 20, 2013 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  24. We Like Ike

    We've never had a president who was impeached, Nixion resigned before it could happen. Andrew Johnson was 1 vote away.

    May 20, 2013 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  25. n222s

    Obama, bad, Obama, great, Bush bad, Clinton, bad, Clinton good, blah, blah, blah.

    Every day, the same thing, over and over and over again. I have to ask; what would it take for progressives and liberals to view Obama negatively? I don't ask the obvious opposite question because you'll get a lot of horrible things said.

    The reasoon I'm asking the question in that way is for one purpose; could your faith in Obama every be used against you or the country? I have no reason to believe Obama is an evil person. But lets say 3 presidents down the road. If a progressive/liberal Prez said we had to round up people who disagreed with him, would you support putting them in camps or eliminating them?

    When would you say STOP? Just curious. Should conservatives be put into camps, or worse?

    May 20, 2013 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
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