Second-term polls: How do Obama and Clinton compare?
May 20th, 2013
11:21 AM ET
1 year 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. Guest

    Which one lies most?

    May 20, 2013 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  2. joyce

    JustAO and Pete you have it right.

    May 20, 2013 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  3. SeeThruIt2

    You can't compare the two Presidents with the examples sited.

    Obama faces issues concerning the competency of his administration. Regardless of whether he personally knew of these events prior or not, it's his selected people in charge or responsible thru them that we have Bengazhi, IRS and AP as brewing scandals.

    Clinton with the Monica issue was just sex for the tabloids. The Republicans were just wrong to raise that to the level of impeachment hearings. It was not worthy of hearings on the competency of the entire Clinton administration.

    May 20, 2013 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  4. Just a Question

    So will Obama and the Democrats get blamed when millions of Americans have their hours reduced from 40 a week to 28 hours a week in order to avoid having to pay for Obamacare and ultimately risk going out of business? Of course not, because Obama and the Democrats and their pawns in the LSM will blame it all on those evil greedy businesses.

    And then of course, there is the over 50 employee mega-penalty to businesses. That will sure help get this employment problem solved right? Obamacare will ensure that full time jobs are a thing of the past for small companies. They will employ small armies of part timers. People beteer get used to having 2-3 part time jobs thanks to Obamacare.

    May 20, 2013 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  5. We Like Ike

    As for Clinton, he is the 1st president in US history to balance our nation's debt.
    All the best presidents sleep around

    May 20, 2013 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  6. JoeP

    Meals on wheels being cut, food stamps cut, assistance cut, more pressure on the middle class. Obama is no better than Bush.

    May 20, 2013 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  7. logicalboomer81

    Those that claim that Obama is "divisive" need to step back and look at the facts.

    This president was targeted from the begining for failure. Imagine starting a new job where half of your staff have decided in advance not to support anything that you do. This is what the house republicans have done.

    As a conservative, I certainly do not agree with many of the president's policies, but I try to look at things factually and logically.

    May 20, 2013 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  8. yem

    I really do not care at all about Obama's numbers. If only the GOP leaders let him do his job. They need to create jobs instead of hammering Obama for this and that. What is going to happen to all those who are graduating now. Why don't they call him on creating jobs? They all say it is their priority. All they are trying to do is dismantle what he did. I wish GOP leaders work with Obama to create jobs for the sake of the country. Obama is reelected and he is here to serve his time.

    May 20, 2013 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  9. brian

    Clinton was a moderate who I will be glad to go back to anyday. Obama is a radical. I hope America is still recoverable after 3 years of his tyranny and dirty politics.

    May 20, 2013 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  10. Anonymous

    Chet wrote: " If this was going on while a Republican was in office the yelling and screaming would be deafening! But seeing how as it is a Democrat things seem on an even keel! AMAZING!"

    You mean like how Republicans are yelling and screaming about their 3 manufactured "scandals?" Spare us the liberal bias victimhood crap. Newsflash: the majority of America isn't buying it, and truth be told, it never has.

    May 20, 2013 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  11. KEEF

    Both are amazing men. I can't think of any other President since Carter that was any better. Hopefully Hillary will take the throne in 2016!

    May 20, 2013 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  12. reality check

    Clinton didn't actually balanced the budget, he simply moved money around to make it appear balanced.

    May 20, 2013 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  13. Jim in MS

    Johnson and Clinton were both impeached (had trials). Both were aquitted.

    May 20, 2013 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  14. MGB2012

    Well said Pete, that is about all it comes down to. Had Obama been a white President than those same folks would have appauled what he was able to accomplish given the number of challenges he inherited from the previous administration. Frankly I cannot even remember a president in my 50 plus years of having to deal with so many major issues all at once.

    African Americans also know that the first one among us in anything is scurtinized beyond compare and so to this is the case with the first African American President. I expect the same will be true if Hillary Clinton was elected to this office. If and when it happens I will support her regardless of color. So go on haters, keep hating and live in past if you want to, cause the rest of us (i.e. majority) are just going to move on.

    America's greatness has always been centered on its diversity and willingness to grow with where it takes us, any move to temper that will hurt us all. God Bless America!

    May 20, 2013 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  15. ken

    53% popularity despite the Repubs branding him as a failure. hmmm....unemployment no bad, stocks amazing, a war winding down, I feel positive about the direction of this country. maybe we should put Bush back in and see what happens.

    May 20, 2013 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  16. billybob

    President Obama ended two war and killed Osama bin Laden. Bush started two wars, one needlessly. I would say President Obama is a better president than George W Bush was. His rating is up to 53% in this poll, from 51% in the last poll. Keep up the good work Mr President.

    May 20, 2013 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  17. mgc6288

    Clinton did NOT balance the budget. First, the Republican Congress had the power of the purse, but all that was balanced was the ledgers as the money was taken from YOUR social security to pay the debt.

    May 20, 2013 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  18. Rudy NYC

    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?
    ----–
    The right wing are foolish to think that you will EVER get any answer to those questions. Where were Bush and Cheney hiding out on every 9/11 anniversary? Do you really think that they're gonna make those answers public knowledge?

    May 20, 2013 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  19. vs101

    Considering the fact that Obama has to contend with party comitted to his failure at any cost, supported by a base that is virulently racist and hate him with a homocidal passion, the achievements he has accomplished despite these enormous handicaps is stunning. I was and continue to be a supporter of Clinton and he had his share of haters, but he did not have to deal with blatant racism.

    May 20, 2013 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  20. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    smgm58
    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
    -------------------------------------------------
    He has. Just not to your satisfaction.
    Insofar as your personal comments regarding someone you've never met: I hope you feel better dear.

    May 20, 2013 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  21. Balls of Steel

    Equally f'ed up. You think the job market is doing well? Unless you have the luxury of telling your boss to take the job and shove it, the the job market is not doing well.

    May 20, 2013 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  22. anonymous

    obama supporters are more personality cult followers than approvers of his actual performance. they like him because they think he is cool and hangs out with celebrities.

    May 20, 2013 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  23. Chris

    Right now it doesn't matter. What matters the most is how much did Obama know about the illegal arms deal with Mexican drug cartels that cost us an American agents life, how much did he know and participate in the lack of protection in Bengazi that cost us an American representatives life, how much did he know and approve of the IRS working against people who have different ideas than Obama and his liberal base that is even now costing us millions of dollars in handouts throughout the world, and how much did he know and approve of the illegal information gathering of a news agency? THIS is what matters now, forget Clinton and his impeachment.

    May 20, 2013 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  24. Tanking

    We Like Ike, Do you even know who Andrew Jackson is? He's pretty much the last legit president we had that fought the banks/fed and paid off all debts.

    May 20, 2013 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  25. Marie MD

    Clinton was from what seems a long ago era where congress worked together for the good of country and repugs in congress weren't as hateful.
    Clinton was also called the "first black president" but President Obama IS the first black president so that makes all the difference for the haters and birthers.

    May 20, 2013 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
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