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. The REAL Truth...

    Made in the USA by Barack Obama – "manufactured scandals"????
    Benghazi – 4 Americans killed. Yes. The first such attack in almost 5 yrs. There were 13 such attacks under Bush, some of which occurred TWICE at the same location. NOT ONE INQUIRY on those attacks, and over 60 deaths! Manufactured by Republican led CIA and GOP doctored emails.

    AP – Perfectly legal under the Patriot Act and NDAA, both passed by the Bush Administration. "Unprecedented" yes due to the severity of the National Security leak, "trampling their 1st Amendment rights" does not include protection of treasonous activity.

    IRS – IRS did NOT ADMIT targeting Obama's political opponents. They admitted and reported (almost a YEAR ago) that conservative groups with words such as "tea" or "patriot" in their name were scrutinized more thoroughly than others. We all know that this had nothing to do with tax-exempt status and more about pushing the envelope to see if they could get away with HIDING DONOR names (violations of law, BTW) they were given extra scrutiny. None were denied if the doc was provided.

    So absolutely manufactured scandals. Convenient timing, and that these scandals rely on the extreme bigotry and ignorance exhibited by red state right wing voters who are too busy looking to blame someone for the predicament they themselves created, rather than working toward a solution. Many of us are really tired of the endless unfounded fusillade of garbage being thrown at the POTUS.

    May 20, 2013 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  2. just sayin

    The REAL Truth...
    Meanwhile they had done absolutely NOTHING for the country, blocking and filibustering all positive legislation and calling the POTUS the great divider.

    republicans are also elected representatives of the people. they are entitled to vote against any legislation they believe is not in the best interests of their country or constituents. "positive legislation" is legislation that has broad support, and thus easy passage. from the start, obama and the democrats showed they were not interested in that approach when they force fed obamacare to the country on a partisan vote. obama has proven himself an incompetent politician when it comes to working with republicans. he thinks he was elected to a dictator position where he can brow beat other elected representives into submission. is is the primary reason he will go down as a great failure. he just just doesn't know how to develop relationships and work with people. he just knows how to attack and demonize them to try and force them to do as he says.

    May 20, 2013 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  3. rhondakelly

    Under Obama more of our solders are dead, 5 years later they are still fighting , both houses voted for war. and now Americians and Africians are getting Droned, in fast and Furious, He and Eric Holder sold guns to drug cartel, 65,000 dead mexicians, GO OBAMA

    May 20, 2013 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  4. josh rogen

    it is amazing how the media continues to cover for this administration, Nixon was forced to resign for less. I don't know if its political bias or racism that keeps this crook in office, but it's amazing how little people value the political, and social freedoms of those they disagree with, even as they themselves are having their rights violated.. At the VERY least we as a nation owe Richard Nixon an apology. it appears the things he was vilified for are now considered par for the course and no big deal.

    May 20, 2013 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  5. Just Plain Stupid

    I doubt that 80% of the people that responded to this poll and gave Obama a positive review could even state one thing that he had accomplished. We have become a nation of reality TV idiots with little or no expectations of our President.

    May 20, 2013 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  6. John McMath

    This is something that I have difficulty believing. CNN/ORC International published a poll today that gives President Obama a 53% approval rating. This supposedly was just taken. It Supposedly comes after last weeks IRS debacle. What is important is that they do not publish the number of respondents(size of the survey) nor do they publish the demographic. It is easy to get the results you want in a statistical survey if you limit the size and demographic. Example if you poll 8,000(total number poled) people in California, Illinois, and New York; you will get a different result from 8,000 people poled in equal number from all 50 states. it looks like creative accounting to me . . .I'm just say'n . . .

    May 20, 2013 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  7. Wake up People!

    I think it is very unfair to compare the two. I adore both, but let's face it. The GOP didn't have a secret meeting plotting to take President Clinton down. They also didn't state their #1 goal was to make him a one term POTUS. Regardless of political affiliation, President Clinton looks just like the rest of them, which makes him ok for the job. President Obama doesn't. Therefore he is incompetent in their eyes. And the MSM is nothing but a farce.

    May 20, 2013 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  8. Thom

    Why not compare Obama's second year rates to George W. Bush's second year? Who comes out on top?

    May 20, 2013 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  9. Babyboomer

    We now live in a 24/7 news cycle with smart phones, Facebook, Twitter, Google,Blogs, etc., etc., etc. Any President trying to govern in this day and age has much more to deal with then any of our former Presidents did. When you couple that with being met by nothing but opposition to anything he's tried to accomplish for the past 4.5 years because of all the not so hidden reasons, there simply is no comparison. If we really want to look at second term comparisons, let's look at President Bush's second term compared to President Obama's. Bin Laden still on the lose, 2 unfunded wars, thousands of lives lost, 900K jobs being lost per month, stock market at 6K and falling, housing market at an all time low, etc., etc., etc., Now those were some "SCANDALS". Who went to jail for those??? I'll wait...

    May 20, 2013 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  10. James PDX

    n22s said:

    Is there anything coming out of the Obama administration that progressives won't swallow completely?

    Exactly what is the difference between a liberal and a progressive? I am a moderate liberal and have yet to meet anything that I could qualify as a progressive.

    May 20, 2013 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |

    And like Clinton Obama will remain and throughout his presidency...and will be a force for Democrats post presidency as well...Repubs cant stand the president s popularity...hes like teflon!

    May 20, 2013 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  12. Steve

    I do miss the SNL spoofs when Bill was in office. If anyone deserved the title 'Slick Willie' it was him. Watching him be first Lady er...first Man if Hillary runs and wins would be comic relief which I think more of with him than anything else.

    May 20, 2013 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  13. wayne

    No one cares about Benghazi..or the IRS nontraversy. None of which were Obama's direct doing. Clinton on the other hand had no one to blame but himself.

    May 20, 2013 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  14. Alina77

    I just came from Europe and I don't like what I saw there (talking about the job situation).. I will tell you this, I don't care about these scandals because it happens all the time but I do care about the economy , wars and jobs and I think that the economical growth (unfortunately) has nothing to do with the Republicans party . The President is doing a good job holding the economy steady , he would do much better if Republican party would help him instead of making this President look bad all the time. I don't think that Republicans will win anything bigger then couple Congressional seats (for about 20 years) for sure.

    May 20, 2013 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  15. Steve

    The truth will come out. It normally always does eventually. I do not think we are at a place to be judging his legacy as there is a lot of time left and much more information we will all have to process.

    May 20, 2013 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  16. The REAL Truth...

    @just sayin – republicans are also elected representatives of the people. they are entitled to vote against any legislation they believe is not in the best interests of their country or constituents. "positive legislation" is legislation that has broad support,
    Agreed with the first part. However, "positive legislation" is in the eye of the beholder and "broad support" (based on Nov numbers) is at most, less than 48% of the country – a MINORITY. In many educated folks views, constantly adding DEFENSE SPENDING increases (we know how much the GOP loves the military/industrial complex's contributions), ENTITLEMENT CUTTING (they've tried to kill SS/Medicare for 60+ yrs, while raiding it's funding surpluses) and ANTI-ABORTION riders (in violation of current Federal Laws) to EVERY piece of legislation departing the GOP-led House, then blaming Reid for not bringing it to the Senate floor is REALLY, really old news.

    The Republican ideology of supply-side, trickle-down you're on your own economic policies proved to be an abject disaster from 2000-2008. Ignoring warnings (much like he did with 9/11) from prominent economists and his own party, Bush forged ahead with unfunded tax cuts and Medicare Part D. I'll not mention the 2 unfunded wars he started. That, along with 4.2 million jobs and a completely useless House, was what Obama inherited. FIVE yrs later, even businesses are tired of mud being flung at Obama by the GOP (and moving ahead WITHOUT jobs legislation). He's not perfect, but image in the almost TRILLION dollars the GOP spent on trying to elect an empty suit had been used to decrease the Nat'l Debt – yes, the same Debt Bush DOUBLED in just 8 short years.

    Your argument holds no water.

    May 20, 2013 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  17. he's all right

    Obama is doing all right. Those who want to hate, will hate. These latest issues won't last long (even if you hate him). He could be doing better, but no worse than the Congress. They are really suffering in the public view.

    May 20, 2013 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  18. i'malib

    I get more free stuff under obama, so he is better.

    May 20, 2013 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  19. JJ

    Bill reached across the aisle; this president doesn't ahve a clue what he's doing.
    Where's Bill when you need him?

    May 20, 2013 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  20. ManWithThe1000PoundBrain

    When Clinton was president, he was investigated for everything under the sun and nothing ever panned out–expect for the Lewinsky scandal. But, by then, the public was so fed up with the investigations and the obvious political nature of them, that when the GOP moved to impeach him, Clinton's approval ratings soared to the highest levels of his entire presidency and he left office with the highest end of term ratings of any president. Will the GOP overplay their hands again? I know they are salivating but, as was true under Clinton, the public wants Congress to also get to the business of running the country which is not at all what they have had as a priority since Obama has been in office.

    May 20, 2013 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  21. SuperD

    Obama is so useless, I don't understand why we have him in the first place.

    Nothing is ever his fault, he takes repsonsibility for nothing, he does not lead, does not know how too. All of his solutions are nothing but more progressive, big govt. solutions, he has absolutely no imagination. He cannot compromise. He is a narcissitic jerk, who gets more credit for nothing and people still think he's the best thing since sliced bread.

    Here we are with serious scandals. Can you imagine the paper schredder is about to over heat? I do. One thing though, after claiming that he doesn't know anything about anything, he's basically saying..."I am not corrupt, but I am incompetant"

    May 20, 2013 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  22. brian thetford

    ughhh Clinton's only issue was he was a politician. Campaign finance, and a romp in the oval office in no way shape or form compares with the Justice Department grabbing info on reporters, people covering up the facts on an international incident where Americans were killed, or defending the IRS for singling out adversaries. No, Obama is no Clinton, never will be. The media held Clinton to a higher standard than they do Obama. Do us all a favor, and bring Clinton back to finish out the current term.

    May 20, 2013 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  23. bill

    Benghazi is a political circus, and yes to the IRS doing their job. If you are filing for tax-exempt status and you are to be non-political than yes anything with the word patriot or Tea bagger in it should be a red flag. And the AP story, well it was the congressional republicans who wanted that. A grand jury heard the testimony on the severity of the leak and approved the wire taps with a judge also signing off everything was done by the book. So my point is the polls reflect the obvious republicans are wasting time chasing their fabricated crisis's.

    May 20, 2013 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  24. BinFL

    Why is it that the Repubs say we don't have money for education, Medicare, Social Security, infrastructure repair, etc but when it comes to hearings upon hearings just to find some needle in the haystack that they can pin on the President, money is no longer an issue. This is what they like to waste our money on and it is disgraceful. All of these so-called "scandals" should be addressed as normal Congressional business to find out what happened and how mistakes can be corrected in the future – the witchhunts have to stop!

    May 20, 2013 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  25. Nodack

    I think that since the GOP has spent the last four years trying to come up with conspiracy after conspiracy trying to bring about Obama's downfall that everybody has become numb to it. Democrats know there is a Republican news station devoted to 24/7 anti Obama coverage in FOX News.

    I try to see things without a bias although I admit that after seeing Bush and the Republicans in action during his Presidency I have developed a dislike for them. Starting a war based on lies and fabrications that ends up killing hundreds of thousands of people just to attempt to steal their oil is about the worst thing I can think that a President can do. Re-electing him after you find out it was all lies and fabrications was the Republicans putting their stamp of approval on mass murder.

    After Obama was elected I got to see the Republican Party all join together with the goal of destroying Obama from day one. Did they try to help the economy get back on its feet? No, helping Obama help the economy would only make Obama look better and that is the last thing they wanted. Obstruct, vote no on everything, filibuster everything , try to create scandal after scandal, do nothing but get in the way as much as possible. They are anti Government, anti everything. The entire industrialized world has Universal Health care except the US. Every Democrat President since the 1930s has tried to reform our health care system and failed thanks to Republicans before Obama. He did something about it and they are really mad about it. They say it was fine the way it was. The way it was was by far the most expensive system on the planet. Harvard did a study that say 45,000 Americans die every year because they couldn't afford health insurance. That's 450,000+ since 9/11. More people dead in the US because of neglect than all the terrorist attacks and all the people killed in both wars combined. Do Republicans care? Not even a little bit. According to them they were just lazy people that deserved to die. What is the leading cause of bankruptcy in the US? Illness. Do Republicans care? Not even a little bit. Did they care that we killed hundreds of thousands based on lies and fabrications? Not even a little bit. Did they care that Obama doubled the debt trying to fight off the recession? Yes they were really mad. Did they care that Bush doubled the debt while in office? Not even a little bit. Do the care that Obama hasn't fixed the economy 100%? Yes they are really mad. Did the care that Bush destroyed the economy? Not even a little bit.

    May 20, 2013 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
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