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. Steve

    I sure hope the comment 'I like Obama because you get more free stuff is tongue in cheek.' 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.

    May 20, 2013 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  2. GrizzlyBear

    That's easy. Bill did Monica and Hillary so stupid that she thinks that was the first and last time. Comrade Barrack Richard Milhous Nixon Obama can't screw around because Natasha.......I mean Michelle has his b*lls in her purse so he can't do nothing.

    They both have the majority of the country supporting them but that's easy when 90% of the Liberals read and write at the sixth grade level.

    May 20, 2013 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  3. Wake up People!

    And when Bill reached across the aisle, his face wasn't spat in either..... Oh yeah and Bills citizenry and birth certificate were never questioned either. Bill was never referred to as a secret Muslim out to destroy America....

    But President Obama has had to endure all of that and them some. But hey Foxlite, don't let facts get in your way....

    May 20, 2013 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  4. Ruth

    Why people keep voting these people in for a second term I will never understand,it gives them 4 more years for Americans to dislike them more,and they are just corrupt 4 more years longer and spend our money,take more vacations,must I go on.....4 years and you are out

    May 20, 2013 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  5. Nodack

    The Republican Party has had only one goal since Obama was elected, destroy him at all costs. Conspiracy after conspiracy, filibuster after filibuster, vote no on everything, 24/7 anti Obama coverage on FOX, avoid doing anything that might make Obama look goods such as helping fix the economy. They haven't done one positive thing in four years. For them its all doom and gloom, the sky is falling, communism!!!, yada, yada, yada.

    We are all numb to them crying wolf so many times. They are the hate everything party. I can't think of a single reason to vote for them. They are experts at the economy? Why did Bush destroy the economy? They are the fiscally responsible party that would never add to a debt. Why did Bush double the debt?

    May 20, 2013 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  6. MesaMax

    Clinton bad. Obama worse.

    May 20, 2013 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  7. Lynda/Minnesota

    @someone who stated: "It is almost as if he would have no problem with riots and violence in the streets as long as his side came out on top. He has damaged this country more than people know."

    Unfortunately for you, and in order for your talking points to be taken seriously, you would need to first understand what it is you are suggesting to begin with. That is the problem with repeating what you hear elsewhere and then trying to make sense of it enough to promote it as intelligent conversation. Such talk might work within your small circle of friends, however trying to expand it to an entire nation isn't going to happen. This is a lesson the GOP would do well to learn because getting past their base is getting ever more difficult for the GOP. In other words: their circle of friends is shrinking, not expanding.

    May 20, 2013 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  8. Cory

    What scandal? What could have Obama possibly have done to help those four men? This happened in Libya, not Washington D.C. FOX News is pretty sad if you ask me...if they are such great journalists why can't they find something new to talk about it. This happened over 8 months ago...

    May 20, 2013 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  9. DAVID

    Rome is not built in one day and America could not be distroyed in one term!!!!!!!!!
    Thank you for the Obama lovers. You guys did great jobs. Keep voting Dems.

    May 20, 2013 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  10. We Like Ike

    This survey to see who's fav political dynasty people have/havn't enjoyed in order to collect material for the next Show

    May 20, 2013 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  11. Rebison

    obama was good and nice because he did great work in U.S.A even the world.nobody is better than,go ahead black man African-American.

    May 20, 2013 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  12. Rachel

    Only CNN would be so obsessed with both Clinton and Obama to do a poll comparing the two. Obama suuuuucks.

    May 20, 2013 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  13. Cory

    But I will tell you what Republican TRASH is. I did bar for a bunch of big time doctors who were drinking and Ronald Reagan worshiping, which is usually cliche among Conservatives. They came two nights in a row and stayed for over three hours each time and DIDN'T TIP ONE DOLLAR. Now, is this all Republicans? No, but it's a vast majority. These people are greedy trash and they don't deserve a tax break if you ask me. Tax them and make them pay into the system – it isn't going to hurt them anyway. It's not like they are investing their money anywhere anyway. I'm personally SICK of hearing about how bad Obama is. At least he is cerebral and doesn't pray about what decisions he should make.

    May 20, 2013 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  14. Wake up People!

    I am so sick of the blatant lie that the MSM keeps putting out there. That this POTUS refuses to work with the GOP. That is a flat out lie that most media outlets have been running with. The truth is President Obama truly, truly wanted to bring this country together, not dems, not repubs, just Americans. But the GOP had other plans. Let's scare the masses. Let's whip up the confederate flag waving nuts by telling them he is a commie, a Muslim, he is going to take their guns and give them to the brown people. They are responsible for this division, not him. Would you blame a rape victim for her own rape??
    Face it MSM, this is the lie that you and the GOP have perpetrated for the past 4-1/2 years. Pathetic.

    The POTUS has almost begged the GOP to work with him and they have refused. All one needs to do is look at the amount of filibusters since 2009. More than any other time in history.nnnn

    May 20, 2013 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  15. Sniffit

    "Will the GOP overplay their hands again?"

    Numbers coming out show that they may in fact already have done so.

    May 20, 2013 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  16. oracle

    The GOP is not any more vicious with Obama, than the Dems were with GW Bush (lest we all forget the calls for indictments at the Hague for war crimes, and comparisons to Hitler/Stalin).

    It's politics, grow a pair. Obama plays hardball when it suits him. Obama can't go running to the teacher when the kids he used to bully around fight back.

    May 20, 2013 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  17. Ray E. (Georgia)

    Both are Liberal losers so who cares.Neither one knows which end is up. Obama said you didn't build that and Clinton said, we could give you more of your money but you wouldn't know how to spend it. Need I say more??

    May 20, 2013 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  18. SuperD

    Nodack, you are a delusional moron. It's called "Bush Derangement Syndrome" Also idiot, Dems voted to go to the Iraq war too. Put down the Democrat talking points will ya, they're old, wrong, and stupid.

    May 20, 2013 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  19. Steve

    I am amazed as a Moderate to see on one side Liberals who scream they are correct and shut down any comments that do not agree with their position and same for the far right group. You treat their comments the same way. And both sides act like the other is so dead wrong because you said so. You are acting no better than the President and our Congress. I thought everyone gets to have an opinion even if it is different from your own. I guess that concept is dead.

    May 20, 2013 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  20. Malory Archer


    I sure hope the comment 'I like Obama because you get more free stuff is tongue in cheek.' 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.


    They still use "food stamps" in your area? And why are you stalking people who use them, following them out to their cars?

    May 20, 2013 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  21. Wallaceboy

    Sorry but this guy is a poor example of leadership. His admin seems more focused on making the GOP look poorly than on solving the problems of the day. Political capital is significantly more important than doing the right thing. He has often talked about "bringing Americans together" but the words and actions do not match. Class warfare, demonizing the GOP. As you may have noticed much of the press is turning on him and many former cheer leaders have simply suggested he try telling the truth. The Benhazi event was a sad moment for leadership and honesty. On the eve of the election he threw Rice under the bus and gave the American public an sad line of BS to protect his political momentum. History will not place him very high on the list of leaders. Self serving politicians seldom have much staying power in history

    May 20, 2013 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  22. Malory Archer


    raygun bad. bush 1 worse, bush 2 worst.


    May 20, 2013 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  23. bombastus

    46% of Americans believe in creationism and 58% of Republicans believe God created us as is about 10,000 years ago. No matter what Obama does most of these folks are going to say he sucks. That he is at 53% approval with all the scandal stuff going is pretty good. It looks like the 3 scandals aren't going to hurt him at all.

    May 20, 2013 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  24. Johnjon

    Obama is the new teflon President.

    May 20, 2013 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  25. Iamnotfooled

    These are two Great Presidents. They are for the MAJORITY not only the MINORITY –the RICH.

    May 20, 2013 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
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