Poll: Americans say IRS the 'most important' controversy
May 30th, 2013
06:00 AM ET
5 years ago

Poll: Americans say IRS the 'most important' controversy

(CNN) - Of the three major controversies plaguing the Obama administration in recent weeks, the drama surrounding the Internal Revenue Service is the most pressing to U.S. voters in a new survey.

According to a Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday, 44% of registered voters say the IRS probe of conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status is the most important. A little fewer than a quarter - 24% - say the Obama administration's handling of last year's terror attack against a U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, is of the most concern, while 15% say the same about the Justice Department's seizure of phone records of Associated Press reporters.

But a large majority, 73% to 22%, say improving the economy is a higher priority than these three issues, according to the survey.

More than three-quarters of Americans say a special prosecutor should be appointed to investigate the IRS's targeting of conservative groups. Broken down by party, 63% of Democrats want such an independent probe, while 88% of Republicans say the same thing.

A plurality - 44% to 33% - say members of Congress who criticize the administration over the IRS controversy are raising "legitimate concerns." Current and former IRS employees have appeared for congressional hearings in recent weeks, with more scheduled to come.

"There is overwhelming bipartisan support for a special prosecutor to investigate the IRS," said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. "Voters apparently don't like the idea of Attorney General Eric Holder investigating the matter himself, perhaps because they don't exactly think highly of him."

According to the survey, only 23% of voters approve of the job Holder is doing, compared with 39% who disapprove.

Regarding Benghazi, a plurality - 44% to 32% - say the criticism from congressional Republicans over the administration's handling of the terror attack is "just politics." As for the seizure of journalists' phone records, 37% of voters say such action raises "legitimate concerns," while 24% disagree.

As for President Barack Obama, his job approval rating stands at 49% in a new CNN Poll of Polls, which averages the six most recent nonpartisan, live-operator national surveys of the president's approval rating; 46% said they disapprove. The polls were conducted in the past two weeks, after the IRS and AP controversies made national headlines. The president's rating stands little changed from the CNN Poll of Polls conducted over the whole month of April, which showed the approval-disapproval split at 49-47.

In the Quinnipiac poll, 1,419 registered voters were surveyed May 22-28, with a sampling error of plus or minus 2.6 percentage points.

- CNN Political Editor Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.

Filed under: IRS • Justice Department • Libya • Polls
soundoff (234 Responses)
  1. ge

    some of these groups don,t only stink they smell-investigate all these tax dodgers no matter what party ,better still make them all pay taxes

    May 30, 2013 06:35 am at 6:35 am |
  2. king

    when did the repubs change their minds about the administration leaking sensitive information. wasn't they the ones jumping and yelling about this crap for the past 4 years, when did they changed their tune. when will they stop jumping off the boat as soon as Obama climbs on. lesson folks if people in the Obama administration is leaking sensitive information to the press, the president have the right to find out who these people are bottom line for the security of our country, and if the attorney general say that he wont be prosecuting the press for getting this information, why on earth are the repubs saying this attorney general commit perjury, when he already said he wouldn't prosecute these journalist. so when he said that he didn't know of any journalist being prosecuted he was right. where is the lie in that.

    May 30, 2013 07:10 am at 7:10 am |
  3. Larry in Houston

    LOL – well, it surely isn't Benghazi – I guess if I were to rate it – like on a 1 -10 scale – the IRS affects everybody – it should be a 10 – Benghazi would be a total goose egg ( 0 ) All you have to do is research the past – (regarding past situations w/ embassies in other countries)

    May 30, 2013 07:32 am at 7:32 am |
  4. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Take Back The House -aka- No Redemption Votes

    I can care less about the IRS DOING THEIR JOB. A lot of these organizations need to be under heavy scrutiny. Congress needs to be focused on JOBS!!! Remember those Boehner???

    May 30, 2013 07:38 am at 7:38 am |
  5. IvotedforObama

    I'm pretty sure these looney teabag groups spent most of their time and effort on political activities and not social ones. If they were so concerned with social action then where were they under Bush?

    May 30, 2013 07:54 am at 7:54 am |
  6. Mike

    Here we go again. Achievement in a second term killed by scandal.

    The people should demand better govt. these scandals are giveaways for dems and repubs as smokescreen for not doing their jobs.

    Now they can focus on this instead of more pressing issues.

    Give these issues to subordinates and move on.

    Stop wasting time with political drama.

    May 30, 2013 07:54 am at 7:54 am |
  7. frank landa

    His repeated criminal behavior is of most concern since he keeps doing more terrible things as each crime is ignored by the press. When he got away with Ben Ghazi and released the goods on Patreus to get him out and got away with it he went power mad.

    May 30, 2013 07:57 am at 7:57 am |
  8. Chickadee

    Of the recently covered news, the ONLY issue of any importance is the wire tapping for Associated Press staff without search warrants. That also seems to be the one that has fallen off radar.

    May 30, 2013 08:04 am at 8:04 am |
  9. Wake up People!

    I hope the GOP knows what they are doing because this has the potential to backfire in their faces. I know, I know it will be the commie muslims' fault. I do agree the IRS issue is the biggest. I'm still trying to find out how do political groups even get tax exempt status.

    But carry on GOP, you are fast becoming the laughing stock of the world. I'm also wondering why we never see any articles talking about the record number of filibusters in Congress? I guess that's not sensational enough for them.

    May 30, 2013 08:10 am at 8:10 am |
  10. Kevin Lawton

    Time to clean out the trash..

    May 30, 2013 08:13 am at 8:13 am |
  11. bobo

    Of course its most important... Although having four dead Americans is close.... but anytime the Government uses the IRS for Political purposes.... Its Bad.

    May 30, 2013 08:15 am at 8:15 am |
  12. laststonecarver

    The basic requirement of getting tax exempt status is that the organization is specifically limited in powers to purposes that the IRS classifies as tax exempt purposes.
    Section 501(c)(3) organizations are absolutely prohibited from supporting political candidates, and are subject to limits on lobbying. They risk loss of tax exempt status if these rules are violated.[

    May 30, 2013 08:18 am at 8:18 am |
  13. Al-NY,NY

    Regarding Benghazi, a plurality – 44% to 32% – say the criticism from congressional Republicans over the administration's handling of the terror attack is "just politics."

    this won't stop them from overplaying their hand and pressing on and on and on about it until people are really sick of it. Of course they have no problem with the vastly higher number of people killed in embassy attacks under Duh Duh Duh-byas reign of error

    May 30, 2013 08:18 am at 8:18 am |
  14. oke

    You mean controversies?

    May 30, 2013 08:19 am at 8:19 am |
  15. dialogos68

    Once again, to help Obama hide his massive corruption, CNN has the comments turned off.

    May 30, 2013 08:21 am at 8:21 am |
  16. Erik

    40% of this country thinks anything that it hears on Fox news. Should the IRS be targeting the poor for tax evasion? Should the police target African Americans for stop and frisk? Should TSA target Muslim-looking people boarding aircraft?

    Everything that the president has done has been hailed as "the worst thing ever" since his election.

    I don't agree with many of the president's policies, but the systematic demonizing of everything about him is ridiculous. I haven't heard very much public policy proposals from the Republicans other than the "repeal of Obamacare" without any specific suggestions of what to replace it with. The loud calls to "reduce spending" fail to identify any significant areas where the Republicans actually want to cut spending.

    This is not a real issue, rather an opportunity to make the right-wing appear to be victims. This country is falling apart with 2 parties who cannot co-govern or compromise.

    Let the Republican states secede.

    May 30, 2013 08:27 am at 8:27 am |
  17. Rudy NYC

    I agree, which is not to say that I think it is significant enough to warrant this much attention. The main complaint is that the right wing groups were investigated, which they should have been. Liberal groups were investigated, also. The IRS was simply doing its' job. When groups post things like lists of "recommended candidates" and "voter guides to the ballot box", why should they complain.

    I also think the media is conflating the Justice Department investigations of the media. These investigations were launched at the behest of Sen. Mitch McConnell, who DEMANDED an investigation into who national security leaks were getting into the media. Most media outlets are playing the victim card, charactering this as a whistleblower issue when it is not.

    It's a criminal investiagation. This has nothing to do with punishing reporters "for doing their jobs". Not unless they think that it is their job to expose national security secrets, which apparently seems to be the case.

    May 30, 2013 08:28 am at 8:28 am |
  18. Third Eagle of the Apocalypse

    I image a large part of the concern is the misinformation out there about who was ‘targeted’. Many media outlets are only reporting that conservative groups were targeted when this isn’t true. Liberal groups were also under scrutiny. What the IRS ‘targeted’ were known anti-tax political groups. I would also note that last I heard no one was denied anything because of their political leanings. It seem like COMMON SENSE to look closely a political based groups applying for a tax free status considering you are not allowed to be involved in politics and still received said status. In short…people are stupid and conservatives just want to play the martyr. Seems to be a common trait around the world.

    May 30, 2013 08:30 am at 8:30 am |
  19. atc333

    Dear GOP:

    Please read the polls. Jobs, and job creation. Rebuilding our economy. Investing in infrastructure, creating jobs. Rebuilding and modernizing our nation wide electrical grid, and creating jobs. Investing in new energy sources and creating jobs. Investing in space exploration, creating jobs and new technology. All of these "expenditures" create jobs. Yet all impossible when every investment in these areas must be offset with cuts in other essential programs.

    Create jobs put Americans back to work,, increase tax revenues,and pay down deficits. Sounds like a no brainer to me.

    May 30, 2013 08:31 am at 8:31 am |
  20. Pat

    I'm more concerned about the wiretapping of news reporters. The watchmen are always first to go...

    May 30, 2013 08:32 am at 8:32 am |
  21. abmri60

    Covering up the truth, and lie to the public is worse.
    Mistrusting the government is not where the administration wants to go, neither do the citizens of this country.

    May 30, 2013 08:34 am at 8:34 am |
  22. Pat F

    "According to the survey, only 23% of voters approve of the job Holder is doing, compared with 39% who disapprove." About 40% has no idea who he is.

    May 30, 2013 08:43 am at 8:43 am |
  23. phildog

    So the IRS deal is a "controversy" now according to CNN. That word usually means that you aren't sure that something actually happened. It did CNN. This is consistent with your complete lack of coverage on this matter, as well as the DOJ / Holder investigation and Benghazi. Your website AND network has all but completely avoided speaking on these stories. God forbid you ever have to report on something this administration has done wrong. If it was Bush in office you would be fanatical in your coverage. Just go back and look at your archives during his presidency. You were rabid on a daily basis – making sure negative GW press was front and center. You are no longer a news organization – you have fallen to the depths of MSNBC – and so have your ratings.

    May 30, 2013 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  24. Anonymous

    I'm surprised to see that the AP issue is not higher. More people should realize that the press is the citizen's only real way to know what the government is doing.

    May 30, 2013 08:46 am at 8:46 am |
  25. JR

    Stupid Americans. The IRS was doing its job looking for tax cheats which there are tons of. Daaaa. Too bad they're not doing something more constructive like demanding the demise of the pathetic GOP.

    May 30, 2013 08:46 am at 8:46 am |
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