Poll: Americans say IRS the 'most important' controversy
May 30th, 2013
06:00 AM ET
2 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. Nick

    Obama publicly stated that the IRS must have "absolute integrity". That simply isn't humanly possible and shows Obama's naivete. As James Madison wisely stated, "since men aren't angels, all government officials and agencies must be vigorously checked and balanced". Obama is basically hoping people will be honest, when he should be insisting on appropriate checks and balances, as provided for in the Constitution – i.e., enforcement of the judicial and Congressional checks on the Executive branch. Our government is simply too large and too complex to "hope" people will be honest.

    May 30, 2013 08:47 am at 8:47 am |
  2. imdayzed

    I'm surprised more people aren't concerned about the AP issue. The freedom of the press is the only way ordinary citizens have any clue what our government is really doing.

    May 30, 2013 08:48 am at 8:48 am |
  3. DC Observer

    Washington's new equations:

    Obama = Nixon
    Holder = Halderman
    Geithner = Mcgruder

    May 30, 2013 08:49 am at 8:49 am |
  4. Brenda

    NOBODY CARES. It says tax exempt is for non political groups and the tea baggers are political (and sexual). They are dirty freeloading old people who are on Social Security (more than they paid in), on Government healthcare (more than they paid in), and should go see a death panel because they serve no purpose.

    May 30, 2013 08:49 am at 8:49 am |
  5. Jim

    Exactly. The talking heads care about Benghazi, the media cares about the AP, and everyone else cares about the IRS.

    May 30, 2013 08:50 am at 8:50 am |
  6. TAJ

    "Controversies???" You mean scandals/crimes/unlawful acts/abuses of power/socialistic abuse/high crimes and misdemeanors...don't you? I assume you just "misspoke."

    May 30, 2013 08:51 am at 8:51 am |
  7. Steve

    If you take away the people who just don't have a clue about any of the 3 scandals, there is a substantial bipartisan outcry for investigation of all these scandals. It is the job of the oversight committee to probe into matters such as these and they are doing it the right way. Those in the crosshairs of the investigation will always cry political theater, that is their only means to deflect questions at this point.

    May 30, 2013 08:51 am at 8:51 am |
  8. OldSchool

    That's because it's the ONLY controversy – at least in the view of the rational segment of the population.

    May 30, 2013 08:51 am at 8:51 am |
  9. michael p fink

    yup i am sure politicians pay attention to polls

    May 30, 2013 08:53 am at 8:53 am |
  10. John

    44% is the just about right for all FOX news viewers, that leaves 56% of people who believe it's all politics!

    May 30, 2013 08:53 am at 8:53 am |
  11. wes

    They are all important. Lets clean house.

    May 30, 2013 08:53 am at 8:53 am |
  12. Mr. Watson

    The true headline of this article should be "75%+ of Americans Want Special Prosecutor Appointed" or "75% Want Special Prosecutor Appointed" I was just shocked by those results!

    May 30, 2013 08:55 am at 8:55 am |
  13. DC Johnny

    Let's see... I'm a Democrat... which is the checkbox for "support Obama no matter what" again?

    May 30, 2013 08:55 am at 8:55 am |
  14. NameScott

    My faith is restored in 63% of Democrats

    May 30, 2013 08:56 am at 8:56 am |
  15. BCSaugerties

    So is 'political profiling' as repulsive as the racially motivated kind ? For all the outrage exhibited by the media for racial and gender based bias there appears to be a lack there of when it comes to outing bias by a top Government agency against people with a difference in view points . If you believe anyone at the IRS did anything without the knowledge and consent of the White House you really need to get your head out of your back pockets.

    May 30, 2013 08:57 am at 8:57 am |
  16. JRNY

    Actually none of these issues concern me in the least. Looking at the numbers while I'm also looking at President Obama's approval rating, I'd say that the numbers of concern, starting at 44% and going down from there, are only from conservatives.
    Meanwhile, in the real world, we go on and we thank God that President Obama is our President instead of Romney, because it sure could be worse.

    May 30, 2013 08:58 am at 8:58 am |
  17. myway

    That's backwards. Intimidation of the press should be on top of the list since that was clearly approved at the highest level in the administration. Targeting tax exempt applicants for further review is about taxes, not constitutional rights. It appears the IRS used inappropriate methods to single out potentially unqualified applicants but there's no sign of political motivation. Perhaps the IRS is not the best agency to evaluate tax exempt applicants. Benghazi shouldn't even be on the list since there is no real controversy. Republicans are desperately trying to hang something on the democrats, specifically Hillary Clinton, hoping they'll have something to talk about in 2016. They hope the success of digging for dirt against President Clinton during the 90s will repeat itself. I doubt Hillary fooled around with interns.

    May 30, 2013 08:59 am at 8:59 am |
  18. k

    They are all important. They show a culture of lying and corruption. The head of the IRS went to the whitehouse 3x more than the person implementing Obamacare. This goes all the way to 0.

    May 30, 2013 09:00 am at 9:00 am |
  19. patNY

    The real controversy is that we crossed the line witht he amount of CO2 in the air, where its the highest in human history. I don't know about you, buy I need O2 to breath...CO2 is a poison and is causing global warming, thanks to humans releasing it all out of the ground into the air. Why the controversy? No one is taking this serious enough to make it front page news.

    May 30, 2013 09:01 am at 9:01 am |
  20. Pete

    No buddy likes the IRS ,rightly so but in this case with republicans railing along side of tea partiers to get 501(c)(4) tax exempt status the IRS has the last say like it or not!!It's been the rallying cry since Pres.Obamas inaugeration of no new taxes and even now with the lowest tax rates in over 50 years and even after they took away certain tax deals from Bushs days they're still lower than even and ignorent,uninformed posters here know but won't realize it!!This tax exemption is just like republicans Citizens United approved by the republican majority and the same goes for approval by the SCOTUS ..They as well as the IRS knows its just another way for unanimous corporate contributors domestic or not to funnel in dirty money to their favorite lap dog republican reps to do their bidding at real tax payers expense..If EricHolder and the IRS have their say you'll see how much it'll affect repub with unpresidented audits by IRS officials and then all hell will break loose,just watch its coming and the IRS can't wait as well!!

    May 30, 2013 09:01 am at 9:01 am |
  21. JJ236

    And a comprehensive survey of obama phone holders found that..........

    May 30, 2013 09:03 am at 9:03 am |
  22. Bob

    Poll: Americans say IRS the 'most important' controversy << way more things that need attention then this

    May 30, 2013 09:05 am at 9:05 am |
  23. thatgrlinaz

    The only controversies should be that there is not enough checking into groups that "claim"their activities deserve to be "tax exempt.". There are too many so called nin porofit groups created for funneling money to politicians illegally when they really are buying. Or trying to buy an election with illegal funds. Citizens United opened a can of worms allowing foreign money to be donated and hidden by non profit record keeping and this must be stopped. Money laundering as they do is Illegal, period and too many polotical "groups" just like these phony "churches" are getting away with it. If you don't do anything illegal, then you should be able to answer ANY questions you get when you are asking for tax exempt status. That goes for the GOP, Tea Party, democrats, "churchs" and ANY other group or person. Stop tryig to screw America more. Greedy, selfish attitudes in the GOP, etc are out of control and are destroying democracy in America and we MUST stop this crap and the pond scum who are trying to ruin America.

    May 30, 2013 09:09 am at 9:09 am |
  24. James PDX

    When my government is dysfunctional and overspending, I want them to be as efficient as possible. If they can only scrutinize a certain amount of this new swarm of tax-exempt applications, I want them to choose the ones most likely to be ineligible. You can call it profiling if you like, but the odds are that it would catch more bad applications, and that's the entire objective here. When the police are looking for a rapist, the first thing they do is check on local sex offenders. So when certain groups cry out about not wanting to pay taxes, are they not the first ones we should be scrutinizing as possible illegitimate applicants?

    May 30, 2013 09:09 am at 9:09 am |
  25. Veritas

    Remember...this is the agency (IRS) that Obama wants us to "trust" to run his giant takeover of the US healthcare system.

    Any one else seeing a bit of a problem with that now?

    May 30, 2013 09:10 am at 9:10 am |
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