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. bruce t

    Why all the fuss now, this year ?? The IRS has always singled out people for personal reasons. The threat of audit has always been reason to keep quiet.

    May 30, 2013 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  2. Tim Morris

    These polls mean nothing as do most other polls. Unless the so called American citizen gets off their fat ass to go and vote. But half the country doesn't give a crap about their country. Voting should be manditory for all adults. Its the only way it works for all to take part. Extremist on the left and the right will only polarize us. They just don't know how to get along. A bunch of cry babies run the country.

    May 30, 2013 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  3. alon

    The Obama adminstration thinks they are above the law. This group of renegades we have in power are corrupt and MUST be held accountable.

    May 30, 2013 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  4. Pinewalker

    Oh great another poll to tell us what we should be concerned about and report on. How about using yoour journalistsic gut??

    May 30, 2013 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  5. thekarl

    Not surprising; the IRS scandal involves a partisan attack on free speech, right of assembly and association, right to petition the government for redress of grievances, and right to equal protection under the law, or basically the core principles of our entire constitution and country.

    The IRS power has been abused famously by both Nixon and Obama, thus is not a partisan concern but one that affects everybody. The 11,000 pages of income tax code has been used by politicians to pay off contributors and special interests, and bribe or punish citizens into engaging in specific behaviors; and the constitution only gave the government power to tax "to raise revenue". (you don't think it really takes 11K pages to implement a fair tax; do you?)

    We do not need to get rid of the IRS, just the income tax. A national sales tax with exemptions on necessities to spare the poor is simple, efficient, and unavoidable (so those who have more thus spend more will pay more). There is little opportunity to engage in financial shenanigans on the part of politicians with a sales tax, and none on the part of citizens; and the mechanism for collection is almost completely in place already.

    For those liberals reading this, remember that no business can pay tax as every dime it has must first be acquired from its customers in the price of its products, therefore a business can only collect tax. Anybody who says otherwise is ignorant of both basic economics and business...or is lying to you. Take your pick.

    May 30, 2013 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  6. Undertowjones

    The man is just bad for our nation period. No amount of hate spewed at me will change my mind. The man is a socialist and his policies are going to crumble the United States sooner then later. Capitalism may have it's faults greed , unfairness etc, but there is no better system period. Instead of the poor crying about how " unfair" it is why not strive to be that succesfull see that's were we went wrong. We brainwashed an entire generation to hate ourselves through colleges and now everyone thinks this new socialist /capitalist hybrid hack job things is going to work? Your all being played for others gain. Fact. Is our great nation is under attack from within someone internally wants this to fall apart for some means to an end in there benefit. Not the greater good. Wake up people. We have to do something here. Soon

    May 30, 2013 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  7. Jerome Horowitz

    Of the people who were asked convoluted questions in a particular way, 99% said they had better things to do than answer convoluted questions. The other 1% were lonely, and were glad for human interaction.

    May 30, 2013 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  8. GBfromOhio

    No surprise here, people are not going to have love for an organization that collects taxes from them (I'm a patriotic tax payer BTW, not a whiner about wanting all kinds of services but don't want to pay for it). Key concept is MOST important (a relative term) among the three so-called scandals, truth be known most Americans don't really care about any of this trivial political bickering, they are concerned about jobs and the infrastructure of this country that is crumbling.

    May 30, 2013 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  9. Julia

    The scandal is nothing is being reported on the fact that under a Republican appointed head of the IRS, more conservative groups were approved for tax exempt status than were liberal groups. All apps should be reviewed for accuracy.

    May 30, 2013 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  10. Anonymous

    They forgot to tell us what the libertarians thought.

    May 30, 2013 09:44 am at 9:44 am |
  11. Jerome Horowitz

    PS – of the people I know, 100% think an inquiry into the wars started by the Bush administration which made Dick Cheney rich on the blood of American soldiers is more important than an inquiry into anything the Obama administration had done wrong.

    May 30, 2013 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  12. Randy

    Yes, it's "most important" to voters but that's illusory because it's almost entirely partisan. Like Benghazi, most Democrats aren't going to argue that the IRS snafu shouldn't be looked into but neither do most people believe that these 'scandals' reflect so badly on President Obama. It's right wing poutrage drummed up on their partisan media outlets. That's why we see stories like this pointing to 44% as proving these things as "most important" and then other stories puzzling over why Obama's support isn't really effected.

    May 30, 2013 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  13. much thunder..little rain

    nobody likes paying taxes...then they pick you out because of your party....it should be 99.99 % most important ..no matter democrat or republican..

    May 30, 2013 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  14. A. Castillo

    I say start all over and let the irs investigate all groups, left-leaning or right-leaning and let's see where this mess leads to. I have read that this is the way it was meant to be, but there were so many conservative groups that if seemed the right was being targeted. It did not help the irs when Obama immediately distanced himself from the story. He should have told the media to slow down and let the investigation conclude. I still think the irs needs to do its job.

    May 30, 2013 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  15. Suur Kurat

    The problem with the IRS is management folks who are not only treat American people with arrogance but often treat their employees in the same manner.

    The employees in the Cincinnati office have probably been warned to keep their mouths shut or they will regret it.

    May 30, 2013 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  16. gooners

    Funny I haven't ready a single important bit of news from you tards at CNN as you continue your liberal spin spin spin... aint fooling anyone.

    May 30, 2013 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  17. w l jones

    Like every citizen join a no probit origanzation and stop paying taxes see what happen to our great nation of people?

    May 30, 2013 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  18. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    So far, every piece of legislation the Obama administration has passed in the past four years including the ACA upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court have have been looked down upon by teapublicans as an illegal piece of legislation, an act of treason or something detrimental to our nation. It doesn't surprise me that they'd make anything into an Obama scandal to undermine this presidency even though the American people have spoken in the last election. I just can't wait till all teapublicans are voted out of office.

    May 30, 2013 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  19. Jaimie

    Not most important. There are many many more problems that have to be addressed in the USA government. Ever see a poor politician?

    May 30, 2013 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  20. philipjbaker1952

    Obama and the IRS need to be held accountable for this mess ,the IRS has a huge problem on their hands .If this problem is not taken seriously ,theirs no telling who's next if rules aren't fair for all no one is safe . The IRS has a lot of power to destroy lives if not held accountable.

    May 30, 2013 10:07 am at 10:07 am |
  21. Name. falcon

    Funny stuff–why is headline not "3/4 of those surveyed believe economy more important than any supposed scandal"? Move on–nothing to see here.

    May 30, 2013 10:10 am at 10:10 am |
  22. Matthew Kilburn

    The reason people place so little emphasis on Benghazi is that the real "issue" has never been clearly identified by those investigating. Are you angry because of lax security? Or because there was no rescue attempt? Or because Obama refused to talk about terror? Or because he threw free speech under the bus when he blamed it on a video?

    "Good" scandals have a common characteristic – the wrongdoing is easily identified..."President keeps enemies list", "President commits adultery in the Oval Office", "Government sells land to corrupt friends of President", "Top-Secret Agent Outed".

    As for the IRS scandal....there is one of two possibilities: either a high-level directive to target Conservatives that is being covered up, or a grossly inept hierarchical structure that allows low-level auditors to target whomever they want at will without oversight. In either case, the reputation of the IRS (which has always been hated, but at least respected) may be damaged beyond repair.

    May 30, 2013 10:10 am at 10:10 am |
  23. ed

    From one of his mouth "We need to work together"; From the other side he uses the IRS as a campaign tool.

    May 30, 2013 10:11 am at 10:11 am |
  24. ProudDem

    I hear alot of conservatives complain that CNN is liberally biased...all part of that "mainstream media" koolaid that Fox News was able to so successfully put forwad. Yet yesterday, the headline on the CNN news story about the Obamacare poll screamed that most americans were against it....when actually they were lumping the 15% of americans who said it didnt go far ENOUGH in with those that dissapproved. Today this headline that most americans say that the IRS is the most important scandal....yet buried deep in the article it says that 73% say the economy is still the most important issue. Why not have that as the headline? The only bias here is what they think makes a story sexy.

    May 30, 2013 10:12 am at 10:12 am |
  25. philipjbaker1952

    the IRS is to powerful to let its abuse of power go unpunished ,they appear to be doing Obama's work. why it is happening should be investigated.

    May 30, 2013 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
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