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. Evergreen

    Let the cases filed by these groups proceed through the legal system. No special prosecutor needed.

    May 30, 2013 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  2. Fair is Fair

    Put me into the seizure of phone records column... if there's no free press, you wouldn't know about the others. Just like this administration wants... blind sheeple.

    May 30, 2013 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  3. Slightly confused

    sooooo.... if this IRS scandal is so important to the public, why isn't there more written about it on CNN? I haven't seen much on the Benghazi trials either.

    May 30, 2013 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  4. Mike

    Tea party groups are not social welfare groups. They should not get tax exemptions. Same for progressive political groups. The Benghazi investigation is political witch hunt and a distraction. The GOP won majority in house in 2010 with promise of jobs, jobs, jobs. Where the hell are they on that promise? After thirty plus votes to kill affordable care act or restrict abortion rights these CONservatives show their true colors on what they think of the unemployed. Come the fall some of these do nothing folks should find themselves in the same situation – unemployed.

    May 30, 2013 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  5. EG

    Meanwhile unemployment continues, government is at a standstill, more people are murdered by guns ... and so on and so on.

    All this is, is a nice shiny new distraction to keep the American Public directed away from the real issues.

    May 30, 2013 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  6. Slightly confused

    Soooo... if the public thinks the IRS scandal is so important, why isn't it more prevalent throughout the site? I haven't seen much bere about the Benghazi trials either.

    May 30, 2013 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  7. Two Party "System"

    Got to love lapdog CNN: "Controversy". What a word choice. But then again, it's not like we're not talking about professional journalism here – I mean it's not like the news or anything, Oh wait...

    May 30, 2013 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  8. Bill Lomee

    Why is this so important because it was the whiny Conservatives that were targeted for trying to not pay taxes? This is a normal practice and not a "Witch Hunt" that the "Victims" on the Right claim.

    May 30, 2013 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  9. Randy

    If the IRS scandal is the one that people are most passionate about then the GOP is in trouble because the only group more unpopular than atheists is the Tea Party. They are the least sympathetic "victims" ever. This "scandal" will go nowhere.

    May 30, 2013 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  10. Sniffit

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

    GOP/Teatroll response: "Quick, schedule another vote to restrict abortion rights!!!!"

    May 30, 2013 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  11. Carol

    I think the IRS was correct in targeting conservative groups.

    May 30, 2013 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  12. Carol

    unless your the family of the 4 dead in Benghazi who cannot get answers from Obama as to why their family members are dead!
    Their family members are dead because they served in a very volatile and unpredictable region. Benghazi is not new. It will happen again, regardless of who is president.

    May 30, 2013 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  13. Colorado

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


    May 30, 2013 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  14. Sniffit

    "Baloney! These groups are not social welfare organizations! They've contributed heavily to politicians and PACs. They should be scrutinized!"

    Keep in mind that the poll merely asked what people found to be most important. It's very likely that it polled plenty of people like yourself (or myself) who would rate the IRS issue highest among the 3 "scandals" for precisely that reason: we want it to result in the tax code and IRS regulatory policy obliterating the availability of 501(c)(4) status for political groups like this.

    Nothing about these poll results indicates WHY those people who rated the IRS issue as most important among the 3 "scandals" did so. It is not an indication that 44% agree with the GOP/Teatrolls' positions, arguments, baseless conspiracy theory accusations, etc.

    May 30, 2013 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  15. Lynda/Minnesota




    May 30, 2013 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  16. Carol

    most of the 244 diplomats honored on plaques at the State
    Department were killed in the line of duty long before Benghazi.

    May 30, 2013 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  17. Sniffit

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

    Well, he's beating the GOPers in Congress at least. Go ahead and cite this one as proof of how awful he is, GOPers/Teatrolls. It will be fun using your words against you to point how much worse your team of radicalized congresswreckers is.

    May 30, 2013 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  18. Sniffit

    "Let us not forget, NLRB confirmations (shot down by Supreme Court), and HHs Sect. soliciting funds from corporations in industries HHS regulates"

    1. SCOTUS hasn't ruled on that. PAY ATTENTION.

    2. You have grossly mischaracterized what Sebelius did AND she is authorized to do that by the ACA. PAY ATTENTION.

    May 30, 2013 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  19. Chuck88888

    What did Obama know and when did he know it?

    Publicly released records show that former IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman visited the White House at least 157 times during the Obama administration, more recorded visits than even the most trusted members of the president’s Cabinet.

    By contrast, Shulman’s predecessor Mark Everson only visited the White House once during four years of service in the George W. Bush administration and compared the IRS’s remoteness from the president to “Siberia.” But the scope of Shulman’s White House visits — which strongly suggests coordination by White House officials in the campaign against the president’s political opponents — is even more striking in comparison to the publicly recorded access of cabinet members.

    May 30, 2013 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  20. rs

    Hmmmm. Republicans better invent another crisis as these don't seem to be working out real well- especially when the curtain goes back and we see their hands at work.

    Perhaps they should look back to the Clinton era- you know, like when they accused Clinton of selling China secrets out of a file cabinet in the Oval Office, or that he murdered Vince Foster, Ed Willey, paul Tully, Ron Brown, Jerry Parks and perhaps 7-12 others, that the Clintons smuggled drugs and more.

    Republicans seem to have a tenuous relationship with reality and a real thirst for conspiracy theories, and so, who knows? They may invent even more wierd and strange lies to attack a sitting President.

    May 30, 2013 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  21. Fair is Fair

    Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    According to the general consensus amongst the majority of Americans, the United Nations, NATO and the world community, GWB and cabinet and their republican accomplices in congress shoud all be arrested and prosecuted for war crimes against humanity. The current Iraqi death toll from the U.S. 2003 illegitimate invasion of Iraq and sectarian civil war ensuing as a result of the invasion now stands at 1,455, 590 according to "Just Foreign Policy" Web Page.
    What's this got to do with the article? I suppose if you're trying to defend the indefensible, your point of last resort is to bring up something about Bush. Pretty pathetic.

    May 30, 2013 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  22. Malory Archer

    Linsey Walker

    Strangely leftist / liberals polled said "WHAT DOES IT MATTER"!
    Apparently nothing is important to them and doesn't matter – – UNLESS it might affect them.


    Actually, the so-called "IRS scandal" was more detrimental to liberal & progressive groups than right leaning groups as several liberal & progressive groups were actually DENIED tax exempt status while every single right leaning group was approved. Ironically, those who feel they're "taxed enough already" and who were approved for tax exempt status are now suing the federal government, which will cost taxpayers $$$, thereby necessitating tax increases on all of us.

    May 30, 2013 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  23. rs

    The IRS is a very powerful division inside our government. To use them to target any group is a major abuse of power. It goes against the entire belief structure of our country,
    You mean like investigating groups called "Taxed Enough Already" who are seeking tax-exempt status, and they can hide their donors?Remember, 501 (c) 4 groups are suppossed to be "Social welfare" groups, and are barred from political activities. Does that sound like any TEA Party you ever heard of?

    May 30, 2013 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  24. sonny chapman

    ATTENTION all who write on these blogs(including me); It's the ECONOMY Stupid !!

    May 30, 2013 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  25. Tom1940

    Each and every last soul making a buck in the U.S. of A, full well knows who and what the IRS is all about. Fear and trembling may be too strong a description of how folks feel about their relations (or potential relations), of running afoul of the IRS. A force unto themselves, with even their own court system, etc., makes folks extremely wary and apprehensive of even minor inquiries from IRS. To feel that "big brother", now going into the Health Care Enforcement business is raising tensions even higher. To doubt the even-handedness and fair-play of the agency, up until now, is unthinkable. Creating suspicion of politicizing IRS dealings with any group of citizens, along political lines, is of concern to us all and rightly so. Certain things should be inviolate. Trust of government and it's agencies and agents is paramount.

    May 30, 2013 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
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