June 17th, 2013
06:00 AM ET
10 months ago

CNN Poll: Obama approval falls amid controversies

Washington (CNN) – President Barack Obama's approval rating dropped eight percentage points over the past month, to 45%, the president's lowest rating in more than a year and a half, according to a new national poll.

The CNN/ORC International survey released Monday morning comes as the White House has been reacting to controversies over a massive U.S. government surveillance program; the Internal Revenue Service's targeting of tea party and other conservative groups who applied for tax-exempt status; the administration's handling of 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 journalists' phone records as part of a government investigation into classified leaks.

The poll indicates that for the first time in Obama’s presidency, half of the public says they don't believe he is honest and trustworthy. And Americans are split on the controversial National Security Agency anti-terrorism program to record metadata on U.S. phone calls, but they support the NSA program that targets records of Internet usage by people in other countries. That doesn't mean they necessarily like what is going on: Just over six in 10 believe that government is so large and powerful that it threatens the rights and freedoms of ordinary Americans.

A slight majority of those questioned in the poll, which was conducted Tuesday through Thursday of last week, disapprove of the actions of the man who leaked sensitive information about the NSA program. A similar number say Edward Snowden, who fled to Hong Kong, should be brought back to the United States and prosecuted.

What the approval drop means for Obama

The president's approval rating stands at 45%, down from 53% in mid-May. And 54% say they disapprove of how Obama's handling his job, up nine points from last month. It's the first time in CNN polling since November 2011 that a majority of Americans have had a negative view of the president.

"The drop in Obama's support is fueled by a dramatic 17-point decline over the past month among people under 30, who, along with black Americans, had been the most loyal part of the Obama coalition," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.

The president also dropped 10 points among independent voters, from 47% last month to 37% now, with Obama's disapproval among independents jumping 12 points to 61%.

What's behind the drop?

"It is clear that revelations about NSA surveillance programs have damaged Obama's standing with the public, although older controversies like the IRS matter may have begun to take their toll as well," adds Holland.

Details on NSA-thwarted plots coming, lawmaker says

Six in 10 disapprove of how Obama is handling government surveillance of U.S. citizens, which is higher than the 52% who disapproved of George W. Bush on the same issue in 2006, when government surveillance was also in the headlines.

Obama's approval rating on terrorism, although still above 50%, has taken a 13-point hit since mid-May. By contrast, his approval rating on domestic issues such as the economy, immigration and the deficit only dropped by two to four points, within the poll's sampling error.

Views of Obama's personal characteristics have also declined.

The number of Americans who think he is honest has dropped nine points over the past month, to 49%. Fifty-seven percent of those questioned say they disagree with the president's views on the size and power of the federal government, and 53% say he cannot manage the government effectively. Fifty-two percent say the president is a strong and decisive leader. That's still a majority, but it's down six points from last month.

Cheney defends NSA, calls Obama's credibility 'nonexistent'

Forty-three percent of the public says that the Obama administration has gone too far in restricting civil liberties to fight terrorism, with 38% saying the administration has been about right and 17% saying it has not gone far enough.

"That's roughly the same reaction that the public had to the Bush administration in 2006 when the details of a similar program to gather phone records were made public," says Holland.

Fifty-one percent say the current NSA program to gather phone records is the right thing to do. By comparison, 54% felt that way about the Bush-era program back in 2006. Two thirds say they feel that the current NSA program on Internet usage is right.

More than six in 10 say the government has collected their phone or Internet data. What is the government doing with all of this information?

Just 8% of all Americans think the government has collected their personal data and is using it to investigate them. Just over half say they think the government has collected their data and stored it somewhere without analyzing it, and one third say they believe that government has not collected and stored any of their personal phone or Internet records.

WH: Obama not violating privacy; Snowden's whereabouts unknown

As for Snowden, 52% disapprove of his actions, with 44% saying they approve of the leaks by the former government contractor. Fifty-four percent say the government should attempt to bring Snowden back to the U.S. and prosecute him for his actions.

Documents Snowden provided to journalists revealed the existence of the secret NSA programs to collect records of domestic telephone calls in the United States and the Internet activity of overseas residents. Snowden, who fled to Hong Kong, was fired from his position at the consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton earlier this month. The FBI is investigating the leaks.

The poll was conducted for CNN by ORC International June 11 to 13, with 1,014 adults nationwide questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points.

– CNN Political Editor Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.

soundoff (1,117 Responses)
  1. Todd

    Wow, good job CNN, you have finally admitted what everyone else in the country has known for the last 2 years.

    June 17, 2013 08:44 am at 8:44 am |
  2. tlee351

    Where are these Polls conducted? And who conducts them? Also, there have been many past President's who should of been polled as well with their performance in office, this is a first, wonder why? Past Presidents have never been polled due to other's performance. Those people are accoutable for there own actions, not the President. All we see today is that the exposure of years of crook and greed from our agencies that not the President that the heads and leaders of these organizations. Let's put the facts and reality out there not things to say it all comes from the President, if you did that you should of also placed the same polls with our previous Presidents who had many incidents during there terms. America be fair to all that what we are suppose to stand for! Let's walk what we talk!

    June 17, 2013 08:44 am at 8:44 am |
  3. fedupwithpolitics

    President Obama lost me after Hurricane Sandy. Our House and Entire Community was destroyed in Rockaway Beach NY. Obama flew in, handed out a plate of turkek and promised that he would cut Insurance red tape so that we could rebuild. It was all a lie. The Major Insurance companies like nationwide took advantage off all their Flood Insurance policy holders and underpaid everyone. No one can rebuild and our life is finished there. Obama did a Katrina just like Bush. Obama is every bit as bad as Bush. I will not ever Support this President, impeach Obama!

    June 17, 2013 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  4. Bones

    Obama is not only untrustworthy, him and his liberal cult followers have caused so much division in America. I never thought I'd see the day where being a thinking, voting, patriotic American would be seen as an act of treason. I guess it happened last back in the 60's-70's. Decades you think we would have learned from.

    June 17, 2013 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  5. grandpa

    Looks tired, worn out and not interested doesn't he?

    June 17, 2013 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  6. bob_lawbla

    I still don't believe these CNN Polls, I would think Obama's approval rating is a lot lower.

    June 17, 2013 08:46 am at 8:46 am |
  7. par4doc

    Im not saying there was an alternative, but what made the American people feel like this guy was going to be a good president in his second term?

    June 17, 2013 08:46 am at 8:46 am |
  8. willi

    I voted for him.....twice. Today, I want to impeach him. He has no mandate to provide arms to Srian rebels and create another Afghanistan. He has no right to allow Guantanamo to drag on further. He has no right to still have trops in Iraq or Afghanistan. These were election promises, and they need to be delivered on NOW. He has no poular mandate anymore. He is now a meal for the Republican Party of NO.

    June 17, 2013 08:46 am at 8:46 am |
  9. big b

    Not one word about immigration. I imagine the vast majority is against giving these illegals amnesty, but CNN wouldn't dare print that!

    June 17, 2013 08:46 am at 8:46 am |
  10. Puddin

    The president's rating depends on who is polled. I think looking at tax returns of anyone who asks for tax emption is appropriate. The reason for the Benghazi attacks had us all fooled for a time. The Justice Dept.'s secret collection of journalists phone records regarding leaking classified information was justified, and the Patriot Act was established in Bush's administration before his second run for president. I figured he just wanted to listen in on phone conversations of his enemies, and I still think so. But my attitude now is that if it can prevent terriorist attacks, I am for it. I have nothing to hide anyway.

    June 17, 2013 08:47 am at 8:47 am |
  11. natias

    Amazing, a president worse than Bush.

    June 17, 2013 08:47 am at 8:47 am |
  12. gladiatorgrl

    This is why the GOP does what it does – they did it to Hillary when she tried to bring Nat'l HC under her husbands administration and they'll do it time and again when they don't get their way.

    June 17, 2013 08:47 am at 8:47 am |
  13. barbara

    Is it any wonder? Americans are sick and tired having new legislation rammed down our throats... without any input from the people. Congress and the Senate no longer represent the people. We're tired of legislation being passed with hidden agendas in them that have nothing to do with the main bill. We're sick of our tax dollars being wasted in other countries.. we're sick of the WH telling us how they are going to spend our tax dollars. It's like giving a thief keys to your home. And finally we're sick of these lavish, extravagant vacations that Obama and his family take on the American tax payer dollar. This man is thumbing his nose at us.... we should return the gesture in kind.

    June 17, 2013 08:48 am at 8:48 am |
  14. Jesse

    CNN why are you telling me how "I" feel. Stop telling me and say that Obama's approving ratings have dropped.

    June 17, 2013 08:50 am at 8:50 am |
  15. cindy lou who

    Doesn't matter now......he's in for a second term. He is only a reflection of a majority of Americans. God help us.

    June 17, 2013 08:50 am at 8:50 am |
  16. Curmudgeon46

    He can be as strong and decisive as possible and still be wrong!

    June 17, 2013 08:50 am at 8:50 am |
  17. really

    "You've lost that lovin' feeling"? More like "You can't hide your lying eyes."

    June 17, 2013 08:51 am at 8:51 am |
  18. chuck

    Why is CNN telling us how we are supposed to feel lately?

    June 17, 2013 08:51 am at 8:51 am |
  19. Joe Clark

    President Obama is not surrounding himself with experienced and intelligent people who can convey the importance of what his national priorities should be. There is so much to be done in repairing the domestic economy and restoring jobs but this issue is no where to be seen in his agenda. Until such time as he starts listening to average American citizens his slide in the polls will continue.

    June 17, 2013 08:51 am at 8:51 am |
  20. TheBigT

    I don't trust him, just like I don't trust the rest of ALL other politicians. They are all a bunch of crooks.
    Remember, it is ALL of them that got us into the 16 trillion dollar debt we are in now and continue to try to overthrow countries we should not even be in. Feed OUR own hungry first and not the whole dang world.

    June 17, 2013 08:51 am at 8:51 am |
  21. Robert

    45% of Americans must not follow the news very closely.

    June 17, 2013 08:51 am at 8:51 am |
  22. GT

    We are winning the war on terror!

    June 17, 2013 08:51 am at 8:51 am |
  23. Ral

    And this is surprising ? Why ?
    Sure took long enough for people to realize just how unqualified Obama and his reckless staff /cronies are.
    The lies & cover ups finally opened eyes. Bout time!

    June 17, 2013 08:51 am at 8:51 am |
  24. rearden215

    Well, I thought one Richard Nixon per lifetime would be enough.

    But, no.

    June 17, 2013 08:53 am at 8:53 am |
  25. Dan

    It is proof that many people can't see past one or two of their liberal agendas to see the man. Obama has never been honest or trust worthy and he has always given plenty of proof of that. A person would have to have their head in the sand not to know that Obama lacks character. It amazes me that as long as Obama says he is for gays, abortion, and claims to be for the little guy, he can lie, bully opponents, attack the Constitution, misuse his powers, and in general destroy this nation and still in the eyes of some, he is a hero.

    June 17, 2013 08:53 am at 8:53 am |
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