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. Southeast

    I still approve, no one asked me.

    June 17, 2013 08:53 am at 8:53 am |
  2. Patriot Steve

    America is waking up, and realizing that the driver's been asleep at the wheel too.

    June 17, 2013 08:55 am at 8:55 am |
  3. scranton

    Welcome to reality pal.

    June 17, 2013 08:55 am at 8:55 am |
  4. Randy Wilson

    Really now? You all have finally realized the recently converted MUSLIM, who was born abroad and HATES America isn't to be trusted? WOW only took six years. What amazes me is that HALF of you still do not realize what he really is!

    June 17, 2013 08:55 am at 8:55 am |
  5. Bob

    So he uses the IRS to punish political enemies, he's "mr open" but snoops on your phone calls, and he's about to get us in a war that could lead to WWIII. What's not to love?

    June 17, 2013 08:55 am at 8:55 am |
  6. Bubba Butchroy

    Capone would be pround of Obama.

    June 17, 2013 08:56 am at 8:56 am |
  7. Caumont

    He has led a inept administration or is petty and vindictive. Its one of the two and people are finally waking up to reality.

    June 17, 2013 08:56 am at 8:56 am |
  8. ccw10

    Well, all of these "scandals" are surely having an effect. But the biggest scandal that was not mentioned and has and will have the most effect on our population is "Obamacare." The lack of trust began when WE starting finding out what Obamacare really meant to us and realized how it was sold.

    June 17, 2013 08:56 am at 8:56 am |
  9. edpeters101

    No doubt that his polling numbers would fall. With an obstructionist (AKA do nothing Congress), and all the witch hunts that the House and Issa are pursuing. Gotta ask Congress where are the JOBS, where is GUN CONTROL, and where is IMMIGRATION REFORM?????

    June 17, 2013 08:56 am at 8:56 am |
  10. Scott

    So how will Jay Carney blame this one on Bush?

    Scott

    June 17, 2013 08:57 am at 8:57 am |
  11. wjgiunta

    Our President is long on talk, short on in depth understanding of situations and topics, and relies on too many others for doing HIS thinking and job, (the too many appointed Tzars). He has changed the way our government works (or doesn't) at the top and this may not be good in the long run.

    June 17, 2013 08:57 am at 8:57 am |
  12. start with issa

    Congrats republicans – all the "scandals" you've created out of thin air are working; you've lied so much the public is starting to believe you. The reason POTUS can't get anything done is because of congress (10% approval) and that is basically a reflection of this.

    June 17, 2013 08:57 am at 8:57 am |
  13. richard montgomery

    #1 The economy is no better or worse than when Obama took office.

    June 17, 2013 08:58 am at 8:58 am |
  14. Comet

    "Snooping" has been around for a long time. It is something essential to your and my well being. It is more important these days than ever. Especially with the world situation as it is. If you can stop an attack that way then go for it. It happens at the grocery store when you get a discount by swiping your barcode. Or, information gathering on your computer when adware is secretly downloaded on you computer to see what you are looking at or buying. Its probably not a good thing but necessary. The average personI'm sure has nothing to worry about. The question comes down to this for me. Catch the problems before they get out of hand or stop snooping and end up in a dire situation!

    June 17, 2013 08:58 am at 8:58 am |
  15. Joi Gibson

    While I may not like the idea of government surveillance of phone and internet data, until the men in black show up at my door, I am not sure exactly what harm is being done. When the previous administration was doing the same thing, I had the same feeling. As for President Obama's approval rating taking a dip, I am sure the Republicans are licking their chops, but they should not be too happy as I am sure their approval ratings are well in the tank. President Obama still has my support because I trust him more than I trust Congress, especially the House. Do not worry, in a few months, as with most polls, the numbers will change. We Americans are very fickle.

    June 17, 2013 08:59 am at 8:59 am |
  16. Francis

    Well he got elected so approval rating is pretty much useless.

    June 17, 2013 08:59 am at 8:59 am |
  17. tiz

    Why wouldn't they drop? He lied to the country.... that's what happens when you lie... people don't trust you. Government spending is out of control because the SIZE of government is way too big..... most people can understand this simple fact....

    June 17, 2013 09:00 am at 9:00 am |
  18. hanrahan

    It's taken a while, but America is finally starting to wake-up.

    June 17, 2013 09:00 am at 9:00 am |
  19. Chase

    The country is going to crap under his administration. Its no wonder his approval rating is dropping.

    June 17, 2013 09:00 am at 9:00 am |
  20. Carl

    That's right Liberals – your theory was OK, but your implementation sucks.

    June 17, 2013 09:01 am at 9:01 am |
  21. observer1776

    Is the American public finally waking up to the fact that Obama is an incompetent, dishonest, Leninist Marxist Leftist, who is a closet Wahhabi-Sunni Muslim?
    Is the main steam media finally waking up to the truth about the Emperor's new clothes?

    June 17, 2013 09:01 am at 9:01 am |
  22. I was suckered too

    I voted for the guy so its my fault too. In the end he was just another politicization. Our first Black president had an opportunity of a life time and blew it. As a black man I am shamed. In the end he was a token. THE SHAME!

    June 17, 2013 09:01 am at 9:01 am |
  23. Brent

    Are the "sheeple" finally waking up? It has been proven over and over again that he will lie and others will fall on the sword to save this man. How are the Hope and Change working out for you?

    June 17, 2013 09:01 am at 9:01 am |
  24. Katy

    Well, I STILL think he is. I helped elect him to office and, I stand behind him 100%.

    June 17, 2013 09:02 am at 9:02 am |
  25. gijames1225

    Well, geniuses, we already reelected him so at this point it's not going to matter a whole lot.

    June 17, 2013 09:02 am at 9:02 am |
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