June 17th, 2013
06:00 AM ET
1 year 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. DW

    if the treasonous teaparty hate-triots would get out of this great country's way this wouldnt be an issue. you sabotage our leader, you sabotage us all. you all should be ashamed of yourselves for actively seeking the failure of our country to score political points. thanks for destroying our country!

    June 17, 2013 09:02 am at 9:02 am |
  2. Mike Taylor

    About time. His record stinks and we need to start calling him out on it.

    June 17, 2013 09:02 am at 9:02 am |
  3. Dar

    Remember when you were young and your elders told you something and you thought to your self, "How Stupid these old farts are, I KNOW BETTER" But later in life you looked back and thought, "Dang They did know what they were talking about"

    Now I am not saying that stupid people voted in this imitation of a president but, maybe lets just say that they didn't know better!!! Youth has it's advantages but with age comes wisdom. I rest my case.

    June 17, 2013 09:03 am at 9:03 am |
  4. KR

    President Obama is 100% better than GWB!

    June 17, 2013 09:03 am at 9:03 am |
  5. Harry Bawsak

    As once again a great man is slandered as he toils at his job with a great love of country and Democracy. Dishonest and thoughtless cons regularly attempt to ruin this man of integrity.
    President Obama is the greatest President of our time including the last century, most likely the Greatest since FDR. It is true that this man is comparable to Lincoln.
    Barack is just a great man doing great things in the face of shameless dishonest and continuous attacks.

    June 17, 2013 09:03 am at 9:03 am |
  6. Wes

    I have never seen a president so mired in scandals.

    June 17, 2013 09:04 am at 9:04 am |
  7. Anonymous

    The fact that 45% of Americans still approves shows a complete detachment from reality or absolutely no concern for it

    June 17, 2013 09:04 am at 9:04 am |
  8. Rudy NYC

    from the article:

    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.
    ----------------------
    Those are troubling statistics, that Bush had a lower disapproval rating than the Obama administration does now. In both cases, the existence of the database of phone bills was revealed. The difference seems to be that Bush used the database to initiate warrantless wiretaps, while the Obama administration has gone to the courts. In fact, going through the courts is how the whole surveillance "scandal" with the press was discovered. A "scandal" that the press has known about for more than a year.

    June 17, 2013 09:04 am at 9:04 am |
  9. Scrappyike

    It took you alll how many years to discover what the rest of us already knew?

    June 17, 2013 09:05 am at 9:05 am |
  10. SpencerRifle

    What does he expect to happen? He promised transparent & open government & has done the exact opposite. He's doing a fine job of neutering himself for the next few years & will be reduced to a seat filler. Good job.

    June 17, 2013 09:05 am at 9:05 am |
  11. Grumpster

    The NSA's program MUST END NOW!!!

    June 17, 2013 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
  12. Peter

    I think the public's declining support of Obamacare is largely responsible for this poll, I'm surprised it wasn't listed as a factor.

    June 17, 2013 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
  13. rhemi553

    The first lie Obama told was his being an African American. This is a bald-faced lie. In a census poll he would be listed "Other or Mixed Race" because his mother is white and his father is black. To be African American both your parents must be black. I know because I am mixed race and do not go around telling a lie about who I am. I've found Obama twists the truth continuously... so much so that it would take pages to list all the times he has told half truths. To me he is a pathologically liar... meaning he lies so much that he believes his own lies.

    June 17, 2013 09:07 am at 9:07 am |
  14. Sam Houston

    A person wearing clean, fresh clothes does not jump into a mud puddle and believe he will remain clean. Politics is the mud puddle. If anyone believes that it's possible to be a politician and remain completely honest and trustworthy he is only fooling himself. True, some may be more corrupt than others, but, when you're in a mud puddle you cannot remain pure and clean, so to speak.

    June 17, 2013 09:07 am at 9:07 am |
  15. Tom

    Hi poll numbers are down because he's looking more like a republican.

    June 17, 2013 09:07 am at 9:07 am |
  16. jeff

    Put me in the majority of those who believe this President is not honest.

    June 17, 2013 09:07 am at 9:07 am |
  17. James Cristopher Osterhout

    Well, why wouldnt his ratings drop. I voted for him as well as most of my friends and family and he has ostensibly proven himself to be as bad as GWB. Unless American citizens start electing public officials who are not beholding to corporate interests, we will never see improvement of any kind in our political arena. Obama has proven himself to be a lackey and best pal to big pharma, big agriculture, big banks, big brother, and the military industrial complex. I will never again vote for a republcian or a democrat as they are all rotten to the core. Join me won't you?

    June 17, 2013 09:08 am at 9:08 am |
  18. Deac

    despite the lack of coverage by the media on these controversies

    June 17, 2013 09:08 am at 9:08 am |
  19. blueridge888

    Very interesting findings.

    Thanks to CNN and ORC for asking a number of important questions in this poll, and for phrasing the questions in a careful, neutral way.

    June 17, 2013 09:08 am at 9:08 am |
  20. Jacob

    Is that surprising to anyone amidst the NSA, IRS, Benghazi and AP/James Rosen scandals? He's dishonest, arrogant and self-righteous. He acts as if he is not subject to the laws he has sworn to uphold. So I say again, is it really that surprising his numbers are tanking?

    June 17, 2013 09:08 am at 9:08 am |
  21. Mike Mentges

    How this man got re-elected is beyond me. I was not aware the American public was as completely stupid as they are. His approval rating should be in the 30% range but this just proves how reliant the American public has become. Obama deserves to be fired and punished for his attacks on American Freedom.

    June 17, 2013 09:08 am at 9:08 am |
  22. Jean

    Well its about time. Many Americans are finally waking up to what many of us knew in 2008. What a shame it took so long. I firmly believe that if the press had vetted Obama appropriately and not pandered to what they viewed as their God we would not be where we are today. Hillary Clinton or John McCain would have made a much better President and would have actually led the country and they would have led it in the right diretion, this guy doesn't lead he just pontificates and lies at every turn to try to save face.

    June 17, 2013 09:08 am at 9:08 am |
  23. john doe

    Republicans kick you in the knee upfront.
    Democrats do it with a smile

    June 17, 2013 09:08 am at 9:08 am |
  24. Bill

    Ladies and gentlemen, you are looking at the worst president in us history.

    June 17, 2013 09:09 am at 9:09 am |
  25. Ram Riva

    CNN and FOX News couldn't be more happy than report this poll.....hey....they put it on the front page....with a sarcastic intro.....is time to celebrate in the situation room and at AC 360.....not to mention Romney's admirer....Ms Burnet.....

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