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. darthwong

    I can't believe that all sorts of things that were not even newsworthy under Bush have become "scandals" under Obama. The IRS targeted the NAACP under Bush and it was not a front-page story. The national security apparatus grew fantastically more powerful under Bush and everyone felt safer. But under Obama, these are "scandals".

    June 17, 2013 09:09 am at 9:09 am |
  2. snotfair

    Barack is doing the best he can- he has a lackluster Congress! I don't agree w/ some of his policies+ why Eric Holder hasn't been thrown-out on his Pinocchio nose, but the country would be in a much sorrier state had his opponent Mitt Robmey won. As a Bay Stater (The state w/ mandatory Health Insurance courtesy of Mittens) I am sure of it!

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

    Very interesting and substantive article.

    This CNN/ORC poll asks great questions, especially about Americans' views of government action and when it goes too far.

    June 17, 2013 09:10 am at 9:10 am |
  4. fred

    Like they say–tell lies long enough and people begin to think it's truth. This crying wolf is going to come back and bite them though. Well, except among the tin hat crowd.

    June 17, 2013 09:11 am at 9:11 am |
  5. oscar

    you can fool people half the time,m not all the time and it caught up with his fanny

    June 17, 2013 09:11 am at 9:11 am |
  6. JMorcan

    Obama hasn't done the right thing in any major issue during either term. Bush was no better. Our democracy has failed.

    June 17, 2013 09:11 am at 9:11 am |
  7. mark

    Goes to show that the GOP strategy of inventing scandals to tear a person down still works. They did this same thing to Clinton, but it backfired. But when you party is disintegrating before your eyes, and you have no ideas on how to turn things around, might as well go on the attack and cause a distraction.

    June 17, 2013 09:11 am at 9:11 am |
  8. Tony in Maine

    It is what Issa intended when he turned on his 24/7 investigations into phony scandals. Of course, he needs the complicity of what the conservatives insist is a press with a liberal bias, so he provides them with outrageous statements made on the bobblehead shows and Faux News. The mainstream journalists assume someone is scooping them, so to borrow a word picture from Jon Stewart, they make like five year oilds playing soccer and all converge on the ball.

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

    How were these polls conducted? By the response the polls were most likely not done with the same people and the higher approval ratings were done of his sheople who never have a clue about what's going on. Conduct a real pole. I'd be willing to bet the majority of tax payers do not approve! Ask how many approve the Obama's outrageous upcoming $60-100 million African vacation. Sad that while so many tax paying citizens who struggle to make ends meet, the Obama's are constantly taking lavish vacations at the tax payers expense!

    June 17, 2013 09:11 am at 9:11 am |
  10. El J

    They aren't just controversies. They are flat out scandals!

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

    I always wonder who the heck gets polled during these things. I mean if the polls couldn't tell you who would win the election (not one saw women, gays, hispanics and blacks swaying for Obama for some reason. Romney was like a sure fire "front runner") I seriously do not believe anything else they poll. They don't even know how to properly gain insight from my age demographic....#justsayn

    June 17, 2013 09:11 am at 9:11 am |
  12. Name. John Hinz

    Obama's ratings will plummet as citizens find out that Obama care is unaffordable and very poorly though out. We need fixes in our healthcare system, but Obama care does not fix what is wrong. Rather, it creates far worse problems. The public will panic when they realize they were not told the truth.

    June 17, 2013 09:11 am at 9:11 am |
  13. James

    I am not a conspiracy theorists by nature, but the more things come to light, the closer we really are to becoming a police state. The NSA listening to phone calls is only the beginning if we continue to let it happen. People are foolish to think it will stop there and people won't abuse their power.

    June 17, 2013 09:11 am at 9:11 am |
  14. Redeye Dog

    People are finally catching on to his "bait and switch" routine..

    June 17, 2013 09:11 am at 9:11 am |
  15. joey

    Took long enough to get to this.............

    June 17, 2013 09:12 am at 9:12 am |
  16. Exposed for what he really is!

    And to think that over half of Americans that voted in the last election were duped by this clown after 4 years of perhaps the most inept Presidency this country has ever seen. That says a lot about Amercians sadly. We wouldn't be in such a horrible economic place if "anyone" else got elected, and that includes Mickey Mouse.....

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

    His approvals will only get worse. Hillary's AWESOME work abroad as Sec of State has left the US with little respect from the rest of the world – third world countries included. Russia and Iran have called our bluff on soldier-less wars in Syria. No more Arab Spring moments. No more walking on the backs of Bush and Cheney and blaming them. This belongs to Obama and we are headed into his winter of discontent – lead there by weak foreign policy from the top down. Add to that, they don't give a #*#*# whether we shut down Guantanamo Bay or not! Funny that the rest of the world doesn't play by the rules of dirty Chicago politics.

    All of a sudden water boarding of a couple of folks seems trivial....

    June 17, 2013 09:13 am at 9:13 am |
  18. Dave

    Something fishy about these numbers. There was barely any change in Obamas approval right when the "scandals" were in full swing. Now, all of a sudden, there is a huge drop. Doesnt make sense to me. What also makes this poll suspicious is the drop in his approval related to terrorism issues, when really nothing has happened to cause such a dramatic reduction. Me thinks there are some sampling issues here.

    June 17, 2013 09:13 am at 9:13 am |
  19. cyborg

    The president is just a placeholder for what really runs the country. The worst of the worst began with the Bushfamily.

    June 17, 2013 09:14 am at 9:14 am |
  20. Give Barry A Cigarette

    Well, 2% of his 47% have wised up!!

    June 17, 2013 09:14 am at 9:14 am |
  21. James

    Yes. I used to love Obama but he turned out to be darker version of GW. Keeping Guantanamo open, aiding Al-Qaeda affiliates in Syria and allowing all these surrvailance programs against citizen has made moe lose my faith in him.

    June 17, 2013 09:14 am at 9:14 am |
  22. splassher6

    Only you and Chris Mathews had it CNN...

    June 17, 2013 09:14 am at 9:14 am |
  23. tim jim

    My opinion of this affirmative action president has not changed.

    June 17, 2013 09:14 am at 9:14 am |
  24. David K

    I never liked President Obama. Trust is my issue. However, I for one do not have a problem with the Government watching me. I have absolutely nothing to hide and don't really care what they see but if it helps them prevent another terrorist attack on this country then I'm okay with that and that is something oddly enough I support.

    June 17, 2013 09:14 am at 9:14 am |
  25. GI Joe

    I wrote BOTH of my senators asking them if they attended the briefing Friday. DID YOU?
    =========================================================================================

    Dear Senator ************

    Just a couple of questions: Did you, or did you not attend the NSA briefing given by General Alexander and Mr Clapper on June 14, 2014.

    If not, why?

    Sincerely

    ******************
    ===================================================================================

    See how simple that is? But don't bother writing yours, it's easier to just get on here and spew hate over and over and over.

    June 17, 2013 09:15 am at 9:15 am |
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