June 17th, 2013
06:00 AM ET
2 years 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. Anonymous

    Hooray! Obama's rating is way down!
    Guess what? Romney is still not the president. Bwahahaha!

    June 17, 2013 09:24 am at 9:24 am |
  2. Barney

    The IRS scandal, Benghazi, spying on Americans via cell providers, giving funds to Syrian rebels when a) that means we are funding Al Qaeda, and b) this is not the time to spend money anywhere else given our fragile economy. It's time to focus on The United States of America, not on creating outposts to influence and dominate the world economy or whatever it is they think they can "accomplish". "Of the people, by the people, for the people...". The people have spoken. Our leaders need to realize how far out of touch with reality they are. We now make decisions based in fear. That, in and of itself, is why we have lost. God is not fear. Remember what our country was founded on? Anyone? Christianity. 2 Timothy 1:7 For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love, and sound judgment.

    June 17, 2013 09:24 am at 9:24 am |
  3. Realityblowz

    Be careful CNN. If you start reporting bad things about this administration, they will intercept your phone calls, and those of the reporter's parents.

    June 17, 2013 09:24 am at 9:24 am |
  4. Pinewalker

    Those are still remarkable #'s given the gravity of any one of those issues. Hitting all at once, like they are, he should be more in the 30% approval range amid calls for impeachment. I think its a testament to the goodwill of the American people towards this President and the ideal of a successful first black president. I unfortunately lost my goodwill during the Benghazi scandal lost fall. If he did know or didn't know, either way it meant he wasn't a good leader. On one hand he was either deceptive or on the other lacked leadership and control over his direct reports.

    June 17, 2013 09:25 am at 9:25 am |
  5. glk20c

    King Obama: A seasoned political liar who hates the Constitution and hates America. What was there to ever love? He belongs in the UN, not the White House.

    June 17, 2013 09:25 am at 9:25 am |
  6. stljoe

    What! The police state president is getting less popular? Say it aint so!

    June 17, 2013 09:25 am at 9:25 am |
  7. donna

    You'd think if a country used weapons of mass destruction, that Obama's response would be more than to send a few guns to a small band of rebels.

    June 17, 2013 09:26 am at 9:26 am |
  8. Lisa W

    I voted for him. I believed in his calls for change. Now,. he is just one more liar. I used to defend him. I used to say, give him a chance, he inherited a lot of this mess..
    But he didn't have to keep lying. He didn't have to play hocus pocus to distract us from some, things, and mislead us about others. We might as well face it. we will NEVER get a good, honest, UPRIGHT politician in office anymore, not until we remove lobbyists that make politics a business deal, and not about who can do the job properly. Obama, your secrets and low profile plans and plots are NOT more important than We The People. You broke too many promises. You let us down when we had hope. Remember that rally cry? Hope/ Change? Where'd it go?

    June 17, 2013 09:26 am at 9:26 am |
  9. Rick

    So in other words, he's the most popular democratic president in modern history. Gotcha. Move along folks, nothing to see here.

    June 17, 2013 09:26 am at 9:26 am |
  10. sirock

    I can't believe it's taken this long for the rest of America to notice. I guess you can fool all of the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time but you can't fool all the people all the time!

    June 17, 2013 09:27 am at 9:27 am |
  11. joy

    The poll results could actually much worse. It all depends on the demographics. I never really trust these polls or give them much weight. Personally, I think we took a vote instead of a random poll the results would show overall the American people dont trust him all.

    June 17, 2013 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  12. jk

    This is total bunk!

    June 17, 2013 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  13. DrDanno

    What's obvious is that the trend towards a fascist plutocracy transcends political party. It hints at the hidden government which allows us all to fight amongst ourselves as democrat or republican, creating the illusion of choice, when in fact, no choice really exists for the American people. Kennedy was shot and killed because he actually thought he function independ of the CIA and the Military Industrial Complex. Since then, the government has been in the pockets of the corporations, from big oil, to the military industrial complex to the big banks. The concept of a Republic is an illusion. This invasion and destruction of the Constitution is no more Obama's fault, nor could he do anything about it even if he wanted, than was the Iraq war Bush's fault. Either one would end up like Kennedy if they dared oppose the real authority.

    June 17, 2013 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  14. tom, santa rosa,ca

    All presidents have there problems.
    The reason i wish he had never become president is :
    He is the one who has arranged for the IRS to become involved in peoples lives, "OVER HEALTHCARE".
    Wow, that was really brilliant.
    A tax is "A TAX"
    The IRS has a habit of coming after people when they don't pay their TAX.
    "And..Nobody is talking about this aspect of the deal"
    Enjoy your new country..

    June 17, 2013 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  15. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Polls are nice aren't they?
    What this one says is that if you call a dog a cat long enough, and loud enough there are bound to be those that will swear they heard the dog meow.
    Americans don't be so easily deceived by those that will push our country off of the proverbial cliff in order to see our President fail.

    June 17, 2013 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  16. Lynn

    Could it just be that the media, other than fox, is finally doing their job.

    June 17, 2013 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
  17. lmnguy

    this is no surprise at all. TERRIBLE president!!! and you dumb dumb people voted this fool for a second term. pathetic. Mccain would have been much better. Anyone woulda been better!!!

    June 17, 2013 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  18. nuclear mike

    The White HOuse has lost all HOpe for the American people as the reality of the President's failed policies & programs impact the general populace now.
    He can no longer lead us and his offenses are impeachable for all the deliberate lies that he has spoken and the coverups he has ordered from the White HOuse...

    June 17, 2013 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  19. jpmichigan

    There are definitely times when the President needs to , himself not through advisors, and speak to the American people. Is he afraid? Or just not wanting to commit. He is the only one who can work on building Americans trust in the government, no long can he just state, "I didn't know until I read the paper, like you did." That statement was the one that broke the trust in the government. To many directors of various department (NSA, IRS. FBI for example) also use the " I don't know, but I'll get back to you."

    June 17, 2013 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  20. kenman

    I'd like to know where CNN digs up 45% approval rating for Obama, or maybe that's it, they're actually digging up poll respondents like those that voted for him multiple times in the last election.

    June 17, 2013 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  21. Fred C. Dobbs

    I think the main reason for this drop is that the economy despite what you read just is not taking off, there are so many headwinds staritng with a preponderance of low wage jobs, crushing student debt which will delay household formation, abn a economy that's only working for a thin slice of Americans. I think the President could have focused more on job creation and economic growth.

    When a recent report states that $1,000,000 in assets may be inadequate for a secure retirement then I know its game over.

    June 17, 2013 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  22. JJ

    He broke his promises and has lied to the American public.
    What's so hard to understand???

    June 17, 2013 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  23. Jeff Kelly

    Sorry Liberals! Obma's ship has sailed.

    June 17, 2013 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  24. jpmichigan

    There are definitely times when the President needs to , himself not through advisors, and speak to the American people. Is he afraid? Or just not wanting to commit. He is the only one who can work on building Americans trust in the government, no longer can he just state, "I didn't know until I read the paper, like you did." That statement was the one that broke the trust in the government. To many directors of various department (NSA, IRS. FBI for example) also use the " I don't know, but I'll get back to you."

    June 17, 2013 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  25. Jerry

    Picture a man, if you will, a man lost, in his lost mind, given the power to run a country, elected by fools, this man, who couldn't start a car with a key, will now, take us all, into, "The Obumer Zone"...

    June 17, 2013 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
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