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. gary

    Why do you think Obama or most americans even care about ratings? They don't. 90% of americans are off in their own little comfort zone and they don't care as long as they have food, clothing, shelter, a nice ride, and money in the bank.

    June 17, 2013 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  2. Roy Atkinson

    I hate the way CNN waits until the last paragraph to tell us that this is a phone poll of 1,014 adults.And the broadcast version doesn't even give us that. Then the Republican spokesman Eric Cantor says something about 50 per cent of Americans in his reaction clip. But the increasingly cynical viewer can only add that no, we are talking about 1,014 Americans who did not slam their phones down.I wish Howard Kurtz would do something on his Sunday media show on why the actual poll size is always played down. amidst all the hype..

    June 17, 2013 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  3. BrianMempis

    It must be so frustrating for the liberals to see all the work done slipping through your fingers like sand.

    June 17, 2013 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  4. Robert

    Let's see; the NSA scandal, the IRS scandal, Benghazi, DoJ and the attack on the Freedom of Press, Fast and Furious, the attack of our 2nd Amendment, the wanted authority to use Drone strikes on Americans on American soil, essentially turning a blind eye to our illegal immigration problems so that he could "fix" them (i.e. amnesty, increased worker visa, racial demagoguery), Solyndra, "You didn't build that, someone else made that happen", terror attacks are considered "workplace violence" just so long as the suspect is Muslim, and who can forget the wonderful healthcare mandate that we are all going to be introduced to next year or pay a fine, eh, penalty, eh, tax, eh no penalty, nope, a Tax. Obama is one of the worst (if not the worst) President this country has ever had to endure.

    June 17, 2013 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  5. Jaimie

    And lets give everyone one chance to tell us why.

    June 17, 2013 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  6. FISH FRY

    Now, was this an ACTUAL poll, poll, or a "poll" taken through people's conversations, emails, tweets, etc?

    June 17, 2013 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  7. foster

    how did it take this long? That's what is surprising to me.

    June 17, 2013 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  8. Brad

    POLLS! Approval once high then low then high! No one really cares! Only time approval matters is just before elections. I am sure no one really cares including the pres if approval is high or low. It only matters to media and the guy who takes the poll.

    June 17, 2013 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  9. Craig

    Hard to believe 45% actually believe he's doing a good job!

    June 17, 2013 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  10. J Sitole

    Anything to mar the good man's reputation. Republicans have tried over and over without success. I don't see the issues here. Benghazi?? NO! NSA mishaps..NO! Better safe than sorry. Republicans are just bitter ...lets face it.

    June 17, 2013 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  11. Carol

    Government spying is nothing new but some right-wingers have tried to make it appear so.

    June 17, 2013 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  12. Phaerisee

    That said, he his approval rating is far, far higher than the GOP members of Congress.

    June 17, 2013 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  13. Oh Brother

    Repubs rejoice and say "of course," dems make excuses. Meanwhile, the real work goes undone. As usual.

    June 17, 2013 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  14. sonnie3

    Just like Cheney said, Obama's Credibility is nonexistent.

    June 17, 2013 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  15. Robert Sessoms

    On the surveillance issue, the democrats are more interested on the democrat party's future than the security of the country. Who controls comes first!

    June 17, 2013 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  16. mom of 4

    DUH. CNN is so behind the curve on this one. Obama's ratings have been dropping steadily since all these scandals started manifesting. Other media outlets have reported this, but CNN and MSNBC are still on the Obama bandwagon, kowtowing to this empty suit and not really doing the investigative reporting so desperately missing regarding Benghazi, Fast and Furious, the IRS, NSA, AP, phone tapping, etc. Fox News hasn't let this go and the American people are demanding that ALL news media report on this and stop ignoring the truth that Obama is even more dirty than Richard Nixon. It is disgusting what the Obama administration has gotten away with because CNN, MSNBC and the big 3 network news all give him a free pass. I take that back – Sheryl Attkisson is the only big 3 network news reporters that has the cojones to investigate and now she's paying the price with her personal and work computers being hacked. CNN and the idiots and MSNBC need to get their act together, put aside their obvious bias and realize the American people want the TRUTH about the illegal and immoral acts of the Obama administration, and that Obama is the worst president to ever hold office.

    June 17, 2013 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  17. JoshO

    His fall from grace began when he went after the second amendment. Let it be a lesson.

    June 17, 2013 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  18. NameDonn

    The government is far too big and intrusive. Far too many people woring in the govvernment have the false notion that they are "un charge" of We the People. They have lost sight of the fact that they are "public servants" working for us. We need to downsize the government, pulling them out of areas that they can't effectively serve the people. Nonprofits and churches need to get back in the business of efficiently and affectively helping people in need. Term limitations and a constitutionally mandated balance budget would go a long way to help us with those goals. PEOPLE not government PROGRAMS best serve the needs of people.

    June 17, 2013 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  19. Rhys Wilhelm

    It's about time. Americans need to stop seeing politics through party-colored glasses. The ever-increasing infringements on our rights need to stop. It's not worth giving up freedom for safety.

    "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." – Benjamin Franklin

    June 17, 2013 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  20. Joshua

    What does he care? He has nothing to loose now. He is out a job soon.

    June 17, 2013 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  21. Joe

    Lucky for obama that there is a large percentage of the population that will support him regardless and think he is the victim of some massive conspiracy.

    June 17, 2013 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  22. Liberally Challenged

    Your data may not have been analyzed by Uncle Sam yet, but just know that it could be, at any time. This is a very slippery slope...next thing you know it will be the Feds knocking on your door after you have a phone or email conversation criticizing the government or president.

    June 17, 2013 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  23. Martin

    Why are these polls all over the road?
    Just go to a different poll and you'll get a different result.
    Obviously pollsters are political.

    June 17, 2013 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  24. Alfred E Newmann

    We here at CNN promise to do everything we can to distract you from the scandals so our man Obama looks better!

    June 17, 2013 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  25. RanLo

    Headlines: :"More than Not, think Obama is dishonest and untrustworthy!" DUH!
    Headlines: should read "Liberals just waking up! Find Obama dishonest and untrustworthy!" Anyone who's not in THE LINE for FEDERAL HANDOUTS knew this! Wake up America!

    June 17, 2013 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
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