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. John Wayne

    45%? Is it that high? I figured it would be arround 30%
    We elected a president base on symbolism. God help us all.

    June 17, 2013 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  2. Johan S

    Yay! The brilliant strategists at the Republican Party have ruined Obama's chances of winning in 2016. Keep up the good work!

    June 17, 2013 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  3. Farrok

    The Presidents attack on 2nd Amendment Rights is political poison. It was a serious political error.

    June 17, 2013 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  4. bob

    WOW finally the country is waking up. Obama is by far the worst president of all time. He has done nothing but divided the country and go golf.

    June 17, 2013 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  5. GT

    I must say I am quite surprised CNN ran an article like this, let alone putting it on the front page. President Obama is no different than most of the politicians in Washington-out of touch. If both sides (Liberals and Ultra Conservatives) would realize that "extremism" is not the answer to resolving our problems, but instead is a core systemic deficiency that simply manifest and highlights the very serious problem we face in this Democracy of ours–career politicians! Until we face the realities that plague our Government, we will continue to have the same dialogue every year and the "hope" and "change" will simply be historical words used by politicians to be elected. We must rise up as a country and demand that there no longer be career politicians and instead a very strict term limit on all Congressmen and Supreme Court Justices. Of course this will not solve all the problems, but I'm sure you would all agree it is a good start for "hope" and "change."

    June 17, 2013 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  6. Qvilleman

    Why were all these Americans so fooled? Did they think they would show the world by electing a black man? It actually backfired. He never had credibility to lead a country. He's been a puppet the whole time to some really greedy and evil people who have drug this country down.

    June 17, 2013 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  7. acepaul

    You reap what you vote.

    June 17, 2013 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  8. JDATL

    What changed america? He was a loser before the election, having lied on numerous issues, and having done nothing on the economy. Now the scandals are coming out. Whether he had an active roll then is not important, because he's actively covering them up now and it's obvious. So, why didn't you vote him out in the last election? The reason is, the news media was in league with Obama villianizing Romney. Romney was a middle of the road businessman, but by the time the media was done with him, he looked like Vanderbuilt with fangs.

    June 17, 2013 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  9. Antonio De La Ossa

    Thanks to the NSA their will be fewer and fewer comments on any subject from now on.

    June 17, 2013 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  10. Vicki Crone

    I think he's been a responsible President with an irresponsible Congress ... especially the road blocking do nothing Republicans.

    June 17, 2013 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  11. Too Funny

    CNN must have a bitter taste in its mouth to finally have to admit that Obama is a lousy president. Nice how they still throw some Bush references in there (force of habit) to try to water the bad news down. Obama is a failure.

    June 17, 2013 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  12. W.

    Hey, he's a lawyer. QED.

    June 17, 2013 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  13. jim

    Gee I wonder why......

    June 17, 2013 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  14. JRNY

    Ah, give it a month and this to shall pass. Something bigger and more "newsworthy" will catch everyone's attention and they'll forget why they were ever mad at the President. Look, it happened to W. Bush.

    June 17, 2013 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  15. Supercatholic

    Obama makes me sick. But it's the Republicans I'm angriest at the most these days. If they'd had the courage nd vision to give Ron Paul the nod, instead of allowing a pack of billionaire financiers to install their am Romney, today we could easily have President Paul, dismantling excessive and overbearing government. Instead we have a hypocrite and scoundrel who wants to start a war against Syria.

    June 17, 2013 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  16. aspblom

    People just want to believe in someone and to feel good about themselves. So, they found themselves able to praise themselves for voting for the US's first biracial president and to believe: YES, WE CAN.

    June 17, 2013 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  17. JimNamsium

    I think it's really important to be publishing these polls every other minute. Thank you CNN!

    June 17, 2013 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  18. Rwwilly

    I guess I'm sort of an outlier in that I have DISAGREED with almost all of Obamas actions over that past six years except for the enhanced NSA/surveillance measures which I think are, hopefully, a temporary necessary evil. Go figure.

    June 17, 2013 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  19. EldRick

    And this is the sound of the American people waking up to discover Obama's contempt for the Constitution.

    June 17, 2013 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  20. c

    Obama has increased our national debt by billions, caused health care costs to skyrocket, waged two more additional illegal wars, attempted to destroy the 2nd and 4th amendment, increased drone usage both home and abroad, and has yet to close gitmo....whats not to love?

    June 17, 2013 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  21. m123

    That's what you get when you scream about accountability and transparency in govt then act just like G W Bush.
    Why would anyone trust this president who has the nerve to say he hears about scandals on the TV.
    What kind of govt is that?
    I know, I know, the secret despotic govt of a petty liar.

    June 17, 2013 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  22. Gordon Monsen

    Its interesting that no observations were made regarding the white versus non-white changes, though there's nothing surprising. Non-whites and Democrats results are virtually the same. Nothing that happens seems to shake their faith in the president. While, of course, moderates and the young are rejecting the president. Without those votes Democrats cannot assemble a majority. If these were the numbers the day before the 2014 or 2016 elections, the Democrats would lose.

    June 17, 2013 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  23. Tim

    The only surprise is that more people are not calling for Obama's impeachment. He has demonstrated that he does not deserve to be president.

    June 17, 2013 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  24. Lisa

    This is quite disappointing and unexpected. I would have expected (and yes, hoped) for a larger percentage, MUCH larger, to say this is wrong. Two thirds are okay with it??

    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.

    June 17, 2013 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  25. tom l.

    17 point drop from people under 30. I guess the NSA spying bothers the young folks.

    June 17, 2013 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
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