June 17th, 2013
06:00 AM ET
10 months 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. Chris

    Wow. The emperor is beginning to lose his clothes......

    June 17, 2013 06:37 am at 6:37 am |
  2. Fred54

    There is no way Obamas approval rating is as high as 45%. Benghazi, IRS, Fast & Furious, Verizon and now as PRISM
    unfolds!!! Are you kidding me..No American with a pulse could possibly trust him..

    June 17, 2013 06:38 am at 6:38 am |
  3. Ronnie from Louisiana

    The way this President has been hammered by the mad dog attacking style of the media and political enemies , especially the right wing GOP fanatics, is it any wonder why his approval rating is going down??!! Anyway , why worry about this Presidents approval rating, why!! CNN is really making a mockery out of itself, ever since Rick Sanchez was fired from the show! CNN approval rating is the one going down because it is turning into another FOX News channel network, full of lies and half truths! Especially when the President was giving his address and this female news caster cut a sitting Presidents speech off and said on live TV that he was not being Bi Partisan enough and went to commercial, that right there is when I lost some of my respect for CNN !! To have that kind of political hatred for this President is now going off the deep end and it is really tearing this country apart!! I will always support President Obama no matter what lies you put out or try to make him look in the publics eyes! You run a Republican/Conservative commercial in the evening bad mouthing my President and talking about impeaching him for Benghazi when ex President Bush did way worse??!!! REALLY!! Republican White noise and rhetoric on a CNN channel!! CNN, YOU ARE REALLY BECOMMING A DISSAPPOINTMENT AND YOUR RATING NUMBERS WILL DROP!!

    June 17, 2013 06:40 am at 6:40 am |
  4. Brian Hartman

    I'm glad to see this. No president should be made of Teflon.

    June 17, 2013 06:41 am at 6:41 am |
  5. Bob

    I would say I disapproved of Snowden's actions... only because I can't believe he left what he had behind. Let the world burn if they're too willfully ignorant and impatient to pay attention. He had an apparently awesome girlfriend and a good life... seriously he should be imprisoned for being dumb for leaving that if nothing else lol.

    My fears are the same as his I think. It's sad really. If it turns out to be worth it, he's a hero, if we maintain our stance of having our public policy dictated by uneducated and irrational fear... it was all a waste, and the politics of insanity will be that much stronger for the spectacle.

    June 17, 2013 06:42 am at 6:42 am |
  6. Anonymous

    snowden did right.

    June 17, 2013 06:43 am at 6:43 am |
  7. Big Carl

    Look no is responding due to the NSA watching this site...........book um Dan'O

    June 17, 2013 06:43 am at 6:43 am |
  8. jt

    What you see is what you get, people"s eyes finally opened.
    Chicago politics is not for entire country's taste.

    June 17, 2013 06:45 am at 6:45 am |
  9. sammy750

    Oh well, who cares about polls, not knowing who they poll, It may be just Republicans. The real poll should be on the do nothing Republicans. Republicans will love this poll, esp. Fox News and their puppets women commentators

    June 17, 2013 06:45 am at 6:45 am |
  10. ron

    he would not have been elected if he did not turn his eye on our immgration laws.....basically ignored the laws of the land to get elected....our government has become ciorrupt

    June 17, 2013 06:45 am at 6:45 am |
  11. Obonzo

    It's all Bush's fault

    June 17, 2013 06:45 am at 6:45 am |
  12. Frank

    "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."

    Where is that nonsense coming from?

    June 17, 2013 06:46 am at 6:46 am |
  13. Joey Isotta-Fraschini ©™

    The President's drop in approval is a result of opposing political actions, such as the revelations of Snowden, and not of any actions of the President. Surveillance is necessary for public safety.

    June 17, 2013 06:47 am at 6:47 am |
  14. BO

    CNN spelled controversies wrong. It's spelled "SCANDALS".

    June 17, 2013 06:48 am at 6:48 am |
  15. Peter

    So, now he's just pretty much like every other President.

    June 17, 2013 06:48 am at 6:48 am |
  16. Joshuah

    Every president starts his term with the belief that he is a pioneer, that where his predecessors failed to lead bravely, he would not. The reality is, that no president ever has the strength to overcome the administration. The best he can do is simply become the puzzle piece it demands. Obama started his presidency bright eyed and bushy tailed. He had youth and strong ideals on his side, but there is already bold evidence to show that he became a "company man" very soon after his first election.

    June 17, 2013 06:48 am at 6:48 am |
  17. Scotty

    His approval rate is so low because he keeps letting the DEA undermine the marijuana movement.
    Don't know why peeps don't riot and raid the streets of DC til they listen to the will of us people and legalise pot. It's a harmless plant that does actually have medical and (harmless) recreational uses, unlike alcohol and tobacco.

    June 17, 2013 06:48 am at 6:48 am |
  18. Mistro

    The most incompetent president of my generation

    June 17, 2013 06:49 am at 6:49 am |
  19. A True Conservative

    52% believe that he is a strong and decisive leader? You have to be kidding me! He is simply a spectator to everything that happens around him – how can someone lead from the sidelines?

    June 17, 2013 06:49 am at 6:49 am |
  20. sammy750

    Republicans are crying about Obama and his family trip to Africa being so expensive. Well President Bush took 2 of those expensive trips while in office. Republicans were silent then. While they and Bush were creating the largest debt ever in this nation.

    June 17, 2013 06:49 am at 6:49 am |
  21. MIke S

    Fooled me once shame on you. Fooled me twice shame on me. Obama and the political spin machine around him fooled me on the first election but not on the second one. Even on the first election my vote had more to do with anger over the financial crisis than on my confidence on Obama. Time has proved me right.

    June 17, 2013 06:50 am at 6:50 am |
  22. Scotty

    If Obama legalised pot it would save lives and the economy. It would instantly make him the best president in the history of the country.

    June 17, 2013 06:50 am at 6:50 am |
  23. suur kurat

    I never considered Barak Hussein Obama to have the talents and skills to be the president of our country. He was, and continues to be, a typical black street hustler, Whenever a crisis emerges he up runs as if hightailing from a Chicago back alley cräp game.

    June 17, 2013 06:51 am at 6:51 am |
  24. zaqaz

    Worst administration in history. Carter and Nixon can BOTH rest easy now.

    June 17, 2013 06:53 am at 6:53 am |
  25. Rob

    Think he cares? He's been re-elected. Anything goes for 3 and half more years. We are in a mess.

    June 17, 2013 06:53 am at 6:53 am |
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