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. sherry

    We the poor are tried of the government sending our money to other countries to help them when this country needs help ....... also fighting there war's 4 them , let them fight there own war's........ Stop letting people into this country ! No job's 4 them here ! Let them come here 2 go on welfare , which come's out of the hard working middle class ..... For long will only be the Rich & Poor........ government spends stupidly n lining there pocket's ! Thay don't need 3 house's & 4 car's , time 2 cut government & there pay........ Cutting everyone and everything else :(

    June 17, 2013 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  2. MykeTheVet

    Look, I don't need to bash Obama more than he has already bashed himself. The reason why I will never trust Barack Obama anymore is simple: it's because he lied on day 1 of his FIRST term when he said he would bring ALL TROOPS HOME from Iraq and Afghanistan.

    You cannot lie about something like that and expect people to forgive you.

    June 17, 2013 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  3. Andy H.

    IRS and Benghazi are not controversies that have anything to do with Obama. Benghazi isn't a controversy at all. All this tells me is that tea party tactics to discredit Obama are working and that tells me how gulable & racist most Americans are. Really sad. The real controversy should be the sabotage of this country by the racist extremist right, but no one wants to believe the people they elected would screw then over to make the president look bad & keep the crumby trajectory of bush going.

    June 17, 2013 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  4. George W.

    It's about damn time! And you know that there is more to come. What a sleeze ball.

    June 17, 2013 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  5. Eric Alexander

    Everyone I know can't trust him because he's in bed with Monsanto. Why no mention of that?

    June 17, 2013 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  6. Vivek

    Obama had to go along with measures that were already in place. Relating it to what I do, if I am handed over an enormous piece of software to maintain, which has been around for ages, I am not going to reject whats already there and rewrite the whole thing from a scratch. That's totally impractical. I am not sure what Obama's dissidents were expecting of him.

    June 17, 2013 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  7. Brian in DC

    A well deserved drop.

    June 17, 2013 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  8. Zenger Folkman

    I got a lick out of the 8% who think the government is investiagting THEM! Really? Certainly, many are being investigated, but 8%? Shows how much paranoia there is among Americans these days. I wish they would've shown a demographic breakdown on that one. My guess: predominantly White/Rural/Southeners & Westerners/No college/Republicans/Conservatives/Age 65+.

    June 17, 2013 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  9. Mishuk3

    Well, it shouldn't be any news that the US govt. has been consistently eavesdropping since the creation of Dept. of Homeland Security and John Ashcroft's Patriot Act. What people fail to understand is that the different agencies are not hearing our each and every conversation, but rather monitoring for specific keywords which would raise a red flag.
    So, it is not Obama's fault, he is just continuing the legacy from the previous administration.

    June 17, 2013 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  10. Txpharm

    Obama's credibility will go all the way down the tubes by this time next year after the electorate sees what's really in Nancy's bill. It will be obvious then that he consciously lied to get this bill passed, and that it is not about health care, but wealth redistribution, as one of it's chief architects, Max Baucus, admitted shortly after it passed.
    All the GOP has to do is run endless clips of the following- no voice over necessary to create tens of millions of Jet Fueled Anger Voters.
    "If you like your plan you can keep it. No one is going to take that from you."
    "If you make less than 250k your taxes won't go up."
    "My plan will cut your family's premium by $2500 per year."
    "Our health care plan will not add a dime to the deficit."

    June 17, 2013 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  11. Kev

    Wow! Half the public? Oh wait, we have a political system divided in half. Next revelation please! Tell me when it gets to 75%.

    June 17, 2013 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  12. Dave

    Looks like this admin "jumped the shark" with the AP probe; even CNN is reporting actual negative news about Obama.

    June 17, 2013 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  13. ShameOnCnn

    Can we have details on how this Poll was held? Shame on CNN for getting involved in it's own political agenda!

    June 17, 2013 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  14. RD

    And none of this is "news" to the other half...

    June 17, 2013 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  15. Debra Dudasik

    I'm still right there with you, President Obama, with trust and love.

    June 17, 2013 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  16. Miguel

    Gee a corrupt politician from Chicago not trustworthy. I'm shocked.

    June 17, 2013 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  17. Anonymous

    Well, you voted for him!

    June 17, 2013 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  18. Luke5323

    The President's worldview, any citizen of any country who wants to work hard and get ahead is
    as entitled to a job as an American, even if that citizen of another country has broken our laws to be here .
    If you against any kind of Amnesty, go to this website and register . Google this: NUMBERSUSA .
    Once you are registered (join us), go to the "action board" to send free faxes to your state representative.
    They are all typed up and ready to go, you just need to click your mouse to send.

    June 17, 2013 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  19. Rhys Wilhelm

    It's a step in the right direction, America needs to wake up and stop looking at politics through party-colored glasses. Our liberty must be respected, not traded away for a false sense of security.

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

    June 17, 2013 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  20. Kev

    It took everyone 5 years to see this?

    June 17, 2013 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  21. Loyalright

    When a person doesn't immediately come out and explain their actions but distort the truth, the character of this person begins to wane.

    June 17, 2013 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  22. SMITVICT

    Jimmy Carter no doubt feels better about himself knowing he will end up topping Obama in popularity.

    June 17, 2013 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  23. PaulCat

    Those are the ones the believe Issa's lies. They are also the ones that doesn't have a brain to think for themselves.
    ........THINK PEOPLE THINK.......USE YOUR BRAIN.....

    June 17, 2013 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  24. alon

    What did Shakespere say...if it walks like a liar, and talks like a liar, it is a liar?

    June 17, 2013 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  25. se123

    count me in as one Barrack voter who think he might be the second worst president in american history...right behind Bush Jr.

    June 17, 2013 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
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