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. CyndName

    President Obama furloughs lays off federal dod workers for 90 DAYS and He and his family goes on vacation REALLY???? How out of TOUCH is That!!!!!!????? Spending my TAX DOLLARS? 100MILLION ???? What makes him different from the IRS

    Spending .
    when a president of a company lays off he stops the spending !!! President Obama stop spending during the furloughs just stop or resign!!!!!

    June 17, 2013 07:23 am at 7:23 am |
  2. collin ott

    His approval rating will go even lower when people wake-up and find out that thousands of Americans are being tortured with Electromagnetic weapons.

    June 17, 2013 07:23 am at 7:23 am |
  3. First One

    What is wrong? Do people forget about the trainwreck that was in office before him? After recent history, this guy's approval rating should be sky high just for not being George Bush

    June 17, 2013 07:23 am at 7:23 am |
  4. Aimhere

    "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 over half say they think the government has collected their data and stored it somewhere without analyzing it..."

    Anyone who really believes the government would go through the trouble of collecting this information only to "just store" it, without USING it for something, needs a good swift kick. Of COURSE they're going to analyze it.

    June 17, 2013 07:23 am at 7:23 am |
  5. Elliott Carlin

    Chairman Obama, we weep for you.

    June 17, 2013 07:24 am at 7:24 am |
  6. Mark

    It's not his fault, he learned politics in Chicago, the most corupt city in the USA.

    June 17, 2013 07:24 am at 7:24 am |
  7. Elliott Carlin

    Time to bring back Van Jones–how shall we say it....he's just so mainstream.

    June 17, 2013 07:25 am at 7:25 am |
  8. maskddingo

    He supports the NSA spying on innocent amercans. I can't support him anymore.

    June 17, 2013 07:25 am at 7:25 am |
  9. sbeth1

    The emperor has no clothes. Surprise.

    June 17, 2013 07:25 am at 7:25 am |
  10. Michael

    I have a hard time believing it has taken this long for people to wake up to the facts! Of course Obama has been trying to change America into 'his vision' of what America should look like – not a country based on the freedoms and liberty presented in the U.S. Constitution or Bill of Rights, rather, a country much like many socialist government run countries. Obama has 'said' so many things to the American people, but in reality he was/ IS doing the opposite behind his veiled curtain of secrecy! Is it really any wonder soooo many questions have never been answered before congress in all these scandals? We can take it back to the election center when two Black Panther's were obviously intimidating anyone entering desiring to vote for conservative candidates. That's illegal, yet Eric Holder did not prosecute them. And now we are finding out truths about so many more hidden agendas that he never wanted We The People to know about. Transparency was never on his agenda – only in his 'talking points' to America did his version of truth fool so many Americans!

    June 17, 2013 07:25 am at 7:25 am |
  11. Pat

    That's usually what happens when everything you campaigned on turns out to be a lie.

    June 17, 2013 07:26 am at 7:26 am |
  12. Dreaming

    It's hard being President but it's harder to endure a recession. If the economy was good, some of those approval points would still be there.

    June 17, 2013 07:26 am at 7:26 am |
  13. lgccac

    What's sad is that half still think he's a great guy. Unbelievable – or maybe just uninformed.

    June 17, 2013 07:26 am at 7:26 am |
  14. sbeth1

    The emperor has no clothes. Surprise.

    June 17, 2013 07:27 am at 7:27 am |
  15. steve

    Almost half who voted didn't vote for him; No news here, move along.

    June 17, 2013 07:27 am at 7:27 am |
  16. bobnc

    It too late now were stuck him,

    June 17, 2013 07:28 am at 7:28 am |
  17. Liberal&Proud

    And this too shall pass:-)

    June 17, 2013 07:28 am at 7:28 am |
  18. Tom Stirght

    His true nature comes out. He's been a lying manipulating politician that only cares about his well being, This failure of a president is a mockery of the American way of life.

    June 17, 2013 07:29 am at 7:29 am |
  19. lol at the gop

    as i see it unless you have something to hide, i could care less if they want to listen to my phone calls. not going to get to much intel from my phone calls.

    June 17, 2013 07:30 am at 7:30 am |
  20. Wallster

    It worked for the GOP when Clinton was President, sling enough mud until enough sticks. Whether it was Whitewater or Beghazi, the GOP can only compete with fabricating scandals and lies. Issa is the new Kenny Lay and the media is a profit driven business thats driven by corporate advertising. Meanwhile Congress hasn't done anything but waste taxpayer money on investigations and hearings that have proved nothing.

    June 17, 2013 07:30 am at 7:30 am |
  21. basic chair

    and you all just re-elected him...

    June 17, 2013 07:30 am at 7:30 am |
  22. paula jo hickerson

    That poll is not correct, I didn't vote and I still have full confidence in the President. So my question is what party voted?

    June 17, 2013 07:30 am at 7:30 am |
  23. Wake up People!

    OMG!! How will he ever win his next election????

    Oh wait a minute.......

    Well Fox-lite, you can pat yourself on the back for a job well done!!

    June 17, 2013 07:31 am at 7:31 am |
  24. TomNPitt

    Did the Government ever fire the Security firm, Booz Allen Hamilton?? Booz fired their Guy for taking the secrets and leaving town, but shouldn't the firm itself get the boot?? They obviously dropped the ball in who they hire but also in monitoring the conduct of one of their employees!

    June 17, 2013 07:31 am at 7:31 am |
  25. Pro_Equality

    I just want to know, WHO ARE THEY POLLING? Everytime these poll results come back, I always wonder when and where was it done because no body that I know has ever been polled. So I don't believe these results. Question more people or even all and then I will take this for face value.

    June 17, 2013 07:31 am at 7:31 am |
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