CNN Poll: Did White House order IRS targeting?
June 18th, 2013
06:00 AM ET
10 months ago

CNN Poll: Did White House order IRS targeting?

Updated 8:01 a.m. ET, Tuesday, 6/18

Washington (CNN) – A growing number of Americans believe that senior White House officials ordered the Internal Revenue Service to target conservative political groups, according to a new national poll.

And a CNN/ORC International survey released Tuesday morning also indicates that a majority of the public says the controversy, which involves increased IRS scrutiny of tea party and other conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status, is very important to the nation.

Republicans argue that the Obama administration used the IRS to intimidate and harass political opponents. Democrats say poor management at the tax agency, rather than political bias, is to blame. Congressional sources on both sides say that interviews with IRS workers so far have found no evidence of political dealings by the White House. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, touting an independent IRS inspector general report, has said the scrutiny appears to have originated with "IRS officials in Cincinnati," where the agency's tax exempt division is centered.

GOP tries to keep focus on IRS targeting scandal

Last month only 37% of the public thought that the IRS controversy led to the White House, with 55% saying that agency officials acted on their own without direct orders from Washington. Now the number who say the White House directed that IRS program has increased 10 points, to 47%, virtually the same as the 49% who believe the IRS agents acted on their own.

"Younger Americans are much less likely than older Americans to believe in White House involvement, and there is, not surprisingly, a partisan divide as well," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "But the Obama administration may be losing independents on this matter. In May, only 36% felt the White House ordered the IRS to target conservative groups; now that number has crossed the 50% threshold."

Fifty-one percent of those questioned said the IRS controversy is a very important issue to the nation, compared to 55% who felt that way in May. In the past week and a half, the IRS story has been put a bit on the backburner, as the controversy over the federal government's massive surveillance program has dominated the spotlight.

The poll was conducted for CNN by ORC International June 11-13, 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


Filed under: CNN/ORC International poll • IRS • White House
soundoff (726 Responses)
  1. Dave Rogers

    If the White House ordered it, it was to harass the Tea Party at the behest of the Republican vanguard.

    I don't think there really are to parties in Washington... it's just that it's times to be disassembling "The Tea Party " which never really existed. It was a pretend party that was created after the Bush sell off to prevent an actual 2nd party forming.

    Not on the voter level.. Heck...we so dumb we don't even know what it means when a politicians lips are moving.

    But on the government level, these things are all directed from back rooms where the sun never shines...for the sole purpose of excusing government from anything it wants to do.

    June 18, 2013 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  2. Harry Olson

    Has anyone seen these on the street interviews with the general public. Most citizens don't know who the vice president is, what the first ammendment means or in general do not care about these things. This is why we are where we are.

    June 18, 2013 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  3. Bozo prez

    This is the most corrupt president in the history of the United States.

    June 18, 2013 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  4. Concerned

    The higher the "stone wall", the more important the thing it is meant to guard.

    June 18, 2013 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  5. ezduzit757

    This IRS "scandal" is blowing over because there never was any "scandal" to begin with. Issa has found nothing other than short-staffed IRS workers trying to do the best they could to sort through the avalanche of applications they got for tax exempt status from groups who did not qualify for this status since the Supreme Court ruling. He got one person who said they got direction from Washington – but what he fails to recognize is that when an IRS employee says they got "direction from Washington", they are referring to their legal team at the IRS headquarters in Washington – NOT the White House.

    June 18, 2013 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  6. archerb

    There has been no evidence linking this to the White House, nor has there been any evidence linking this to Obama's presidential campaigns (which seems more likely to me). However, there is no evidence that states that WH or the campaign was NOT involved either. Basically, we have no facts either way.

    But you have to ask yourself, "Who stood to gain from this targeting?" It certainly wasn't the IRS agents, management or anyone else in the IRS. So why would they do it? We have to "follow the money", or in this case, "follow the benefits" to see who would benefit the most from this targeting. The answer, of course, is Obama himself, or someone in the chain that would lose their job if Obama lost his election. Either way, this can't be anyone in the IRS as they are non political hires or appointees whose tenure last beyond the president's term. That leaves only Geitner or Obama as the people who stand to lose/gain by targeting conservative groups opposed to the president during an election.

    June 18, 2013 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  7. Hmm

    ObamaGate is surrounded by a giant non-transparent stone wall...for another 44 months...

    June 18, 2013 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  8. Jon

    I had to double check the date when I read the assertion that this scandal "appears to have originated with "IRS officials in Cincinnati," the story has moved way beyond that point even in non Fox media outlets. IRS officials in DC have been implicated. At this point even Obama supporters have to realize this thing stinks. I have no doubt that the Obama administration cannot be directly implicated in this but I find it difficult to believe that the president was unaware of what was going on. People who still support Obama should save some face by realizing that they were conned and moving to a new leftist. And since I strive to be honest...I thought he lost all credibility after his leadership failures in the Benghazi attack.

    June 18, 2013 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  9. archerb

    here has been no evidence linking this to the White House, nor has there been any evidence linking this to Obama's presidential campaigns (which seems more likely to me). However, there is no evidence that states that WH or the campaign was NOT involved either. Basically, we have no facts either way.

    But you have to ask yourself, "Who stood to gain from this targeting?" It certainly wasn't the IRS agents, management or anyone else in the IRS. So why would they do it? We have to "follow the money", or in this case, "follow the benefits" to see who would benefit the most from this targeting. The answer, of course, is Obama himself, or someone in the chain that would lose their job if Obama lost his election. Either way, this can't be anyone in the IRS as they are non political hires or appointees whose tenure last beyond the president's term. That leaves only Geitner or Obama as the people who stand to lose/gain by targeting conservative groups opposed to the president during an election.

    June 18, 2013 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  10. DAK1941

    Considering all of the tap-dancing and other forms of dissembling coming from the White House, there can be no question that the matter can be traced back to POTUS.

    June 18, 2013 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  11. valwayne

    Ms Lerner the person who headed up the group involved in the criminal conspiracy against the groups that were opposed to Obama's policies has taken the 5th amendment to avoid incriminating herself. A supervisor in DC Ms Pas was just interviewed and actually said that she thought "Tea Party Cases" referred to all groups that were at all political including LIBERAL groups. Are you kidding? That folks is called perjury. Nobody believes that. I'm actually shocked that only 47% of the American people belief that the White House was involved. Trust me....this was planned, organized, and run out of the White House. You don't have something like this go on for over 2 years by accident, and those supposed rogue field agents have already said they took all of their orders from Washington. And don't forget that the head of the IRS during this period went to the White House at least 157 times, and when asked why he said the Easter Egg Hunt. The head of the IRS under Bush went to the White House on business 1X? 1X folks vs 157X. Its been weeks and the White House still hasn't disclosed why the head of the IRS was there 157X and who he met with. You can bet they haven't released them because if we saw who he was meeting with we know a lot more about who was running this criminal conspiracy.

    June 18, 2013 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  12. mmilesll

    Of course it does and does anybody believe anything this administration says anymore?

    June 18, 2013 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  13. hammer

    The IG report was not made public until after the election.People had the right to know.Did Obama know I would hope not but we will never know for sure.To many thing was hidden until after the election.And for the IRS to say they didn't know who the tea party was, is there that many stupid people working for the IRS.

    June 18, 2013 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  14. jeff

    Guess Joe Wilson, was 100% correct.

    June 18, 2013 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  15. Dugway

    "47% believe the White House..."

    why does that number ring a bell...

    June 18, 2013 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  16. the rev al

    There is NO way IRS employees and managers harrassed conservative groups and worked to neutralize or marginalize them without being directed to do so. This direction came from someone in the whitehouse as part of the 2012 campaign. Taxgate and Bengazi were both handled in a manner to enhance the presidents chances for reelection. Obama had declared that Al Quaida had been defeated. To admit that Bengazi was a terrorist attack would have flown in the face of his campaign theme that he had wiped out the radical Islamist terrorist organizations. So they 'cooked up' the phony anti islamic utube video story to explain Bengazi and the Obama loving media fell in line. The IRS helped by making it virtually impossible for conservative groups to get tax exempt status while at the same time, speeding liberal group applications through the system. All of this was about reelecting Obama..plain and simple. As such, to suggest that IRS employees did all of this on their own with no personal gain at stake is just plain idiotic.

    June 18, 2013 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  17. Bob

    Where is the evidence of any wrong doing whatsoever?

    June 18, 2013 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  18. Jimmy

    Thanks for bring us together Mr. President..really!
    If we keep electing lawyers this what we will get.
    Lawyers don't solve problems they drag things out making things worse.
    e.g. Bush.....Obama

    June 18, 2013 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  19. Anonymous

    As an Independent, the only thing important about this issue is that so many new Tea Party groups were trying to get away with paying taxes!! When their main platform is Taxed Enough Already then why on earth shouldn't the agency in charge of making sure these groups are actually eligible for tax-exempt scrutinize them? There is such faux outrage over this and Issa will keep digging until he finds one morsel of information that he can try to lead back to the President. Sick of all the nonsense when there are so many more important issues to focus on to better our lives!!

    June 18, 2013 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  20. wade

    I do not know if it began there but 157 visits by the IRS chief is at least a smoking gun. I do believe that it was Obama's political team that was involved. I doubt anyone could honestly disagree with that. We now know there were in DEED people in Washington involved and directing tisi activity.

    June 18, 2013 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  21. udidntbuildthat

    Obama said the IRS scandal was a couple of rogue agents. YOU LIE! At least 88 agents identified.
    Obama said they acted on their own. LIE!!! There are documents with Lois Lerner signature who is conveniently on paid leave.
    Obama said he did not know until recently about the IRS. LIE. We know Stephanie Cutter his senior advisor knew.
    Obama said he did not order IRS targeting and discrimination of conservatives and Jewish organization. U don't have to give marching orders to your subordinates Mr Obama. They know what to do.
    Obama campaigned that he would remove all survelliance programs put in place by Bush. LIE. Not only did u not remove he expanded them.
    Obama said Congress was overseeing this program and had access to all the info. LIE. Democrats in Congress said they were not made aware of any programs.
    How do u know Obama is lying? His lips are moving!!!

    June 18, 2013 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  22. spoof

    Congress is to blame for the IRS mess. They are the ones who invented these sub groups for tax exempt status to be able to pursue their political agendas and get thenselves elected primarily through local and tv advertising. There is no way that there groups can be compared to legitimate tax exemt groups like the Red Cross or The Cancer society. These sub groups should not be allowed to even apply and Congress should fix this ambiguous problem. Our Congress are a self serving lot.

    June 18, 2013 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  23. Lamanzo

    A poll about what people believe to which they have absolutely no evidence for believing it.

    June 18, 2013 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  24. JT

    Anyone with half a brain (E.G.: Liberals) can conclude this fiasco originated and was conducted from the Oval Office. Upon being seated January 2015, first order of business for the GOP led Senate should be articles of impeachment for Obama, Holder, Sebelius and Napolitano!

    June 18, 2013 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  25. Jane Doe

    The reason groups are petitioning to be recognized as 501(c)(4) status is to keep the identities of their donors secret not to save on the organizations' costs. Their donors pay taxes on their donations but want to be able keep their names and amounts donated secret. In order to qualify for that status an organization's primary goal must be nonpolitical. Congress has put the IRS in an impossible situation by not enacting legislation which would take care of the non-disclosure problem. The Supreme Court's Citizen United decision started this whole mess. If the IRS targeted only conservative groups and not liberal groups seeking the 501(c)(4) status they are in the wrong. If both were targeted I don't have a problem with it.

    June 18, 2013 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
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