July 23rd, 2014
06:00 AM ET
5 months ago

CNN Poll: Obama's numbers not great but holding steady

Washington (CNN) - President Barack Obama's poll numbers are nothing to brag about, but there's little evidence he has suffered so far this year a "Katrina moment" that caused his predecessor's numbers to plummet.

A new CNN/ORC International survey indicates that public opinion of the President has barely budged in the wake of new challenges that Obama has faced this year.

According to the poll, which was released Wednesday, the President's approval rating among Americans stands at 42%. That's not great, but it's basically unchanged since March.

Only 42% believe that Obama can manage the government effectively. Again, nothing to celebrate, but it's virtually unchanged from the 43% who felt that way in March.

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"When Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and the Gulf Coast in 2005, the biggest impact on attitudes toward George W. Bush came in the number who said that he could manage the government effectively. That number dropped 10 points, and no other personal quality measured at that time changed as much," said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "Using that as a definition of a 'Katrina moment,' it looks like Obama has not experienced a similar drop in the summer of 2014, in part because his numbers already took that hit last year, and have stabilized since then."

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The survey indicates there have been one-to-two point changes (which are within the poll's sampling error) in the number of Americans who say that Obama is a strong leader, that he shares their values, and that he cares about people.

"Once again, those numbers are not good news for the White House, but the clear indication is that the President's problems pre-date the current immigration crisis along the Mexican border, or anything else that has happened this summer, and that those problems have not made things significantly worse for the President," Holland added.

Obama drop started last year

Obama's numbers edged down after late spring and summer following controversies last year over the Edward Snowden intelligence leaks and congressional investigations into IRS targeting of conservative political groups. Then came October and the politically charged botched rollout of the website for Obamacare, his signature domestic policy achievement.

Coupled with legislative setbacks, many pundits labeled 2013 the worst year of Obama's presidency. And for the first time since taking over at the White House in 2009, a majority of the public surveyed disapproved of his job performance.

Obama's approval ratings slightly rebounded earlier this year before edging down to their current standing in the low 40's in most national public opinion polling.

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The release of the new CNN Poll comes after the crisis along the southern border dominated headlines for weeks. Prior to that controversy, the scandal rocking the Department of Veterans Affairs was in the media spotlight.

The President is also facing two pressing international challenges: the bloody fighting in Gaza between Israel and Hamas, and the shooting down of a Malaysian airliner over a part of eastern Ukraine controlled by pro-Russian separatists. Prior to these two international flashpoints, Obama was dealing with the increased bloodshed in Iraq, the ongoing civil war in Syria, as well as the controversial swapping of five Taliban prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay for the release of a U.S. soldier held captive in Afghanistan.

What numbers mean for midterms?

Obama's approval rating is a key indicator of the President's standing with Americans and of his clout here in the nation's capital. And during a midterm election cycle, it's also considered an important barometer of how a president's political party may fare on Election Day, when control of Congress is at stake.

"You don't want a president at 42% anytime, especially in a midterm election year, when the approval rating is essentially the north star. Midterm elections are determined most of all by the president's approval rating," said CNN Chief National Correspondent John King.

The poll doesn't appear to offer any "new discouragement for Democrats, but there's nothing to cheer about," King added.

"I will give you this caution. The biggest drop since January is among Democrats. Obama's lost 11 percentage points among Democrats since the beginning of the year. Perhaps closer to the election, when Democrats are rallying a bit, that number could tick up a bit," King said.

So how does Obama stack up against his most immediate two-term predecessors as they marked their sixth Independence Day in the White House?

George W. Bush stood at 36% in the summer of 2006. Bill Clinton was at 61% in July 1998. And Ronald Reagan was at a lofty 63% in July 1986.

ZZZ POLL

Bush's low numbers helped fuel the Democratic wave in the 2006 midterms, when the GOP lost control of both the House and the Senate.

The silver lining for Obama and his party: While the President's numbers are nothing to cheer about, the approval rating for Congress is in the gutter. The most recent polling, by Gallup, indicates that only 15% of Americans approve of the job federal lawmakers on Capitol Hill are doing, with eight in 10 giving Congress a thumbs down.

"It's easy for Americans to dislike Congress because most of them are familiar, at most, with only three members - their two U.S. Senators and the U.S. Representative from their district. That leaves 532 strangers who are easy to despise," Holland added.

Democrats have a 55-45 majority in the Senate (53 Democrats and two independents who caucus with the party). But in the midterms, the party is defending 21 of the 36 seats up for grabs, with half of those Democratic-held seats in red or purple states. In the House, the Democrats need to pick up a very challenging 17 Republican-held seats to win back the majority from the GOP.

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The poll was conducted for CNN by ORC International from July 18-20, with 1,012 adult Americans questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points.

soundoff (545 Responses)
  1. Joe

    In layman's terms, "42% of Americans have yet to wake up and realize just how bad of a president Obama really is.".

    July 23, 2014 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  2. billbl

    Sunday talk show warmongers blame weakness of the President Obama for every international happening and his deliberate and careful considerations of the facts. They seem to prefer a quick decision which is sometimes risky. War should be the last resort and only when absolutely necessary. What makes the U.S. look weak is not a prudent president but an opposition which constantly slants criticism against what our government does or doesn't do. This apparent dysfunction of our government makes people like Putin feel much better.

    July 23, 2014 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  3. rs

    Unbelievable

    The reason Obama hasn't dropped despite his numerous Katrina moments is that 42% of voters are too blind to be offended by even the greatest of scandals or slights. Obama could devour an innocent child on live TV and he'd still have a 42% approval rating.
    _____________________
    Speaking of Katrina-like moments, do feel free to expound on why House Republicans have a single digit approval rating. No hurries, we'll wait.

    July 23, 2014 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  4. Gary

    I approve of Obama about 95% of the time. I'm about 62 and I think he's probably the best president we've had in at least my adult life... don't really remember too much about Truman or Eisenhower. Given what he inherited and the never-ending attempts by the opposition to scuttle every single thing he does, I can't imagine anyone doing a better job under those circumstances. Maybe it's just the contrast with his predecessor that makes him look good to me. What boggles my mind is that anyone could remember Bush as anyone but the guy who after 8 years left the country in economic disaster, burdened with 2 needless wars, and the leader of an administration whose only apparent skill was that they were great at lies, deception, and ineptitude. I know that there are still a large percentage of people who just can't stomach the fact that a black man is president – it must be a gut wrenching experience for them. As for the rest I'm not sure. Maybe it's genetic.

    July 23, 2014 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  5. LHH

    Most of the pro-Obama comments here follow the Obama/Clinton Doctrine
    #1 I did not do it, I am not responsible. It did not happen.If number 1 does not work go to #2
    #2 "What difference does it make" or if you do not agree with me you are a racist or sexist
    #3 I am better than Bush. Since IMO Bush was a poor Presidents and that is Obama's bar the Obama must be in the group of the six or seven worse presidents, Nixon, Carter, Hoover, Buchanan, Bush Maybe he is higher than Bush on the list (who knows) but I would not be very proud to be on that list

    July 23, 2014 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  6. Jim970

    I find this quite amazing. Obama's reign, I mean term, has been less than stellar, yet 40%+ of the people still think he is doing a good job. More than about Obama, think what these numbers say about the American people.

    July 23, 2014 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  7. Wake Up People! Many Rivers to cross.....

    TruthHurts says:
    July 23, 2014 11:43 am at 11:43 am
    When you subtract the automatic 10% negro vote, he’s really at 32%.

    Wow!

    July 23, 2014 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  8. mutantsubhuman

    Obama's approval rating simply represents the number of citizens of this country that are not that smart.

    July 23, 2014 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  9. Thomas

    For those of you who miss GW Bush and Dick C .

    They never looked at polls , deficits don't matter to morons .

    July 23, 2014 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  10. Seems2me

    What is there about this president that you support him. Is it his charisma, his photo ops, his red lines, not one smidgeon on corruption with the IRS, his attempt at making this a one branch of government, spying on our allies, poor wor ld leader, affordable care act that he has made 41 changes to, his pro illegal immigration, his "I have a phone and a pen", what about transparency, and his promise not to sign any bill that had pork in it. Who pays the price in the US today, middle American. Therefore, I want a president who will follow the law, not think he is the law. Worst president in my time. Voted for him the first time, but did not his second term.

    July 23, 2014 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  11. Klaark

    Let's see, so far Obama hasn't lied to get us into a pointless and costly war, nor has he sat on his hands a whistled while a major American city was wiped off the map. For that kind of evil/idiocy you need a Republican.

    July 23, 2014 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  12. Lizzie

    Some of the posts are just to funny, the last poll on CNN, every liberal and democrat told everyone that POLLS don't count. What has changed,

    July 23, 2014 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  13. mkuske

    Michael,

    "I wish he had done more, but Obama's record and list of accomplishments is a very good one."

    1. Pull us out of a near depression - Policies have led to the weakest economic recovery in US history when it historically should have been the second strongest.
    2. Stock markets at an all time high...driven by the Fed virtually printing money with quantitative easing..1...2...3...4
    3. Monthly job creation at 10 year highs – if you count part-time jobs which are also at an all-time high and labor participation at the lowest since the 1970's when women weren't fully in the job marketplace. There are now over 70% more people working part-time for economic reasons than there were just 10 years ago...yes, 70% more!
    4. Out of all wars - except the world is now a virtual tinderbox with terrorists running around with boxes of matches.
    5. Killing of Osama Bin Laden...I'll give you that, you know "Al Queda on the run" and all. HAHAHAHAHAH...no stop...your killing me.
    6. A form of government health insurance that is about to collapse under it's own weight bringing a 6th of the economy with it.

    So, yeah...awesome job, Obama...not.

    July 23, 2014 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  14. sly

    Best President of my lifetime – since Ike.

    Zero Wars started. Record stock markets, 401k, deficit reduction.
    Killed America's #1 enemy.

    These are great times, Americans, and we're proud and lucky to have an exceptional leader like President Obama.

    July 23, 2014 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  15. luke,az

    President Obama's approval rating is at 100% in my household !

    July 23, 2014 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  16. Dave

    It remains at 42% because that is the percentage of the country that doesn't care what happens and will vote their party even when the world and the country is suffering around them. That is the Liberal, Welfare, Race-Baiting percentage of the country.

    July 23, 2014 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  17. Mark Thompson

    I hope this doesn't affect his re-election chances!

    July 23, 2014 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  18. gary bunton

    Hey unbelievable get a life. The Greatest scandals bullshit all over again. Watergate was a real scandal, a president resigned over it, the reason real glue legally that held him accountable. If there is evedence prove it. All the Repubs have been doing for the last few years is smokescreens and mirrors. Keep listening to fox, oh and by the way Fox isn't a news station it's an entertainment chanel. Unfortunatly the news isn't fact based any more it's opnion based.

    July 23, 2014 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  19. smitvict

    There are 42% of Americans who feel Obama is God, even if he grew horns and announced he was the devil. The numbers practically really cannot go lower.

    July 23, 2014 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  20. Graeme from Ottawa

    Pretty standard for a second term president. If the American people want to blame him for everything under the sun it is not surprising.

    July 23, 2014 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
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