June 17th, 2010
11:58 AM ET
10 years ago

CNN Poll: Rise in disapproval of Obama handling of oil spill

ALT TEXT Workers on a contaminated beach in Grand Isle, Louisiana. (PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images)

Washington (CNN) - Six in ten Americans disapprove of how President Barack Obama's handling the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, a jump from last month, according to a new national poll.

A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey also indicates that vast majority of the public disapproves of how BP has handled the environmental disaster and two-thirds say making a profit rather than cleaning up the spill is oil giant's top priority.

Full results [pdf]

Fifty-nine percent of people questioned say they disapprove of how the president is dealing with the spill, up eight points from May. Forty-one percent say they approve of how Obama's handling the crisis, down five points from last month.

While the president's numbers are dropping, he still fares better than the federal government. Only one in four give the federal government a thumbs up on how it's dealing with the oil spill, with 74 percent saying they disapprove.

The survey is the first national poll conducted entirely after the president's Tuesday night prime time television address on the oil spill to the American people. Obama's speech directly followed his fourth trip to the Gulf Coast since the environmental disaster began on April 20.

"Americans don't like how Obama has handled the situation in the Gulf, but that has not affected his overall approval rating," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "Fifty percent say they approve of how he is handling his job as president - essentially unchanged from his overall approval rating for the last three months."

The poll's Thursday release comes as top BP executives testify in front of Congress. At the hearing, Rep. Joe Barton, ranking Republican on the House Energy Committee, defended BP and slammed the White House for insisting that BP place $20 billion in an escrow fund to help compensate those affected by the oil disaster.

"I am ashamed of what happened at the White House yesterday," said Barton at the hearing. "I think it is a tragedy of the first proportion that a private corporation would be subjected to what I would characterize as a shakedown. In this case a $20 billion dollar shakedown."

But according to the poll, Americans disagree with Barton. Eighty-two percent approve of the creating of a fund of billions of dollars to compensate workers and businesses affected by the spill.

The survey indicates that two thirds of Americans think the president hasn't been tough enough in dealing with BP, with one in four saying Obama's been about right and five percent saying he's been too tough on the oil corporation.

Only 13 percent of Americans approve of how BP's handling the oil spill, down 11 points from last month, with 87 percent saying they disapprove, up an equal amount from May.

More than nine out of ten say BP's top priority should be cleaning up the spill, but two thirds say it's their best guess that BP's top priority will be protecting the interests of its investors and employees by making sure the company stays in business and makes a profit. Just over one in three say cleaning up the spill is BP's top priority.

Just over half questioned say they trust the federal government more than BP to improve the situation in the Gulf of Mexico, with 32 percent saying they have more faith in BP and 12 percent say they trust neither Washington or the oil corporation.

"Most Republicans say they trust BP more than the government, but only about one in four independents and Democrats agree with that view," Holland says. "That's not to say that Republicans like BP - only 13% of GOP respondents approve of how the oil company is handling the situation in the Gulf and six in ten Republicans think that BP will be more concerned about the bottom line than about cleaning up the Gulf."

The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll was conducted Wednesday June 16, with 534 adult Americans questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

Filed under: BP • CNN Polls • Energy • Popular Posts • President Obama
soundoff (305 Responses)
  1. JES

    I don't understand why anyone would be suprised with the out come of this poll we don't have any leadership in the White House.

    The people that elected this perosn wanted change well they got it and we are stuck with it for another two years.

    A rookie has no business trying to run this country when he has never managed anything before.

    Good Luck voters.

    June 17, 2010 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  2. Anne P

    Mike, great analogy using FDR and WWII after Pearl Harbor! I don't think this country is use to having a Pres. who uses his intelligence to deal with issues and develop sound plans rather than knee-jerk reactions ("shock n awe!). The media largely controls our opinions because we know nothing that goes on behind the scenes. We are mere armchair observers who hold our own political biases or filters on reality. The wing nuts of our country want Obama to fail and that's their only agenda and it's embarrassingly transparent. CNN likes to incite us to get action on these blogs; these polls are statistically meaningless for the most part. Who's at home picking up a phone these days anyway?

    June 17, 2010 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  3. Dan

    Yesterday, I was talking with some friends in Louisiana. I was surprised to here them say God Bless Obama for presenting their fund idea to BP.
    Families have been in tears because BP wouldn't pay and they had to sign up for food stamps. These are proud hard working Americans who were reduced to tears.

    June 17, 2010 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  4. Jeekers

    The only thing B. Hussein Obama cares about with this disaster is furthering his progressive agenda. Never let a good crisis go to waste.

    June 17, 2010 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  5. Kathi

    I am so very sick and tired of people criticizing President Obama for handling this environmental mess. What do they want him to do? He's not an engineer, he doesn't possess the expertise to make this go away, and he can't dive down 5,000 feet to make it stop. He's doing the very best he can. He's called in experts, has taken control of the situation with BP but must rely on those advising him...and yes even BP who created this mess. It's unfortunate that the oil companies and their teams are the ones who appear to have some of the answers, not many of which have worked. But does our President have the technical and engineering knowledge to stop this? Think about it, people. I realize much of the disapproval stems from frustration, anger, sorrow for those poor people in the Gulf. But let's rally and work together to work this out and help where we can. It's easy to criticize when you don't have the answers...and the majority of us don't.

    June 17, 2010 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  6. Ex-Republican since McCain picked Palin

    Four and the Door, grow up! Get rid of the hate, get the facts. Did you ever notice how wonderfully outnumbered you are in these comments. All of you Obama haters and palin lovers are always so outnumbered. Thank you Americans for showing how wise we are not to want a Palin handling this or any other crisis

    June 17, 2010 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  7. JOhn

    It is difficult to know if BP or Obama has done their best to stop the leak. Neither has done a good PR job. Yesterday's 20 billion trust fund to help compensate gulf residents is a glaring example of how the two parties would handle this problem. GOP Barton thinks the people of the gulf coast should have to wait until a final court verdict dicates what and when BP would have to pay to damaged gulf residents, Court settlements like this could take 5 years. Our president negotiated a reasonable short term settlement to help get relief to damaged Americans. Based on the apology from Barton to BP, it almost sounds like the GOP would just let BP "slide away" from total responsibility. My take is that our country is very lucky that McCain, and the "Drill Baby Drill" mentality was not elected, or the gulf coast residents would have, once again, taken it in the shorts.

    June 17, 2010 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  8. dave from fresno,ca

    Hey Jeff in Virginia,
    How about listening to Bobby Jindal and others who asked for help and didn't get it. How about waiving the Jones act to allow others to help when they offered it. How about putting boats and people on the ground like the great liberal idiot james carville asked for. this guy is no leader and you know it. It's not about what he can or can not do-it's about what he didn't do in the begining that is bringing him down.

    June 17, 2010 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |

    When Obama soon reaches the bottom of the ocean, could he go by and shut off the valve on that stupid well?

    June 17, 2010 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  10. anagram_kid

    Here is the problem with this and I think it is something CNN needs to address on all of these future ‘polls’. The first line – “Fifty-nine percent of people questioned… “ should read “Fifty-nine percent of 534 people questioned…”

    That is 315 people! How does CNN possible justify that 315 people out of 232 million is as accurate representation.

    June 17, 2010 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  11. ETM

    I guess those attacking Obama just wonder why he hasn't gone into a phone booth, transformed to Superman and flown to the Gulf to plug up the hole with a giant boulder.

    The president is doing everything humanly possible. There are hundreds of ships in the Gulf now doing cleanup and BP is paying a minimum of 20 billion in restoration efforts.

    And Obama was right to address the issue of energy independence through cleaner energy sources. If we continue to feed our oil addiction, we will continue to have more and more environmental disasters.

    June 17, 2010 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  12. Jack (chicago)

    I grow less and less American every day with these stupid polls. I would like to ask every American, What do you want him to do?? It seems all we can do is throw of fit over it with out ever helping him come up with ideas. Maybe if our insane need and desire for fossil fuels weren't so overbearing this would not have happened, becuase we would have actually moved to renewable fuel sources instead. Maybe if previous presidents pushed us in the direction of renewable sources (carter in the 70's) this would not have happend. Again, I ask every common, normal american regardless of political affiliation, what do you want him to do? Start suggesting solutions instead of being dumb enough to add to the problem.

    June 17, 2010 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  13. Tam

    Ah, so many armchair experts here. He's got another 3 years to work on fixing the previous President's eight years of disaster.

    June 17, 2010 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  14. KeithJ

    Seriously CNN? Where are the adults in this childish country called the USA. There is no way in heck I'm going to forget this is ALL of BPs fault. Get out of here with that Obama didn't do enough GARBAGE!

    June 17, 2010 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  15. ThinkAgain

    What's really pathetically sad is the happy dance Republicans are doing when they see poll numbers like these.

    Free market enterprise messed up big time. Free marketers constantly complain about regulation hurting business and its ability to make a buck. Yet, when a business opts out of voluntary compliance with safety regulations and disasters like the Gulf spill happen, these same free marketers expect the Federal government to swoop down and make everything right.

    June 17, 2010 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  16. Scott

    All these people jumping on Obama for not handling this with his magic wand are the same people who screamed for more drilling just a year or less ago.

    Until we move past fossil fuels, the ocean will experience more of the same, especially with the 400 new leases just approved for the Gulf.

    A lot of good jobs and money are when the ocean can no longer sustain life on Earth. It's now or never... literally.

    June 17, 2010 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  17. Ex-Republican since McCain picked Palin

    J russ, you are quoting Sarah Palin. According to the Washington Post, we excepted help from Mexico, the Dutch, and Norway. Investigate before you make a stupid statement that is untrue. Just once, think for yourselves and before you quote sarah drill baby drill palin, check the facts.

    June 17, 2010 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  18. John

    Really, what do you expect from a community organizer????????

    June 17, 2010 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  19. Debbie

    If President Obama say there's no "ocean front" property in Kansas, you would say yes it is!
    If President Obama say water is wet, you would say no it's not!
    If President Obama say, you were born from a female, you would say no I wasn't!
    Get The Picture!

    June 17, 2010 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  20. Randy, San Francisco

    Right or wrong...the spill happened on Obama's watch. The blame should really fall on both political parties in Congress for doing the oil companies bidding in return for campaign contributions.

    June 17, 2010 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  21. Al - Sacramento, CA

    Well, you are contradicting your own results, aren't you CNN?!

    You have one at your own on this page from yesterday that shows 50% poor, 30% good and 19% fair.

    So, which 'poll' you are asking us to trust?

    June 17, 2010 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  22. Slick William

    $20 Billion dollars in an escrow to be managed by our Federal Government. All I can say is watch this folks.... I guarantee without a doubt that it will be misappropriated, leveraged against and wasted through Government bureaucracy by political bureaucrats to the very last dime. I'll bet they will create an "employment" opportunity for minorities, government contractors and a prison workforce courtesy Van Jones to be paid of course in accordance to the Davis Bacon Wage Act guidelines, further do you think that the State and Federal Governments will be tapping this fund for expenses like say for the Coast Guard and Environmental Regulators since ALL of their budgets are already in the red? This money will evaporate before your very eyes!

    Anyone care to wager. anyone?

    June 17, 2010 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  23. jeff jackson, alabama

    Of course his numbers are dropping.
    Everyone in America wants a solution
    and all he is doing is politicking and
    threatening law suits.
    No one in the gulf area gives a hoot
    about futuristic energy ideas right now.
    They want their world fixed now.

    June 17, 2010 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  24. ThinkAgain

    obama victim says the Obama presidency is over.

    Boy, are you a lightweight! I bet you're one of those losers who gives up whenever things get hard. (You and Palin have a lot in common.)

    The fact that you have "victim" in your name says volumes ...

    June 17, 2010 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  25. nyc

    When you hire a community organizer to run the country this is what you get. Why are people so surprised that Obama can manage anything? He has no experience!

    June 17, 2010 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
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