CNN Poll: Obama ranks low among recent incumbents
November 15th, 2011
12:07 PM ET
11 years ago

CNN Poll: Obama ranks low among recent incumbents

Washington (CNN) - President Barack Obama's overall approval rating remains in the mid-40s, where it has been since July, and he continues to receive much higher marks for foreign policy than for domestic issues, according to a new national survey out one year before he is up for re-election.

A CNN/ORC International Poll released Tuesday indicates that 52% of all Americans approve of how the president is handling the situation in Iraq, an indication that Americans tend to favor Obama's decision to withdraw all U.S. troops from that country by year's end. Forty-eight percent of those questioned approve of how he is handling the war in Afghanistan. By contrast, only 35% have a positive view of his economic track record, and just 38% approve of how he is handling health care policy.

Full results (pdf)

It all adds up to an overall 46% approval rating for the president, with 52% saying they disapprove of how Obama is handling his job in the White House.

"That's par for the course for Obama, whose overall approval rating has been hovering in the mid 40s in every CNN poll conducted since June," CNN Polling Director Keating Holland said.

In comparison to recent incumbents running for re-election, Obama's 46% approval ranks above only Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford - who both lost their re-election bids - in November of the year before an election. Most incumbents who were re-elected had an approval rating above 50% a year before the election. But George W. Bush, at 50%, and Richard Nixon, at 49%, also won re-election, and Bush's father George H.W. Bush had a 56% approval rating yet lost to Bill Clinton the following year.

"Translation: while the approval rating is an important indicator of a president's strength, it is not a foolproof predictor of election results," Holland said.

See how Obama's number stack up.

The poll indicates that the standard partisan divide over the president remains, with three-quarters of Democrats giving Obama a thumbs up but only 15% of Republicans approving of the job he's doing in office. By a 54%-42% margin, independent voters disapprove of how the president's handling his duties.

Women are divided on how Obama's performing, but men disapprove by a 55%-43% margin. White Americans give Obama a thumbs down by a 61%-36% margin, with non-white Americans give the president a thumbs up by a more than 2-1 margin.

The CNN poll was conducted by ORC International from November 11-13, with 1,036 adult Americans questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points.

- CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.

Also see:

Newspaper editor defends Cain interview

Cain stumbles over Libya

Gloria Cain: I never believed allegations were true

soundoff (169 Responses)
  1. Liz the First

    That's because the disloyal opposition has made it their reason for living making him look bad instead of, oh, you know, GOVERNING THE COUNTRY??? this says a lot more about the rethugs than it does about Obama, whose only real mistake was believing the rethugs were interested in working together to help the American people. silly Obama. let's hope he doesn't make this mistake again.

    November 15, 2011 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  2. Anonymous

    You libs can hang on to your fantasies as long as you like, doesn't change the FACT that he WILL be gone in 2012

    November 15, 2011 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  3. John Herzog

    What do people expect? Stocks have gone up 6 trillion since he got into office(after going down 4 trillion during GW's 8 years), the top 3 Al Queda terrorists have been eliminated...The GM bailout worked out economically very well and possibly saved over a million jobs..Libya, Tunisia, and Egypt have converted to Democratic possibilities without U.S. boots on the ground or many $ spent...and when you compare him to the buffoons that the GOP is putting out there on the stage, would you really want one of those people representing our country to the rest of the world?...Wake up, this president, with what he has had to work with, has done a terrific job!

    November 15, 2011 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  4. dave836

    See, I don't want to vote for Obama, but I don't want to vote for anyone on the Republican side either. The only person I think I might vote for is Ron Paul except that I really don't agree with a couple of things he believes in... I really don't know what to do....

    November 15, 2011 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  5. CreoleMan

    to Debbie,

    Your opinion is respected, but you are ill-informed. Your answer is clearly juvenile and uneducated. Again, we (US) are not the center of the universe anymore. Take away the color and what do you have-a white man screwing up. As the saying goes, WE emulate our masters....

    November 15, 2011 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  6. Are you serious

    Debbie, how do you feel about the retirement fund that Cain presided over when he was on the board of that company (name escapes me...). The fund tanked cuz it was invested in the company instead of being diversified as a proper retirement fund should be. And he helped spread millions to the top execs just before the company laid off hundreds of workers. Imagine how many jobs could have been saved if they hadn't padded the executive compensation packages! So how do you feel about Cain doing that? Is that the kind of accomplishment you're looking for?

    November 15, 2011 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  7. SA Wallick

    No wonder his ratings remain low. He thinks Hawaii is Asian.

    November 15, 2011 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  8. Sharp eyes

    People had better start thinking for themselves and pay attention to whats really going on in the world around us.the media is more bias than ever and you can hardly believe anything they say,can America be saved??Not with the leadership in congress what a sad time for our country.

    November 15, 2011 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  9. sid

    This poll would mean something IF there was a somewhat viable GOP candidate, but those clowns over there are slim pickings to say the least. Obama will be re-elected no doubt.

    November 15, 2011 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  10. rod

    Look at the final hour political stunt that the president is doing to improve his image! Any attempt to improve his rating at this hour would remain negative and futile. It will always be political expediency that will cause more hemorrhage till the polls! The electorate are wise enough to select a new WH tenant!

    November 15, 2011 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  11. Leslie

    I agree, these Polls mean NOTHING!!!! Pres. Obama IS the BEST MAN for the job!!!! He is a true intellect who thinks and works for the average American! People need to listen to the facts and stop watching FOX NONews, Rush Limpballs (he is a drug addict for heaven's sake!) and the likes of them because they are destroying the middle class with their lies! People you have got to start thinking for yourselves!

    November 15, 2011 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  12. Chris

    I love all the obstructionist charges the liberal posters make; you have this idea that if someone disagrees with your policies they are obstructing you- we are allowed to have other opinions. The democrats had their time to ram through what ever they wanted when they controlled both chambers and apparently jobs wasnt at the top of the list. Now

    November 15, 2011 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  13. Recovering Republican

    Does not matter. Voters are faced with another lackluster, but safe, four years with Obama, or gambling on one of the assorted unknown whackjobs representing the GOP. Obama will win reelection without much issue. The GOP has done a bang up job of scaring away anyone not already in their extremist camp. It is unfortunate that GOP candidates must be so extreme to get the GOP blessing. By then, they have positioned themselves so far right that preachers are scared.

    November 15, 2011 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  14. Jason

    LOL...Gallop has him at 41% and he spent most of October at 38%....

    He's not that great a president...

    November 15, 2011 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  15. idb

    I did not know that his approval ratings were that high. There must be a lot of foolish people out there that do not see him as he is. For those people, I have a bridge to sell you.

    November 15, 2011 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  16. Ohioan

    Oh Democrats never obstructed legislation when they were in power, never filibustered..

    Give me a break. All elected officals in DC are bums,, all of them..

    November 15, 2011 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  17. Don

    Amongst other government poll ratings (Congress at 8%, states vary, etc), 46% is actually quite high. Considering his potential opponents in 2012, I'd say President Obama gets his second term. Slam dunk!

    November 15, 2011 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  18. Mama Judy

    With the present GOP candidates I don't think anyone needs to worry.... if there was a strong GOP or independent candidate it would be a different story..... America will choose a candidate that will make us proud.... look at them all and you decide who would you like to represent America?

    November 15, 2011 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  19. mike proctor

    Question to TwM-HOW LONG WOULD IT TAKE TO FILL THE GRAND CANYON ?? this is the hole that Bush/republicans left behind for President Obama to fill. Also do you work 24/7-the President does,so drop the BS about him wasting time on vacation you republicans/tea-baggers are beating a dead horse on that subjest. The health care reform bill have help my grandson because he was born with a medical problem and the insurance companies call it pre-exitence condition and he was not able to get health insurance,but now under this new bill he is cover. The problem with the American people(white) in reference to this President ,he will never be worth a damn in their eyes but to the rest world he has done a good job with what he has to work with. Also now here the big one!!! who in the hell in they right mind would vote for the sorry ass republicans/tea-baggers running against him in 2012.

    November 15, 2011 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  20. Matt

    CNN, PLEASE STOP PUSHING THE FALLACY THAT OBAMA IS MAKING THE DECISION TO WITHDRAW US FROM IRAQ! This was a date that was set quite some time ago. It's basically the Iraqi government that is telling us it's time to go.

    November 15, 2011 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  21. lauradet

    Obama you have my vote, and no one ever polls my opinion.

    November 15, 2011 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  22. frag

    If this month were October, 2012, this poll would be important. It's not October 2012, and this poll is not important. It is just a way for people who work at CNN to justify their paycheck.

    November 15, 2011 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  23. imho44

    There's a very basic problem when trying to use these number to predict Nov 2012: Disapproving the way the President is doing his job has nothinig to do with approving the ideas of the other candidate. Case in point: 30% of Liberals (read the Full Results) disapprove the way Obama is handling Health Care, anyone here thinks that they will approve the Republican's ideas on Health Care, much less vote for them?

    November 15, 2011 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  24. KP3205

    "Americans tend to favor Obama's decision to withdraw all U.S. troops from that country by year's end." Obama's decision???Another great spin by CNN. What CNN has forgotten to indicate with this statement is that US-IraqStatus of Forces Agreement (SOFA) is what is really getting the troops out by the end of this year. It establishes that U.S. combat forces will withdraw from Iraqi cities by June 30, 2009, and all U.S. forces will be completely out of Iraq by December 31, 2011, subject to possible further negotiations which could delay withdrawal and a referendum scheduled for mid-2009 in Iraq which may require U.S. forces to completely leave by the middle of 2010. This was all passed and ratified December 2008 by Iraq which was of course prior to Obama getting into office. I love the media pro Obama spin.

    November 15, 2011 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  25. TJ

    Clinton was exactly right. What a fairy tale Obuma has been.

    November 15, 2011 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
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