May 19th, 2013
08:57 AM ET
10 years ago

CNN Poll: Controversies hurting Obama? Has GOP overreacted?

Washington (CNN) - President Barack Obama comes out of what was arguably the worst week of his presidency with his approval rating holding steady, according to a new national poll.

But a CNN/ORC International survey released Sunday morning also indicates that congressional Republicans are not overplaying their hand when it comes to their reaction to the three controversies that have consumed the nation's capital over the past week and a half. And the poll finds that a majority of Americans take all three issues seriously.

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According to the survey, which was conducted Friday and Saturday, 53% of Americans say they approve of the job the president is doing, with 45% saying they disapprove. The president's approval rating was at 51% in CNN's last poll, which was conducted in early April.

"That two-point difference is well within the poll's sampling error, so it is a mistake to characterize it as a gain for the president," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "Nonetheless, an approval rating that has not dropped and remains over 50% will probably be taken as good news by Democrats after the events of the last week."

The CNN poll is in-line with Gallup, which also indicated a very slight rise in Obama's approval rating over the same time period. And Gallup's daily tracking poll also indicated a slight upward movement of Obama's approval rating over the past week. But as with the CNN poll, it was within that survey's sampling error.

More than seven in 10 in the CNN poll say that the targeting by the Internal Revenue Service of tea party and other conservative groups that were applying for tax exempt status was unacceptable. While the White House and both parties in Congress are criticizing the IRS actions, congressional Republicans are depicting the controversy as a case of the federal government gone wild.

But more than six in 10 say that the president's statements about the IRS scandal are completely or mostly true, with 35% not agreeing with Obama's characterizations. And 55% say that IRS acted on its own, with 37% saying that White House ordered the IRS to target tea party and other conservative groups.

Only 42% of the public is satisfied with how the Obama administration has handled the September attack in Benghazi, Libya, which left the U.S ambassador to that country and three other Americans dead. Fifty-three percent say they are dissatisfied. But those numbers are virtually unchanged from November.

Republicans have ripped the administration for not providing adequate security for the Benghazi mission, botching the response to it, and misleading the public for political gain with the attack coming less than two months before last November's presidential election.

According to the poll, 44% say statements made by the Obama administration soon after the attack were an attempt to intentionally mislead the public. Half of those questioned say those statements reflected what the Obama administration believed, at the time, had occurred.

But 59% now say that the U.S government could have prevented the attack in Benghazi, up 11 points from last November. And only 37% say that congressional Republicans are overreacting in their handling of the matter, with 59% saying they've reacted appropriately.

It's the same story on the IRS controversy, with 54% saying the GOP in Congress has not overplayed its hand.

The White House has also been criticized by Congress for the Justice Department's secret collection of phone records from the Associated Press as part of a government investigation into classified leaks. According to the poll, 52% say the Justice Department's actions were unacceptable, with 43% saying they disagree.

Americans appear to be taking all three controversies very seriously, with 55% saying the IRS and Benghazi matters are very important to the nation and 53% saying the same thing about the AP case.

"More Republicans than Democrats or Independents say these three issues are very important to the nation, but even among Democrats, nearly half say the matters are very serious," Holland adds.

Are Americans’ trust in the government shaken?

Only 43% say they have a great deal or some confidence in the people who run the federal government. But 56% say they have a great deal or some confidence in the system of government.

The CNN poll was conducted by ORC International between May 17-18, with 923 adults nationwide questioned by telephone. The survey's 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 • Libya • Polls • President Obama
soundoff (1,004 Responses)
  1. Bill C

    Of course the republicans have overreacted

    May 19, 2013 09:02 am at 9:02 am |
  2. Marie MD

    If Benghazi didn't hurt him, because there's is nothing to be had, these won't either.
    I have yet to hear one person blame the President but a LOT of people are tired of the obstructionist repug congress and their waste of time on everything but JOBS or moving the country forward.
    People do remember the prior fools going after the NAACP and ACORN though.

    May 19, 2013 09:03 am at 9:03 am |
  3. ironage

    Nigs aren't gonna turn away from Obama! Is you crazy?

    May 19, 2013 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
  4. Orangy36

    Wow.. No news all weekend from cnn until boom!! They finally found some semi-positive news about potus.. And they even infer (though they never reported) that somehow the last week may somehow may not have been good for him.

    May 19, 2013 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
  5. Chris

    Damn, does this mean we have to hear the word Bengazi 5000 more times!

    May 19, 2013 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
  6. Namesteve

    We all know why is approval rating has stayed the same.

    May 19, 2013 09:08 am at 9:08 am |
  7. Andrew

    BAM! That just happened.

    May 19, 2013 09:08 am at 9:08 am |
  8. Barbara

    I remain a strong supporter of President Obama. What hasn't been heard over the cries of the other side this week is the fact that the National Debt is going down! Thank you President Obama for your steadfast Leadership!

    May 19, 2013 09:09 am at 9:09 am |
  9. Chris

    Does this mean we have to hear about Bengazi another 5000 times?

    May 19, 2013 09:09 am at 9:09 am |
  10. rosethornne

    Awwwwww poor gopers.... and they tried so very very hard

    May 19, 2013 09:09 am at 9:09 am |
  11. Bill

    First of all, they're not polling the right people, and there's a pretty good chance that the polls are intentionally skewed as it is. Additionally, the average citizen is indifferent to most anything our government does these days... This is an intentional side effect of continuous illegal activity. We're all just numb. We know they're corrupt and for the time being we tolerate it so long as our daily lives remain largely unaffected... but the empire will fall and be rise again in time.

    May 19, 2013 09:10 am at 9:10 am |
  12. RIchard Long

    Approval ratings? All I have to say is just wait when the "train wreck" known as ObamaCare kicks in next year.
    Higher rates!
    Poor quality of service!
    If Obama had his way, former illegal immigrates, through the Illegal Immigration Amnesty Bill, would get access to the program. 11 million flooding the program! Even higher rates! Lower quality of service!
    And guess who are the enforcers of ObamaCare? Your political weapon-of-mass-destruction, the I... R... S!!!'

    May 19, 2013 09:10 am at 9:10 am |
  13. jb

    and why would they?
    as long as his skin color doesn't change his supporters could care less.

    May 19, 2013 09:10 am at 9:10 am |
  14. Dan

    There is a large segment of the population who will support this man no matter what. It isn't based on principle, it is based on race and its shameful.

    May 19, 2013 09:10 am at 9:10 am |
  15. Mark

    They haven't hurt because a majority have no problem supporting a President that breaks the law. These same people rail against Nixon though.

    May 19, 2013 09:10 am at 9:10 am |
  16. Dan

    No surprise. For 45% of the population, he can do no wrong no matter what he does.

    May 19, 2013 09:10 am at 9:10 am |
  17. Rachel20091

    The "smell" has permeated not only the three offices that are involved in this scandal, but MOST of all the smell can be traced "DIRECTLY" to the White House. What a shame we Americans have to endure the democratic party & again....MOST of all.....a "LYING" President.

    May 19, 2013 09:11 am at 9:11 am |
  18. Iceaxdave

    The same morons who voted him in still like mystery there...there is no there there

    May 19, 2013 09:11 am at 9:11 am |
  19. David Evan Karasek

    While recent events raise concerns the big concerns are the ones the President addresses but congress does nothing about. Education. Health Care. Global Warming and energy conservation . Transportation Infrastructure.

    May 19, 2013 09:11 am at 9:11 am |
  20. MarkH

    Weird. Nobody asked me. I guess I'm not an American citizen.

    May 19, 2013 09:12 am at 9:12 am |
  21. Robert

    Polls don't hold much meaning considering the media have and will lead public by the nose. Just listen to Crowley.

    May 19, 2013 09:13 am at 9:13 am |
  22. bassman

    The difference, of couse, is the way our media has reported those scandals. All we have to do is look back at how our media treated former Pres.Bush. They accused him of lying about WMD, even though Bill Clinton, Al Gore and world leaders believed the same. Pres.Obama tells the media he called Benghazi a terrorist attack from the beginning and they let him get away with that lie.

    May 19, 2013 09:13 am at 9:13 am |
  23. BooHooGOP

    Hate to break it to you, but the GOP's agenda is dead regardless of who sits in the WH. Getting rid of Obama will not solve the problem for you people. The demographic is shifting and your outdated views are thankfully on the rubbish heap of history.

    May 19, 2013 09:13 am at 9:13 am |
  24. McBob79

    There's a difference between likability and approval. The polling is counter-intuitive. People disapprove of how he's handling things but they like him personally so that translates into approval. This clearly demonstrates the widespread lack of critical thinking by the American public.

    May 19, 2013 09:14 am at 9:14 am |
  25. presisamonkey

    so only fake polls matter now?

    May 19, 2013 09:14 am at 9:14 am |
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