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. BMP

    The average American realizes that the republicans are just using Benghazi as a way to attack Hillary Clinton. They wouldn't care at all if this was a republican administration. Then, they claim that the IRS officials ought to go to jail for what they did... which was conduct oversight on laws that they are supposed to enforce. Riiiiiiight. If any fiscal individuals ought to go to jail, it'd be the negligent bankers that caused the 2008 crisis.

    May 19, 2013 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  2. chatmandu002

    The lame duck gets even lamer. LOL

    May 19, 2013 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  3. us_1776

    Issa refuses to make any hearings public because he wants to selectively paraphrase and manipulate what the participants say.

    Did we mention that Issa used to be an arsonist, a car thief, insurance fraud, and business confidence man?

    You can sure tell.


    May 19, 2013 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  4. Jimmy

    There goes the idea of checks and balances I guess... how sad

    May 19, 2013 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  5. labman57

    Bottom line: the public is not buying the evidence-devoid, conspiracy-laden scenarios that the GOP and blowhards employed by News Corp are selling.

    May 19, 2013 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  6. The King

    People don't care about the baggers, or the AP. They care about their jobs, the economy, home prices, and want to see georges asinine wars end. If Obama can keep things going the way they are, he'll be considered one of the top ten presidents ever. Keep up the good work Mr President, we the people, support you!

    May 19, 2013 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  7. sandalista

    The dinosaurs are acting up again. There were 32 attacks on US embassies during the reign of G.W. Not one hearing, not a beep from the right. There is one major problem for the teabaggers with the President: He is a "Black Kenian Muslim".
    So back off bible thumpers and get a life. We know you hate America, you don't have to prove it every day.

    May 19, 2013 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  8. Joanne Loster

    Discussions sadly focus on the theatre, here and elsewhere. Did he look upset? Was he playing golf? Will his agenda be derailed? Is this good or bad for Hilary? Aren't scandals fun? Nope. Not when the country is in danger, when there is no criminal prosecution for crimes, when the worst consequence is embarrassment. How about one standard that applies to politicians and real people

    May 19, 2013 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  9. Robert

    See GOP? This is what happens when you claim outrage at absolutely EVERYTHING. Now when there is a real reason to inquire about the presidents actions / lack of action no one cares. Crying wolf every single day will get you that and a Democrat owned house / senate in 2014. Congrats! WE CANT HEAR YOUUUUUUUUU

    May 19, 2013 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  10. CarrotCakeMan

    Sorry, GOP Dirty Tricksters®, we aren't fooled by your GOP Dirty Tricks®.

    May 19, 2013 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  11. Ancient Texan

    PowCat- If the Republicans had not applied the brakes, we would already be the equivalent of Cuba or worse. The "mess" is attributed to Dobbs and Franks and their mismanagement of Fanny and Freddy and a Democrat program to give home loans to unqualified buyers, all for the sake of political gain.

    May 19, 2013 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  12. Rob

    Corruption and democrats, go hand in hand

    May 19, 2013 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  13. James Doorey

    Obstruction, is not the way to govern. Get things done. End the partisanship. Think of the next generation.

    May 19, 2013 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  14. Ancient Texan

    us 1776- You failed to mention that Obama was once a druggie and hung out with known communists?

    May 19, 2013 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  15. John


    May 19, 2013 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  16. Bevis Calahan

    Rethugs are overplaying there hand. Obama had nothing directly to do with any of the three scandals they are trying to pin on him and anybody sane knows it.

    May 19, 2013 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  17. Alex

    I have to wonder who was surveyed in this, but these scandals are just beginning. Don't get surprised when you get unfairly audited.

    May 19, 2013 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  18. Deez

    Crying Wolf seems to be the only card the Republicans seem to have.

    May 19, 2013 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  19. rs

    "......when Bush waited to be asked by the local states for help rather then bullying in like Obama has. "
    Oh, sure. It was better that people drowned instead of bullying states by sending in help.

    Republicans are patently crazy if this is the crap they believe.

    May 19, 2013 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  20. RocketJL

    'Gurgyl' – Sir the IRS thing was not about tax audits finding tax cheats. Guess you don't know that these same IRS folks will take over final implementation and 'enforcement' of obamacare in 2014 and will tell your doctor how to treat you or they could send him to jail. This also includes a 40% tax on those that have health insurance that is 'too' good (cadillac). If it affects you, the IRS will tell you when they do not send your tax refund back. Boy, have you got a surprise coming.

    May 19, 2013 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  21. xrastx

    I think this shows more than anything the GOP's complete lack of credibility among the mainstream public. It's not so much that Obama is all that and a bag of chips, but rather than he's still better than the alternative and at this point it would take a lot more than two honest mistakes to change that.

    May 19, 2013 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  22. Joe From Antarctica

    Barry is a liar.

    May 19, 2013 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  23. yeahright


    Who are they polling? the same individuals that voted him cause he was black

    May 19, 2013 11:00 am at 11:00 am |

    -There are a lot more people who didn't vote for him BECAUSE he is black, and I'm betting you're one of them

    May 19, 2013 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  24. rs

    How much more evidence does the American people need to come to the conclusion that "our precious" (AKA Barak Hussein Obama) is inadequate to the job of being the president of our nation?
    Obviously the American public needs more evidence than the fabricated lies concocted by the GOP.

    Really? The party that simultaneously has called the duly elected President: Communist, Socialist, Hitler and Stalin? The Party that had to let loose their Brown-shirt TEA Party shock troops to dispense the Birther idiocy, and engage in overt racism?
    You think we should believe them ? You're a funny guy!

    May 19, 2013 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  25. Joey

    Nice to see that polling only took place in the Lincoln Bedroom.

    May 19, 2013 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
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