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. jim atmad

    Gee, why weren't the Republicans so excited when a Republican administration ordered the purely politically motivated audit of Greenpeace at the behest of Exxon, and of the NAACP after the chairman criticized GW Bush?

    Those actually were illegal acts, and were ordered from the top down, not lazy shortcutting by low-level bureaucrats.

    May 19, 2013 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  2. OK


    People would rather let the country burn to the ground than admit they voted for a total failure and criminal. No surprise here.

    May 19, 2013 11:01 am at 11:01 am |

    Voted for "W" twice, did you?

    May 19, 2013 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  3. StopItFool

    The GOP claims "outrage at absolutely EVERYTHING"???? This, from the party of the perpetually outraged? Project much???

    May 19, 2013 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  4. Kalamazoo

    FACT: Republicans are in majority of those who practice racism in America. In fact all KKK associate themselves with the Republican Party.

    May 19, 2013 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  5. Vanbren5

    I like that the President Obama simply stays cool and moves onto more substantive matter and the repugs lather themselves into a frenzy.

    May 19, 2013 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  6. jim atmad

    Gee, you mean that trying to use the deaths of four brave Americans as an excuse to try to manufacture a phony 'scandal' out of a tragedy isn't working?

    There's hope for America after all!

    May 19, 2013 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  7. Pete

    It's hilarious how this Benghazi deal as bad as was months ago against Hillary,Pres.Obama is turning against its creator Issa the chair of this latest of political witch hunts that cost Americans millions with again no results!!When will America wake up and see Issa and his committees for what they are in being treasonistic punks that obstruct at a moments notice but like Fast,Furious again you settle for no results !!Time to put Issa down if he were the pitbull that conservatives wish he were because after this latest in many a republican debacles you've got to wonder when will they'll do anything right!!

    May 19, 2013 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  8. Donkey Party

    Civil War is the only answer to rid society once and for all of the toxic, moronic, racist right-wing garbage that infests the nation. All one has to do is read the asinine comments they post to see how delusional, paranoid, cowardly, and pathetic they are. They don't deserve to draw another breath, they're infinitely worse that Al Queda or the Taliban.

    May 19, 2013 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  9. jim g

    poll numbers the same after all this crap? imagine that. proof that the democrats control the media.
    time for succession, civil war and real "change you can believe in"

    May 19, 2013 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  10. Vanbren5

    I like that the President simply stays cool, moves onto other substantive matters, and the repubs lather themselves into a frenzy.

    May 19, 2013 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  11. Ooga Booga

    These scandals are so huge they will be completely disabling to this presidency, CNN is just too stupid to see it. This is like Watergate x10, this isn't some partisan operatives breaking into a damned hotel, this is the most powerful organ of the government walking roughshod all over the American people. The president should probably just resign on Monday, not that he's aware enough to do that.

    May 19, 2013 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  12. wade

    Obama the worst president in American history presiding over the most incompetent and corrupted administration in history with the only atty gen who is in contempt of congress for cover ups and who has failed at everything he has tried. Yea he is doing so great thanks to the liberal press protecting him, the racist people of America protecting him and the uneducated uninformed not caring about anything as long as they get their Obama money. We will see how long this last now that more and more scandals are coming to light.

    May 19, 2013 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  13. jharry

    This is easy to understand. The low info voters, i.e., most of who post here, do not have the IQ necessary to understand that when the man starts coming, he will come for them too. It's just a matter of time. This IRS thing is horrific, and it started with BO.

    May 19, 2013 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  14. Donkey Party

    "Than", not "that". Damn Blackberry.

    May 19, 2013 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  15. Jacob

    The real threat in today's America is the media. GOP comes in second. And those that oppose the will of God are third.

    May 19, 2013 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  16. CC

    Doesn't dismiss the fact that this clown is one of the worst presidents ever. Luckily his skin color bought him a second term.

    May 19, 2013 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  17. tm1946

    Plausible deniability – Pres O knows about nothing. His staff, nameless, or a fed employee, also nameless, did it. You would never guess Pres O was in charge of anything.

    Typical Chicago politics, great campaigner but does not run or direct anything. And all the Demos buy into it.

    So be it, I outlive all sort of bad politicians and hope to out live Jane I can outlive the current leader and his cronies also..

    May 19, 2013 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  18. mr sensitive

    NO ONE ASKED ME...but for what's it's worth, our President is doing a great job, especially compared to the last 2 Republican Administrations...

    May 19, 2013 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  19. tm1946

    PS Maybe the Democratic Party should change it name to the "know-nothing" party. They do not know anything, have no responsibility for anything and the Republicans did it.

    May 19, 2013 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  20. Getoverit

    @The King
    If Obama can keep things going the way they are, he’ll be considered one of the top ten presidents ever.

    May 19, 2013 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  21. lIb

    Keep up the good work Mr. President! We Americans know our priorities. The very people who are trying to prosecute you are the very ones who should go to jail. The economy is growing, deficit looks good, homeowners doing well. stocks at all time hign and I suppose a lot more. Great President! Enjoy your weekend off with your beautiful family and have some rest. Never saw a president who worked this hard and had to support so many of us during tragedies.

    May 19, 2013 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  22. Jake

    Harry Truman described the job of the president succinctly, "The Buck Stops Here". Apparently this president failed history but he has been a defining example for the "Peter Principle". Jimmy Carter can rest easy now he no longer is the worst president in the last century.

    May 19, 2013 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  23. manhandler1

    Did they ask if the Republicans should be working on improving the Country rather than attacking the President 24/7?
    Did they ask if they approved of the Republicans? Because if they had asked those two questions the picture would be looking much different. With the press frothing over the supposed scandals, it's no wonder people responded as they did, especially about Benghazi. Give it a couple weeks as more comes out. The Republicans are gonna suffer.

    May 19, 2013 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  24. TRT

    I will vote for a serial killer before I vote for anyone from the party of corporate fascists (republicans).

    May 19, 2013 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  25. Courtney

    I could careless about all of this.

    May 19, 2013 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
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