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. Tracy

    all you Republicans need to stop blaming Obama for everything and all you Democrats need to stop blaming bush. stop blaming the other party for the ills of our country. what you should be concerned with is the fact that whatever party is in office, these types of things just keep getting worse.

    if you want to blame someone, blame yourselves, on both sides of the political spectrum, for letting this happen. stop supporting your party and start voting these self absorbed idiots out of office. they do not care about your party except in how they can use it to play you against each other so they can do whatever they want while you all play the blame game.

    May 19, 2013 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  2. Chris

    This do-nothing GOP congress is doing the only thing it knows to do: 1. Lead with insinuations and innuendo 2. Hold congressional inquiries 3. Lather, Rinse, Repeat.

    There's no quicker way for a person to quickly lose respect in my eyes than to use the word "Socialist" or "Benghazi" in a sentence... craven hypocrites!

    May 19, 2013 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  3. optimistmiser

    In the game of political chess Obama is struggling to stay relevant.

    May 19, 2013 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  4. jonahan pace

    This infuriates the media more than Republicans.... They thought they controlled public opinion

    May 19, 2013 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  5. optimistmiser

    Anyone who defends the targeting of groups or individuals by the IRS is not worthy of citizenship in the USA.

    May 19, 2013 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  6. Sandi

    Take THAT republicons! HAHAHAHAHA!!!

    May 19, 2013 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  7. Marie MD

    All these "controversies" show anyone with a quarter of a brain that the repugs are bat *hit crazy and it's all about hating not just the President but the country.
    I have yet to speak to anyone who cares about anything they say because it's all about how things look and NOT the truth. People are tired of hearing about Benghazi and wen the IRS "scandal" is not being taken seriously because it's against the tea trolls who pretty much nobody likes and people think they are puppets of the koch brothers and faux news.

    May 19, 2013 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  8. Dave in Houston

    Sadly, as this story indicates, the real problem with America is not with our leaders, but our people.

    May 19, 2013 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  9. Flmay Sr.

    I have said it before that it's time to retire all those who are trying to run this country. They are to old and set in their ways that come heaven or high water they are never going to change. Once any of them reach 70 years of age, that is the end of their service to the country. I know, I have passed that point. Go home and relax. You have served now RETIRE.

    May 19, 2013 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  10. Al

    It's not like anything that happened has affected his life. He was not left to die in Benghazi, he was not the one getting probed by the IRS and it's not his phone being tapped. He does not care about what anyone else thinks, he's all about lowering the standards of the United States and selling himself as a good leader.

    May 19, 2013 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  11. optimistmiser

    The IRS investigations need to dig a lot deeper to reveal which politicians instigated this abuse of political power.

    May 19, 2013 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  12. optimistmiser

    Did the union representing these employees instigate this IRS abuse of Americans at the request of Democrat party leadership?

    May 19, 2013 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  13. massoud

    Did this poll only ask Americans who are feeding out of the Public Trough? What a sad commentary of what the USA is becoming when this Tyrannical, freedom hating, joke of a President's poll numbers stay the same when he just went thru one of the worst scandal plagued weeks in USA's Presidential history.

    May 19, 2013 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  14. massoud

    Poll bias or American citizens are dumber than dirt.

    May 19, 2013 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  15. fred

    it's the same because even though Obama has been a disappointment, they still know it's better than having a Republican in the White House.

    May 19, 2013 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  16. optimistmiser

    The attempt to hide what was taking place in Benghazi from the American people is deplorable. Any elected official who would stoop to such tactics can not be trusted to be honest or truthful and should be removed from office.

    May 19, 2013 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  17. rams3144

    Nothing can change Liberals view of Socialist leaders. Pathetic moraity.

    May 19, 2013 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  18. sarad

    How can this president be so disconnected? Over a year ago I heard of this. Did he not assign someone to look into this? OR, did he think it was fine? He really has a talent – just like Hitler.

    May 19, 2013 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  19. dubrats

    obama could commit murder on live tv and the dem. voters/cnn would still say he was not at fault and vote for him again....blind sheep..... and look where it has gotten this once great country.

    May 19, 2013 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  20. beegee

    More than 4000 soldiers killed in Iraq and more than 10000 seriously injured, not a single person jailed or inquires. Now 4 brave men killed, lets impeach the President. What a joke, no wonder why this country is full of people from Indian running it. Thank God we don't have people like Bachmann working in hospitals, otherwise they would be killing us all.

    May 19, 2013 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  21. optimistmiser

    Secretly taking (stealing) the date from AP is only the tip of this story. This ties in with the attempt that is being made by Obama to have ALL phone and internet activity by individuals, groups, and business scrutinized and monitored without any just cause or warrant.

    May 19, 2013 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  22. optimistmiser

    Leaders of the world are watching how deceitful Obama is towards the American people and surmising that he is likely being just as, if not more, deceitful towards them.

    May 19, 2013 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  23. bencoates57

    He's the first black President. Electing him in 2008 created an American fable. It's why we re-elected him in spit of the fact businesses told us they would only start hiring if we elected Romney. America will not stand to see Obama disappoint us. He can murder 12 people tomorrow in cold blood and his poll numbers will stay the same.

    May 19, 2013 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  24. Chris

    Seriously, in the case of the IRS scrutinizing Tea Party applications, really, who has a more vested interest in seeing them go away. The old guard in the Republican Party who has blamed the The Tea Party for them losing so many votes and causing them to lose the election.

    May 19, 2013 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  25. Gord

    More and more it looks like his legacy will be President "Pants On Fire"

    May 19, 2013 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
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