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. want2believe

    Most of the people in the country (gop, dems, and independents) are luckily rational individuals who look at these situations as clearly they need investigated, but lets not jump to conclusions and go on a witch hunt. You only ever hear the people that scream the loudest.

    May 19, 2013 09:14 am at 9:14 am |
  2. bigdoglv

    Put all the sugar on this you want CNN. The crimes by the IRS go against every principle this country was founded on. The saddest part is that there are some that think what they did was OK.

    May 19, 2013 09:14 am at 9:14 am |
  3. Bill Davis

    After all their efforts the POTUS was reelected and now with these so called scandals the American people knows he cares about jobs, jobs, jobs while the GOP cares about nothing. This drives the republicans crazy...

    May 19, 2013 09:14 am at 9:14 am |
  4. BO

    The words "I don't recall" worked so well in the Rose Law Firm investigation – I think I'll start using them in my Benghazi scandal.

    May 19, 2013 09:15 am at 9:15 am |
  5. rs

    The GOP hasn't so much over-reacted (as it is essentially only reactionary in its post-policy condition), but it has certainly over-reached.
    There is virtually nothing in either the Benghazi or the IRS events, and they look stupid for trying to make them. Worse is putting career criminals like Issa in charge. The AP story is a little different- and even more dangerous for the GOP. McConnell ranted that the "leaks had to stop", and the leaks were pursued using the Republican-written USA PATRIOT Act.
    The GOP public suicide continues.

    May 19, 2013 09:15 am at 9:15 am |
  6. Natch

    That's because the same chumps that liked him before, like him now.

    May 19, 2013 09:16 am at 9:16 am |
  7. Wyatt Buchanan

    What? No ten point bounce because he showed "leadership"? I think the jury is still out and are waiting to see where this thing in the IRS is going. If senior officals at treasury knew, as was said Friday, this thing could blow up bigger.

    In this case his leadership appears to be trying to find out which way the parade is going and trying to get out in front of it and make it look like he's leading it.

    May 19, 2013 09:16 am at 9:16 am |
  8. Wazzup

    A welfare check goes a long way

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

    That's because the GOP are trying to manufacture scandals. Wouldn't it be better if the GOP politicians would instead focus on doing the job they were sent to Washington to do? That's the real scandal – how dysfunctional they have become. The histrionics of Issa and Boehner in particular reveal people better at pointing fingers than doing their jobs. Long ago I learned that incapable people at work spend all their time trying to make up scandals around other people in order to hide the fact that they don't know how to do their own job. I found that they needed to be fired, and quickly, in order to get the projects back on track. The American people need to fire the GOP as one of the two major parties in the USA.

    May 19, 2013 09:16 am at 9:16 am |
  10. don in albuquereque

    ......and these "controversies" probably will not hurt him. Most Americans are seeing very clearly now that the GOTP are just a bunch of lying crybabies. Not worth your respect or time. Time for the GOTP to dissappear.

    May 19, 2013 09:16 am at 9:16 am |
  11. MaryM

    Has GOP overreacted? Yep, and the GOP will pay for their arrogance by losing 2014 and 2016 elections. The GOPers have not learned their lessons yet from their 2012 election Loss.

    May 19, 2013 09:17 am at 9:17 am |
  12. Jesse

    The Canadian think. Democrats and Republicans hate each other so much they don't care how corrupt each side is, they will be loyal till the day they die

    May 19, 2013 09:17 am at 9:17 am |
  13. Just

    Who actually gets these calls? Maybe only those using Obama phones?

    May 19, 2013 09:17 am at 9:17 am |
  14. PushingBack

    GOP overreacted? No, it's no an "overreaction" when it's a calculated political move!

    May 19, 2013 09:17 am at 9:17 am |
  15. revolting peasant

    if the polls say anything, it says that the GOP will not prevail through pointing out the shortcomings of the democrats. Instead they will have to achieve something and win voters by demonstrating that they are more than obstructionists.

    May 19, 2013 09:18 am at 9:18 am |
  16. Ho Hum

    Republicans are jumping like Howling Monkeys and nothing has changed. The people see through their pathetic political games. What is truly important is the NATION and the ECONOMY. None of that matters to the GOP and they would rather the Nation is destroyed just to get Obama at all costs. Pathetic...truly pathetic.

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

    No surprise there. Obo The Clown could be seen on camera kicking a puppy and eating a kitten, and the Obo sheeple would simply look the other way.

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

    The same mor*ns who voted this idi*t into office...twice...still like him? No mystery there...there is no there there!

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


    May 19, 2013 09:20 am at 9:20 am |
  20. scuba45

    Compare Obama 55% ratings to 15% for Congress and you see who is ahead.

    May 19, 2013 09:20 am at 9:20 am |
  21. AJW3

    It just goes to show you how insignificant FoX and friends have become..............The harder they try the more they fail.

    May 19, 2013 09:20 am at 9:20 am |
  22. Farmer

    Unlike any other president Obama can getaway with anything.

    May 19, 2013 09:20 am at 9:20 am |
  23. Grinning Libber

    The piblic has learned to ignore the GOP caterwauling.

    May 19, 2013 09:20 am at 9:20 am |
  24. suppressed citizen


    Definition of FASCISM

    often capitalized : a political philosophy, movement, or regime (as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition.

    anyone that doesn't see Tyrannical government here is blind.

    May 19, 2013 09:21 am at 9:21 am |
  25. Annie

    Who are they polling? Illegal aliens, young people that are not informed? If he has not lost anyone this week, someone is lying, big surprise.

    May 19, 2013 09:21 am at 9:21 am |
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