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. Bobloblaw

    Obama just won reelection. He only got 51% of the vote. People who voted for him aren't ready yet to toss him overboard. Scandals have a corrosive effect, not an immediate effect. In October 1973, Gallup asked voters who they wound vote for if the election of 1972 could be rerun. Nixon still beat McGovern. This was after the entire summer of watergate hearings and 16 months after watergate.

    May 19, 2013 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  2. Quest

    It will be great to get rid of the Republican party in 2014. They're absolutely useless. Ironically, if the party does cease to exist, the Democratic party will too. One party can't exist without the other.

    May 19, 2013 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  3. Jessl

    Interesting how, for many, politics has become a faith-based "religion."

    May 19, 2013 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  4. Francisco Decastro

    Obama's approval will only go down if he would be able to actually get a bill that is bad for the country voted and passed by Congress and Senate. However, Obama only wants to put great bills for the country, but they aren't passing because the whole country knows that Congress is against them. So why would his approval go down, if he is not the one messing up the country, but in fact Congress is?

    However, let's all check Congress' approval rating. Let's check their approval raiting for the last 5 years, and see how things are looking for them.

    May 19, 2013 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  5. Anthony... proud tax payer

    Because people are more concerned with improving the economy, improving the unemployment numbers, and educating the next generations to come.

    All things Republicans are opposed to.

    Jobs, jobs, jobs?

    Hillary 2016

    May 19, 2013 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  6. Mainscribe

    Astonishing how Obama has the media in his pocket. That is the real story. How does one man of any political persuasion have the ability to skew an entire industry and politic. I am as independent as a man can get and I just listen to the man speak and I know when he isn't being honest with me, yet the next day I read a completely washed version in 80% of the media about the same conversation. Its hard to believe that journalists today are so easily manipulated. It is a shame.

    May 19, 2013 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  7. Ed F.

    Of course, America is smarter than Fox News.

    May 19, 2013 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  8. Kjs5955

    These aren't the droids you're looking for?

    May 19, 2013 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  9. Larry Pierce

    America needs to wake up! This president's performance is shameful and our country's future is at stake. We cannot afford to continue to be apathetic.

    May 19, 2013 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  10. metoo

    Polls the same? Just goes to show what a freind of mine once said: "you can't fix stupid".

    May 19, 2013 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  11. Greg

    Some things took place that shouldn't have. Of course there are some that need to held responsible for such. But do I believe there is this far reaching conspiracy of government to transition and position itself in tyrannical ways? Absolutely not! I believe that whole notion is absurd to say the least. We have all been sitting back watching the Republican Party destroy themselves and their credibility for the last 5 years. I mean REALLY!!!!!!! G.W.'s administration seemed so extremely conservative and more realistic than these goofballs. I have absolutely no reason to follow along with their magnified rhetoric. They are an absolute JOKE just as the voters expressed last November.

    May 19, 2013 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  12. actongal

    When the medida read CNN is not doing their job, what do you expect. Ironic that many on CNN are upset about the AP scandal, but have not fulling exposed the IRS targeting certain Americans for their political gain. As a democrate I am appaled that the media didn't investigate this and allowed the president to deny knowlege of these events. He never knows what is going on.......the media and his allies protect him.
    DO YOUR JOB!!!

    May 19, 2013 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  13. DTOM

    Who was the focus group of this approval poll? Every one I talk to and I live in Denver, what used to be one of the biggest foolish obama loving places. Nobody really has anything good to say about this failure, change for the worse, hope for a miracle to fix all the f- ups! I don't know where these study's are getting their numbers but I'd say they need to ask more than their imaginary friends.

    May 19, 2013 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  14. Az

    The lack of outrage is very telling. VERY TELLING!

    May 19, 2013 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  15. CommonSense

    My guess is that Obama's approval ratings move hand in hand with the number of people collecting some form of welfare......

    May 19, 2013 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  16. Nodack

    I can see by the comments that Republicans are really upset that Obama's poll numbers have remained unchanged. All that effort put into destroying Obama with no net gain for them.

    Democrats have seen the Republicans wage a non stop smear campaign since the day Obama became President. Obama is evil, Hillary is evil, Democrats are evil, all government is evil, Muslims are evil, FEMA is evil, the IRS is evil, teachers are evil, Unions are evil, Mexicans are evil, Obamacare is evil, women are evil. If you aren't a white male who is a Christian right wing Conservative that owns at least one assault rifle then you are evil and deserve to be destroyed.

    I really really didn't like what Bush did while President. Until Obama intentionally kills hundreds of thousands based on lies and fabrications Obama has nothing on Bush. Until Republicans can hold their own party to the standards they set for Obama then they are all just frauds. They lied and fabricated a war to steal oil. They doubled the debt, they destroyed the economy. The did nothing about health care. There were all kinds of attacks on US embassies under Bush where scores of American lost their lives. Zero outrage. Zero investigations. The Tea Party groups are upset that they were targeted by the IRS. No group claiming tax exempt can be involved in political activities. The IRS was inundated with tea party groups claiming to be tax exempt. They were all guilty of tax evasion and fraud.

    May 19, 2013 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  17. massoud

    Controversies..., LOL try Scandals Cartoon News Network that is what is at issue here.

    May 19, 2013 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  18. Steve

    It's fun to read wingnut's chagrin and hyperbole over Obama's unchanging poll numbers. Yes, republicans overreached, and how.

    May 19, 2013 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  19. Gurgyl

    Just know this nation is broke with BUSH AND REAGAN THE BIGGEST IDIOTS. Obama is fixing this mess–stocks say it all. Do not be color blinded idiots like Larry, Jeff the pierce. Idiots. Wake up. We are in 21st century–no one cares skin color. Know.

    May 19, 2013 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  20. Mike500

    Nodack, the 9/11 Commission said there were no lies, and the bit about stealing oil is just ludicrous. The embassy attacks under Bush AND Clinton did not get investigations because they were attributed to terrorists immediately. There was no cover-up. As far as tax exempt status, under the IRS rules, groups based on issues can indeed get tax non-profit status. there are many liberal groups that do the same.

    May 19, 2013 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  21. Gurgyl

    Welfare in the name of TAX-EVSION BY GOP THUGS???

    May 19, 2013 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  22. pepe

    Astonishing how timid CNN is about covering the AP records seizure. If it was under Bush it would be portrayed much differently than it is now. Liberal pass for Obama.

    May 19, 2013 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  23. Linda

    If you believe this, I have some ocean front property in Ohio for sale!

    May 19, 2013 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  24. Geordie

    America has become a dumb nation , ask people in the street , they don't know who their VP is , have never heard of Benghazi or the IRS investigation , most of them couldn't tell you who represents them in Washington , yet they all voted for Obama.

    May 19, 2013 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  25. Name


    May 19, 2013 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
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