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. brasstacs

    No surprise here from the liberal media,but the Rasmussen polls say something different ...This is just more liberal media Obama damage control propaganda. The Obama "trifecta of trouble" definitely has all the ear marks of corruption,incompetence and cover up,and exposes this administration for what it really is.

    May 19, 2013 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  2. ya rights

    No surprise really, only thing the GOP knows is pointing that finger with no facts.

    May 19, 2013 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  3. Hans

    Goebbels would be so proud of the way the media works for the Administration.

    May 19, 2013 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  4. strangerq1

    I feel like puking right now. You give free stuff, they will come. The cover-up of Bengazhi and the constand deflection & lack of ownership says it all. Sad to see what has happened to his country. Even worse to see how outsiders view us.

    May 19, 2013 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  5. Steve

    Much more monkey-house chatter about nothing. How about doing a little work like getting the economy back on track.

    May 19, 2013 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  6. gman

    LOL – Polling 1000 people to represent 300 million. Only stupid people react to media-sponsored polls.

    May 19, 2013 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  7. John Bob

    I think we should hate all sides equally. Both sides of the Isle should be fired,

    May 19, 2013 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  8. david bidlack

    the poll numbers don't surprise me even a little. the american people watch the games of the republican party and have figured out that the GOP has become an irrelevant party of the sky is falling following!!!!!!!!!!

    May 19, 2013 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  9. barbara

    They probably polled everyone who is getting government hand outs. I'd approve of him too. Obama has done a brilliant job of distancing himself from scandal after scandal.... I think that's going to change. Someone is going to come forward and give new meaning to the word whistle blower in regard to this man's administration.

    May 19, 2013 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  10. BobPitt

    It doesn't matter people see the GOP as obstructionist, here is an idea.. fire all the GOP strategist and start a new, is obvious the current strategist have lost it..

    May 19, 2013 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |

    Do a real poll!! I AM DONE WITH CNN

    May 19, 2013 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  12. Bill Mitchell

    Well when your sample includes only 24% Republicans what result did you expect?

    May 19, 2013 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  13. wade

    Obama has roughly 1,400 days in office. In the same time Bush had a 51% approval ratting. Obama has by most accounts 47% approval maybe 50 % So I am not surprised at all by this. After all the scandals are just starting and no answers have been given. Obama has admitted he never is aware of anything that goes on so ho long before the American people ask why is he there then? Up until now most of the media have been lying for and protecting or just ignoring Obama. They even campaigned for him. So now that the Media is starting to act like journalist again little by little who knows what it will be in a few months with sure to come more scandals.

    May 19, 2013 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  14. wronglong

    The GOP does not get it. Obama bashing is not what the people want. Go out and govern! Do something! Sitting around dredging up the past can be dangerous. People start to remember obstructionism, candidates that would not release tax info, and that 47% who do nothing.

    May 19, 2013 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  15. davey

    Leapin lil libbies give passes on everything to the sotoero, nothing could ever be his fault.

    Be proud and try to stay in line.

    May 19, 2013 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  16. biglio

    Americans are probably smarter than the GOP think. Thank God! Let's talk some adult issues now will you Gopers? Or you probably didn't get enough of losing and need to get whipped again badly in 2016? Focusing on trivial issues for most of Americans will get you there for sure!

    May 19, 2013 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  17. rs

    I've never seen so many lies in one presidency before. The buck stops at the top and obama is a weak, corrupt leader.
    Try on these two:
    1. Iraq has WMDs.
    2. Iraq played a role in 9/11.

    Wake me when anything of that enormity happens in this administration.

    May 19, 2013 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  18. Tim Barnett

    CNN, you dont need to be concentrating on polls. You need to have the guts to look at obamas crimes. Fast an furious where he gave 2500 weapons to Mexican drug carrtel. Benghazi with the death of three marines an our ambassador. these are just the crimes where deaths were involved! Forget about the polls, go for the crimes!

    May 19, 2013 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  19. stillafan

    Unfortunately half the population only listens at the entertainment news and doesn't have a clue about current events.

    May 19, 2013 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  20. Anonymous

    The poll numbers are real. About 50% of Americans are idiots. They probably lied when they were asked about specific news stories for fear of showing their ignorance, the same as those that are asked on the street by Jay Leno and Bill O'Reilly. I'm still laughing at the guy on the street on O'Reilly who was a student at Univ. Cal. Berkeley who couldn't name the Vice President of the United States.

    May 19, 2013 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  21. rs

    Under obama, it feels like Nazi Germany.
    Exhibit A- why America no longer takes the Right seriously.

    Nazi Germany?
    You're a funny, funny guy.

    May 19, 2013 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  22. bs1

    There is nothing surprising in the poll numbers – yet. The Obama supporters with the rose colored glasses are taking some time to digest the recent revalations, but most of them will ultimately come to the realization that they have been lied to on Bengazi, and on the IRS and more shockingly that their beloved Obama praising media has been the target of government excess as well. Just as the support for "gun control" faded significantly in just a month or two as the population took the time to look at what was actually being pushed, Obama's approval ratings will decline as the populace starts to realize the details of what has happened.

    May 19, 2013 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  23. Faith

    The difference between today and the time of Watergate: people CARED about corruption, lies, overstepping power. And the media DID ITS JOB.

    May 19, 2013 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  24. Robert Theriault

    How the government operates or gets operated is of little or no interest to most voters. A charismatic personality and unafordable promises wins elections

    May 19, 2013 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  25. rs

    Chicago thug-like behavior. They (democrats) should all go to prison, starting at the top! Absolutely no integrity!

    Really? Which "thuggish" party dresses up, parades around with their guns and calls for 2nd Amendment solutions. Why, I believe that is the GOP and their Brown Shirts, the TEA Party.

    PS- A soon as you can cite one single solitary broken law, we'll pay attention.

    May 19, 2013 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
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