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. James PDX

    I can't believe UmbrellaGate is already over! It was so stimulating!

    May 19, 2013 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  2. dean

    The republicans in congress must remember pay back is hell so get your house in order when the democrats return the favor in the future.

    May 19, 2013 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  3. conservative liberal

    Remember how Obama was going to have the most transparent government? What a joke. And remember how many on the right questioned Obama's experience, especially how he lacked ANY executive experience? The press did not do their job in covering that lack of experience. The joke was on the American people, most of them at least. I still am amazed that such an inexperienced person could get elected and then re-elected. When Jon Stewart is mocking Obama you know things are screwed up horribly.

    May 19, 2013 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |

    CNN Pollster starts question with..

    HI.. please comment on OBAMA's likeability and we are going to share your opinion with the IRS.

    Soo... what do you think of OBAMA??

    May 19, 2013 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  5. Joe Mama

    When watergate broke this was before the election. Nixon was able to sail into office. It did not effect Nixons poll numbers for awhile. They just slowly degraded, which is worse than a drop and bounces.

    May 19, 2013 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  6. Really

    I would have though the number would hold strong with say 47%. I am sure Candy Is hard at work to help Obama.

    May 19, 2013 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  7. Ben Jones

    Since Pfieffer dodged, bobbed and weaved on all the questions, I WOULD BET MY LEFT GNOAD THAT OBAMA SLEPT THROUGH THE ENTIRE BENGHAZI ATTACK. Prove me wrong Mr. Pfieffer.

    Am I the only one who feels this way?

    May 19, 2013 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  8. Larry

    Same old crapola, the pollsters call area's they know are sheep of the head hurder, they are poling Barrys people!

    May 19, 2013 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  9. rs

    "Hmm, they sampled 923 people out of the 313.9+ MILLION who live in this country; 4...."
    You know if you all believed in science, you would understand that polling IS a science, and has been quite accurate since the 1950s, accurately predicting elections and public opinion using very small sample.
    Remember Romney? "No way Obama is ahead". Sure, funny enough Obama won 54-47%. Polls win.
    Denying Science and fact simply demonstrates the Right's delusion. The Right operates with the idea that is they say something often enough ("worse than Watergate") that people might believe it- well really stupid ones maybe.

    Righties- want to beat Obama? Try a real -live jobs bill that's good for the middle class. Stop abridging voter's rights. Dump the Bush tax cuts for the super-rich. End your culture wars. Believe in fact-based science- do the right thing for our environment. Start acting like leaders instead of the fools you currently show the world to be.

    May 19, 2013 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  10. lmc3

    Polls are like depends on who and where you call, how the question is framed and how it is analyzed. Stats are seldom the full truth nor are polls.

    May 19, 2013 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  11. TKO

    I wonder what will happen now that news is out about the GOP manipulating the WH emails and lying to the press about it? And I am waiting to see what will happen when the fact that conservative groups were NOT unfairly selected by the IRS, and that the AP leak story was in fact about national security find their way into the public psyche via the news IF THE PRESS DOES THEIR JOB and stops bowing to the TeaParty. Oh, and Guest? You and others here need to PAY ATTENTION: the GOP has been the one lying through all of this–I challenge you to give me one lie Obama told about Benghazi, the IRS or the AP business. I can tell you several the GOP has told. Please read the papers and lay off FOX news.

    May 19, 2013 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  12. Chris

    Dear republicans: Please DO continue making asses of yourselves and checking in with Faux News for validation that the White House is going to implode any day now. Please keep up with your faux issues, faux outrage, and just plain made-up garbage. And don't forget to check in with other half-wits like yourselves for confirmation that "everyone" agrees with you and hates the President. Remember how well that turned out last November?

    May 19, 2013 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  13. TKO

    I wonder what will happen now that news is out about the GOP manipulating the WH emails and lying to the press about it? And I am waiting to see what will happen when the fact that conservative groups were NOT unfairly selected by the IRS, and that the AP leak story was in fact about national security find their way into the public psyche via the news IF the press does their job and stops bowing to the TeaParty. Oh, and Guest? You and others here need to Pay Attention: the GOP has been the one lying through all of this–I challenge you to give me one lie Obama told about Benghazi, the IRS or the AP business. I can tell you several the GOP has told. Please read the papers and lay off FOX news.

    May 19, 2013 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  14. JJ

    Wake up everyone. Both parties are corrupt. They keep us arguing these stupid, inane events while they accrue more and more money for the aristocrat class. Oh yes, america IS NOT a class-less society. Have you noticed??

    May 19, 2013 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  15. Matt

    i feel like my brain is getting fried, my approvel rating is that we need to get our country back, hows the weather here,sir? well, the weather here, sucks, there are these clouds I've never seen before..

    May 19, 2013 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  16. linefeeder

    The GOP Taliban have huffed and puffed and farted and held their breath til they turned blue, but after they've regained consciousness, Obama is still president. Pitiful... get them a Whambulance!

    May 19, 2013 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  17. TheLostSurveyor

    Said rating has less to do with people believing in everything Obama. And more to do with the total disconnect from reality currently displayed by those politicians on the right.

    May 19, 2013 06:06 pm at 6:06 pm |
  18. amlcpamaine

    "I've never seen so many lies from the white house and an administration" .... yeah, right. Just how stupid do these online GOP shills think we are?

    They trump up every problem because their 1%-er puppeteers have NO answers for the real issues: jobs and opportunity. The scam to shift the economy to enrich the rich failed, and they think we'll drink more kool-aid just because everything doesn't go perfectly. Forget it –we're sticking with the administration and working hard to restore middle class families. BTW, how about repatriating the $2 TRILLION in corporate profits that these thieves are holding overseas? Imagine how much better off we'd all be if we hadn't let the GOP "deregulate" business? That's far more money than any discussion of deficits, yet they sit on it paying lobbyists to pull wool over our eyes. And the bank managers in Caymans and Switzerland are getting rich while middle class workers struggle here. It's only dolts who drink their koolaid.

    May 19, 2013 06:07 pm at 6:07 pm |
  19. Greg

    Why is the press ignoring the fact that the IRS was just doing their job? Scrutinizing organizations who are applying for non-profit, tax-exempt status should be a focus of the IRS. Groups who are involved in political activities are not allowed to be non-profits under our tax code. The press is ignoring this fact.

    May 19, 2013 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  20. ProtectAmericanJobs

    Wouldn't it be More Productive if Our Elected Leaders Started Working Together as AMERICANS for AMERICANS and AMERICA, instead of just bickering, stalling and posturing for the next election as democrats and republicans! The American People have had it with this unproductive BS! The way that both parties having been operating for years just stinks! Neither party has really been looking out for the best interests of the US Citizens who elect them and who they're supposed to represent.

    Both parties have sold out the bulk of the American citizens, who they're supposed to represent, by allowing the incursion of illegal aliens and the "out-sourcing" floodgates to open wider and wider without taking any sensible measures to stem the tide.

    It shouldn't be all about Democrats or Republicans! It should be about Americans, especially our elected officials, doing the right thing for our country and its citizens. All the single-minded, left versus right, ideological one dimensional bull has got to go!

    Both parties need to start working together and actually start doing something to fix the real problems in our country like "out-sourcing", illegal immigration, the out of control costs of health care insurance and our reliance on foreign fuel. If they don't start working together and actually start making progress by the next election, then American citizens should run a nation-wide campaign to vote out all incumbents regardless of party to send the message.

    And yes – I'm Angry – As are most American Citizens right now!

    May 19, 2013 06:10 pm at 6:10 pm |
  21. Matt

    are founding fathers are rolling over in there graves

    May 19, 2013 06:10 pm at 6:10 pm |
  22. poltimum

    501 (c) (4)'s are just a way political groups avoid paying taxes and the right, being excellent at tax avoidance, have more groups requesting tax exempt status than ever before. What I think is REALLY going on though, is that the Rethugs are after Sarah Hall Ingram, who served as commissioner of the office responsible for tax-exempt organizations between 2009 and 2012 and is now the director of the IRS’ Affordable Care Act office. They are trying to get her out of office which will hold up implementation of Obamacare. The real scandal here is tax avoidance by political groups like The Heritage Foundation.

    May 19, 2013 06:10 pm at 6:10 pm |
  23. Name

    What a joke. Polls are for people who can't think for themselves. Obama is worried about his approval rating WHY? He's not running again except away from the shitpile he's created as fast as he can. Get that Presidential pension and secret service for him and his family for life. This is an elite produced charade. Sit back and enjoy the show.

    May 19, 2013 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  24. Anonymous

    I like how some of the commentators call even Obama's poll numbers lies. They just don't get that the GOP is not very popular right now. They don't get why, either.

    May 19, 2013 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  25. Notoneitherside

    It is just amazing how enamored the majority of the American press is with Presiident Obama. It is like a battered wife that keeps supporting the battering husband. What does it take for you people to see that he has no respect for the press matter how much you protect and praise him even while he tramples on your Constitutional rights. What will it take for you to stop the biased reporting and just tell us, the People, the truth? We know we will never get it from the government but it would be nice to get it from you, our press. Your image has become so tarnished and unbelievable it is sad.

    May 19, 2013 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
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