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. Pete

    Over reacted is an understatement by republicans..Didn't see this many committees from democrates with two presidents in both Bushs and you know they needed them as well but with republicans the sanctumonious ones nobody is as perfect as them,right hypocrites!!

    May 19, 2013 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  2. Larry L


    Chicago thug-like behavior.
    Drama queen... Be honest. Do you sincerely believe the Tea Party (organized under the name of a tax revolt) should get the same level of scrutiny as those who haven't paraded around with anarchist signs (and racist) – like the Girl Scouts? Your comments are always light on facts and heavy on hate. You need a break from hate media.

    May 19, 2013 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
  3. John R. Grace

    The sad aspect of the current climate is that politicians pander to the extremes of their electorates in hopes of being trumpeted by the 'yellow journalism' of either Fox or MSNBC. It appears the days of compromise and having meaningful dialogue are gone forever.

    May 19, 2013 06:21 pm at 6:21 pm |

    They probably polled the parent(s) of the girls that incredibly, are infatuated with the Boston terrorist Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

    May 19, 2013 06:21 pm at 6:21 pm |
  5. dan woods

    I see Republicans didn't get the message last November. WAKE UP!

    Start doing something other than trying to divide. Get some work done. Try making the prosperity of this country your number one goal. You know what people are getting sick of? The Republican temper tantrums.

    May 19, 2013 06:21 pm at 6:21 pm |
  6. Sam Smith

    This country is full of mutants and brainwashed, no way around it. Oh, and also full of people that don't pay attention to things. And people that get so impressed with "stars", the latest american idol, and in general, what other people seem to like.

    May 19, 2013 06:21 pm at 6:21 pm |
  7. Joan

    Hatred never 'sells'!!!

    May 19, 2013 06:22 pm at 6:22 pm |
  8. ted

    Honest injun!

    May 19, 2013 06:22 pm at 6:22 pm |
  9. Joe

    This Congress should be euthenized. I've never seen such a bunch of do-nothing, corrupt, racist, egotistic, obstructionists in my life. They only act in ways that are politically beneficail to themselves and their party. Obama's a smart man and wants to do what is best for the country- only the republicans in congress will not allow it. They are against any and all good ideas Obama has proposed. It's disgusting, frustrating, and wrong...

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

    The question should be has anyone ever heard anyone say anything good about the GOP party in the last 15 years.

    May 19, 2013 06:23 pm at 6:23 pm |
  11. Ugh

    It's stunning to me that anyone has any confidence in our plutocracy. I would understand if 1% did, but not 43%. Oh wait, that's the number on government benefits, right? That makes sense.

    May 19, 2013 06:23 pm at 6:23 pm |
  12. Garth

    Media will do anything to make their favorite son gets good ratings. When we look at this poll we need to consider the source.

    May 19, 2013 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |
  13. strangerq

    Are you serious!? His approval is holding steady?

    ^ Compared to what, dear Jamie?

    GOP congress approval rating is 25%!

    May 19, 2013 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
  14. strangerq

    Please GOP, elections are over, you guys lost big. Get over it. Try to get some work done instead of striking down every single piece of legislation that makes sense for the good of the nation. Stop sensationalizing anything you can for your own political gain. Its disgusting.

    This is the real message from the American people.

    GOP is mighty stupid though. They probably won't get it.

    May 19, 2013 06:26 pm at 6:26 pm |
  15. Garth

    Media will do anything to make sure their favorite son gets good ratings.

    May 19, 2013 06:27 pm at 6:27 pm |
  16. Just

    Just another "story" coming out of DC.

    May 19, 2013 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
  17. JF

    GOP has been over-reacting since the illegitimate Bush presidency in 2000.

    May 19, 2013 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  18. Martha in CF

    To Guest-
    Were you in Nazi Germany? Probably not--so how do you know how it is?

    The GOP are the obstructionists here and it pretty apparent they would rather waste their time on obstructing than governing themselves--what a pity it is....

    May 19, 2013 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  19. joe the plumber not

    53% approve of the president's performance, 45% disapprove, and 36% know who the president is.

    May 19, 2013 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  20. Pericles

    Problem is is that the PEOPLE don't even know what's going on!
    I went to the store yesterday and asked the cashier if she knew what Benghazi was and she didnt have a clue!
    So the PEOPLE are in the dark and more concerned about Angelina Jolie getting her mastectomy!
    I'm tellin' ya! These numbers are messed up! If more people knew what was going on the numbers would be much worse for Señor Presidente and there would be greater outrage!

    May 19, 2013 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
  21. Berto

    This has to be one of the funniest articles from CNN yet. Really? People don't really care about the controversy? or conspiracy? or whatever you want to call it. This administration has proven to be so corrupted that even the news network (main stream media) are supporting him even though it's right in front of you. CNN, the people are not as dum as you would like them to be. YOU ARE MUCH CORRUPTED IN TRYING TO SWAY THE PUBLIC FROM WHAT IS GOING ON IN THIS COUNTRY.

    May 19, 2013 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  22. Donna

    I'm not surprised. The republicans are so extreme no one believes a lot of what they say. That's why the lost so badly in the last election. I used to be a republican but they don't represent me any more.

    May 19, 2013 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  23. luckyjinxy

    This poll is a joke!

    May 19, 2013 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  24. Dennnn

    I actually believe that most of the people in the US would like to see more and harsher tactics imposed on conservatives and especially the rich. Maybe he should take this as a wake-up call.

    May 19, 2013 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  25. Suur Kurat

    Our news media is as adroit in brainwashing and manipulating the American people, as the commie media was in brainwashing the dull masses during Stalin's era.

    The mind numb Russians idolized and cheered Stalin as he murdered them by the millions.

    Those who today cheer and cheer their beloved Barak Hussein Obama will live to regret it as he shows himself to be the true disciple of Bill Ayers and Rev Wright ("God damn America lunatic").

    May 19, 2013 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
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