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. American

    GOP blows up minor issues and overtakes the national attention- meanwhile the public feels the brunt of increased and larger storms thanks to Global Climate Change- which right wingers still deny- and the GOP continues its agenda to killl any sort of momentum this economy can muster. Anyway, now the right feels under government scrutiny- well so what, these folks are clearly political and they're trying to get away without paying taxes- how American is that? The left have been targetted for decades and where why were the GOP then not crying about Govt intrusion?

    May 19, 2013 07:15 pm at 7:15 pm |
  2. American

    I can't believe that right wingers actually think the Democrats are criminal. Were you all asleep during Bush, Rumsfeld, Rice, Bush Sr, Reagan? Glad you're all concerned about integrity- take a look in the mirror.

    May 19, 2013 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
  3. steve

    he needs to be impeached
    he acts so innocent
    lame duck

    May 19, 2013 07:20 pm at 7:20 pm |
  4. watash60

    when you poll the takers all that matters is the checks still coming

    May 19, 2013 07:20 pm at 7:20 pm |
  5. edmundburkeson

    Liberals overreact to everything! That is how they ram legislation down our throats. Liberal compassion is an oppression of the highest order.

    May 19, 2013 07:21 pm at 7:21 pm |
  6. Rick

    It's mind boggling how the Obama administration can fall into a bucket of slop and the have the "polls" scream approval.

    The fabricated 90%+ who support stricter gun control comes to mind.
    How can Congress ignore those people?
    It's because they want to be re-elected by the REAL people who vote, not Obama's purchased or pressured
    news media puppets.

    Hey Piers, check your messages.
    Your meal ticket is going to be calling for a little love and support here.

    May 19, 2013 07:22 pm at 7:22 pm |
  7. Guest

    In an interview today, I heard an obama advisor repeatedly asked where was obama during the Benghazi attack. He never answered the question. Wonder what they are hiding? The truth is missing.

    May 19, 2013 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
  8. Victory

    His #s will always be somewhat high-you want to know why- Mortgage relief, welfare, food stamps, free healthcare and the fact disability claims are out of control. He has bought many Americans- Wait till the money runs(which it should have years ago but for the Chinese) and look out-All of these clowns will wake up then...

    May 19, 2013 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
  9. Scott in Texas

    The GOP has long since lost touch with reality and are doomed.

    May 19, 2013 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  10. Sam

    The last GOP administration started an unnecessary war in Iraq that killed hundreds of thousands of people. They lied and manipulated the facts to get their war. I'll take Obama any day over GW Bush and Dick Cheney.

    May 19, 2013 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  11. Owl Creek Observer

    This merely confirms that most American voters are clueless. They've proven it twice with The Current Occupant.

    May 19, 2013 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  12. Mathew Keirinsky

    The boys that cried Wolfghazi

    May 19, 2013 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  13. Kenneth Rogers

    We have certainly had wiser presidents....... let's star with any republican in our recent past.

    May 19, 2013 07:30 pm at 7:30 pm |
  14. Thomas

    Under obama, it feels like Nazi Germany.


    Guest / Gohmert 2016
    “cast aspersions on my asparagus.”

    May 19, 2013 07:31 pm at 7:31 pm |
  15. David

    It serves that the hysterics just cannot accept good news and they are always on the darkside . I hope that they can find good therapy that help return them to stability.

    May 19, 2013 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  16. Dude

    Political action groups posing as tax exempt religious or informational organization is wrong. It is forcing tax payers to pay for partisan campaigning.

    The IRS was 100% right to go after all the right wing tax dodgers.

    What the IRS did wrong was to not equally target all the similar left wing tax dodgers.

    After all, the left wing and the right wing are giving us the same bird.

    May 19, 2013 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  17. Thomas

    @For The First Time In My Life I Am Not Proud Of My Country
    Thanks to the democrats and unions!


    dont forget FDR anf the new deal ?

    May 19, 2013 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  18. Name

    So Guest, your point is where?

    May 19, 2013 07:35 pm at 7:35 pm |
  19. Lou50

    Apparently his supporters have not been trying to operate machinery since the last poll.

    May 19, 2013 07:35 pm at 7:35 pm |
  20. Jinx9to88

    I see GOP is still living in the bubble. People make mistakes, yes even Republicans. Not to mention any names, OK i will Bush (both of them). People will forget these incidents alot quicker than they will with the Iraq lie, that lasted only 10+ YEARS!! Get a clue GOP. 2014 will be the proof when Dems take back the house and gain more seats in the senate. The IRS targeted progressives group under Bush, so it happens on both side its just the GOP like to over exaggerate. Under Bush 13 embassies were attacked and people died maybe not an ambassador but american people. GOP should really get take a look in the mirror.

    May 19, 2013 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  21. Pditty

    If you willing to have the Government take money from your fellow citizen and give it to you instead of working or paying any taxes I doubt there is any scandal that will change your support of this president. Immoral people will naturally elect an immoral President. Moral people will elect a moral president. Do you think America today is a moral nation or immoral nation?

    May 19, 2013 07:40 pm at 7:40 pm |
  22. Paul

    The IRS is charged with enforcing the rules of the United States tax code. 501's are not allowed to engage in political activity up to about 20% of the total revenue, I believe. If you file an application to be tax exempt and you are clearly indicating that you are engaging in Tea Party activity, that's a red flag for an auditor. The investigation only stated that they "inappropriately" targeted; it did not provide a criteria to measure against. I suspect, and I have performed GAGAS audits for ten years, that the IG took issue with the lack of documentation showing that the IRS acted with independence; which is an audit standard for GAGAS audits. This was poor auditing, not a witch hunt. Read some of the other audit reports and peer reviews that are posted to regulators websites and tell me this isn't par for the course in auditing.

    May 19, 2013 07:40 pm at 7:40 pm |
  23. Sue

    I say let's all ask for a tax exemption. I have preached to groups so I should get it too!!!

    May 19, 2013 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  24. DDM

    Tax all groups that apply for tax exempt status. Time to end the gravy train. Let them know our country continues to be deep in debt and we need ALL taxes. Step up! Also remove tax exempt status from churches – most of them are involved in politics, anyway, and that makes them exempt form their exemption!

    May 19, 2013 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  25. OBG

    The polls demonstrate that Obama supporters have blind faith in this president and his administration. He can do no wrong. It's a very sad and disturbing situation.

    May 19, 2013 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
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