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. kgt

    Obama's poll numbers are more like a popularity contest than actual policy approval. Obama is more like Celebrity in Chief than Commander in Chief. The only glimmer of correlation between his poll numbers and his policies center around the number of Americans receiving government assistance. As long as Obama's paying the bills, Americans don't give a bleep what he does.

    May 19, 2013 09:31 pm at 9:31 pm |
  2. Boo

    Less than 1000 ppl surveyed, and I wonder how they were selected. What a joke!!

    May 19, 2013 09:35 pm at 9:35 pm |
  3. BubbaSchmo

    923 adults were polled .... did you get that people???!!! That means that out of the three hundred million or so people in the US, about 460 approve of Obama and that comprises the majority of the US ...???!!!???!!???

    May 19, 2013 09:36 pm at 9:36 pm |
  4. suzanne

    Let's be honest. When the opposing party (whoever it is) carries on like a dog foaming at the mouth, and forgets to focus on its duties to the American people, there are a good-sized bunch of us (was it over 50%?) who tune out to protect our sanity.

    May 19, 2013 09:36 pm at 9:36 pm |
  5. Jason

    Congressmen and Senators determined to cause the President trouble at the expense of not getting anything...ANYTHING...done. The History of the U.S. Congress, 2008-2016.

    May 19, 2013 09:40 pm at 9:40 pm |
  6. sneha

    I DON'T BELIEVE this numbers. Looks like everybody very corrupted including CNN,

    May 19, 2013 09:43 pm at 9:43 pm |
  7. Jim

    the obama administration needs to go.

    May 19, 2013 09:43 pm at 9:43 pm |
  8. alkp

    Ronald Reagan would be ashame to be called a republican today and for the looks of it, in years to come.

    May 19, 2013 09:43 pm at 9:43 pm |
  9. sonny

    “CNN Poll” is simply CNNspeak for biased and twisted propaganda numbers. Where do they get these numbers… from the Ministry of Truth? It could be that Obama’s totalitarian czars are supplying the doctored data.

    May 19, 2013 09:45 pm at 9:45 pm |
  10. chris

    how could these scandals hurt hiim when they are barely reported in the news. these significant breaches of public trust would be endless fodder for impeachment if a conservative administration was in place. bottom line.. during these hearings and revelations, the headlines of cnn and nytimes have revolved around Beyonces latest Ongoings, the fact that the Ohio Castro is crazy (no duh...we dont need to hear for 8 days in a row), and Possible Mars Colonies... if a tree falls in an empty forest, does it make a noise? the liberal media is so supportive of this presidents agenda, that it fails to report real news when it may hurt his cause. its a shame.

    May 19, 2013 09:51 pm at 9:51 pm |
  11. reasonablebe

    maybe if there was some gop cooperation in congress, rather than just attempts to prevent the obama administration from ever succeeding with anything, some of these problems would be avoided, and maybe, just maybe, the good of the country and its needs would be addressed...and the economy improve more quickly and lives be saved, etc.

    May 19, 2013 09:52 pm at 9:52 pm |
  12. Boater39

    That's because he is STILL 100000% better than anything the GOP has to offer.

    May 19, 2013 09:53 pm at 9:53 pm |
  13. chris

    the irs isnt "simpy doing its job". it targets conservative groups in a way that it doesnt target liberal groups. that is out of its scope of duties. and its done with political motivation. anybody who doesnt admit that has blinders on. sorry.

    May 19, 2013 09:54 pm at 9:54 pm |
  14. Jeanett

    If CNN can say that Obama has a high approval rate. Then they are on his payroll. I thought CNN was real news. I will never listen again. You lie.

    May 19, 2013 09:57 pm at 9:57 pm |
  15. CurmudgeonTx


    My guess is that they walked the campus of UC Berkley to find their focus group.

    May 19, 2013 09:58 pm at 9:58 pm |
  16. Ancient Texan

    Real Talk- No what is disgusting is the president lying to the public and expecting them to believe it. The cover-ups over fast and furious, Benghazi, the IRS, and AP, plus the misrepresentations of the truth about Obamacare and the damage it is doing is unforgiveable.

    May 19, 2013 09:58 pm at 9:58 pm |
  17. Obama Rulez

    These "scandals" aren't really scandals. Benghazi is only cared about by fools who can't find it on the map. Smart people know these "scandals" aren't even scandals. Try again, racist, evil, religious extremist GOP...

    May 19, 2013 09:59 pm at 9:59 pm |
  18. Terence Gaffney

    CNN – you are WRONG to publish your so-called survey – with only 923 adults called! Come-off-it – you are obviously FOR Obama and sure you called the right people to get your WANTED results! Do a computer VOTE is a better way – then again you may not get a true result due to all the NON-INFORMED voters who voted for him TWICE! The USA is going DOWNHILL and will continue to do so with people like you and Obama in charge.

    May 19, 2013 10:00 pm at 10:00 pm |
  19. J R Brown

    The people who voted for Obama don't care what he's done or doing...they're voting for him because he's black, or liberal or "not conservative". They don't care about what he actually does. ffs, Detroiters re-elected Kwame after they KNEW he was ripping the city off for millions and millions of some people, it just doesn't matter. That's why his approval rating don't seem to take a hit from scandals....

    May 19, 2013 10:01 pm at 10:01 pm |
  20. Anthony... proud tax payer

    No one fell for yet another Republican firedrill.

    Remember when Obama was going to death-panel grandma?
    Or when he was going to 'take away our guns'?
    Or when he palled around with terrorists...?
    Or when he allegedly "didn't" have Osama killed because we couldn't see the photos?
    Or when a second term would destroy America as we know it?
    Or when raising the debt ceiling would cause economic collapse of means unseen?
    Or when the credit rating wasn't due to Republicans, but due to Obama because why?
    Or when Obama caused Benghazi?
    Or when Obama ordered the CIA to investigate non-profit organizations...?
    Or when Obama caused that meteor to hit Russia...?
    Or when Obama made Orb NOT win the triple crown.....?

    Yawn. Wake me when this drama is over, or when Hillary is the first Mrs.Prez.
    Until then, keep failing Republicans... keep failing.

    May 19, 2013 10:01 pm at 10:01 pm |
  21. Todd S.....

    Who gives out these polls?Cause i dont recall being asked on how i felt?I love when the news gives these so called polls?and the % of people agree or not on certian subjects.

    May 19, 2013 10:01 pm at 10:01 pm |
  22. Raebo

    Hear nothing, say nothing, see nothing.
    In the Western world both the proverb and the image are often used to refer to a lack of moral responsibility on the part of people who refuse to acknowledge impropriety, looking the other way or feigning ignorance.

    Does this sound like a President you may know?

    May 19, 2013 10:01 pm at 10:01 pm |
  23. Military Vet

    The American people are not being fooled by the GOP politics of extreme party loyalty over country. The GOP is trying to wreck our country so they can win the next election. They shoulp be ashamed of themselves. Look at the comments from the GOP supporters on this site! Makes me angry and ashamerd that I spent over 20 years of my life defending these people. If the GOP and its supporters would grow up and quit acting like five year olds then we could get this country back on track. They would rather stomp their feet, scream "No' at the top of their lungs, and they take their toys and go home. What a bunch of babies....

    May 19, 2013 10:02 pm at 10:02 pm |
  24. Alex

    Where was the poll taken? What states? I hate how these polls are so informative about the results but what about the sample size or region? If you're going to be so generically stating "American People" I expect the poll to be sampled in every state.

    May 19, 2013 10:04 pm at 10:04 pm |
  25. Getoverit

    Again the Republicans are wrong.
    Seems to me, in your eyes, Republicans are always wrong about everything all the time, since the beginning of the universe. It must really be a boring existence to be right all the time.... in your eyes.

    May 19, 2013 10:08 pm at 10:08 pm |
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