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. Do you hear that?

    I think republican's should just pick one issue and focus on it. They are starting to sound like the boy who cried a billions time.

    May 20, 2013 12:21 am at 12:21 am |
  2. Ted

    Yes guys, these poll numbers are wrong. Just like Election polls. Romney is going to win 326- 212. Watch! Stupid liberal media and their polls.

    May 20, 2013 12:26 am at 12:26 am |
  3. Wow

    The poll must have been limited to White House staffers

    May 20, 2013 12:32 am at 12:32 am |
  4. Frank

    What do the polls say about the percentage of Americans that believe that Obama administration uses toilet paper printed with Constitutional amendments?

    May 20, 2013 12:35 am at 12:35 am |
  5. mark armstrong

    The devil is also still rather popular though he leads people astray. So what's the point to your article CNN? Hitler also had a good run on approval (: Is that your measure of success CNN?

    May 20, 2013 12:45 am at 12:45 am |
  6. steve

    Under obama, it feels like Nazi Germany.
    No wonder Obama's poll numbers are unchanged. People read ridiculous comments by the extreme right and understand their game.

    May 20, 2013 12:45 am at 12:45 am |
  7. simplyput

    Jack Lew runs the WH and has worked for almost every arm in Obama's reach. He has been there since Clinton, and is sure to stay if Hillary is elected, because of his competency. He received almost a billion when he managed Citi despite the crash, and is thoroughly in charge. On the other hand, check out history on Issa, and not so much. From lying to the people, dishonoring and trampling on the constitution, and chilling the media, Obama is a political animal, and only a political animal. I now have email files that are missing from fellow church members in Denver. What next?

    May 20, 2013 12:46 am at 12:46 am |
  8. Encouraged

    It makes perfect sense that President Obama's poll numbers are holding. The Republicans are trying to flog these issues into major scandals, but the people are too smart to buy it. The IRS thing is extremely disturbing, but the President has not tried to defend it and has asked for resignations from both the agency head and the division head within the IRS. First, the IRS officials responsible were appointed under Bush; second, the Tea Party hurts the Republicans and strengthens the Democrats (by making Republicans seem like extremist lunatics). It would make no political sense for the administration to suppress Tea Party organizations.

    May 20, 2013 12:47 am at 12:47 am |
  9. steve

    The words "I don't recall" worked so well in the Rose Law Firm investigation
    Reagan invoked the phrase "I can't recall" eighteen times under oath in an Iran-Contra trial.

    May 20, 2013 12:50 am at 12:50 am |
  10. simplyput

    Wow, guess the facts about Jack Lew and the power he holds in this presidency, along with missing email files from church friends in Denver are too much truthiness for PC cnn. Lew runs the white house, and will stay on for Hillary, if she gets past Benghazi. Just compare and contrast the bios of Lew and Issa if you want to see how this will go, because cnn will not tell you. Anyway, sure wonder where my files went, and so does my internet company.

    May 20, 2013 12:51 am at 12:51 am |
  11. sally

    The American people are quite capable of detecting important scandals from unimportant ones...they see these latest accusations as political posturing with the intent of hurting the president and his agenda, not as serious's just one more example of business as usual with the Republicans.

    May 20, 2013 12:51 am at 12:51 am |
  12. cosmok

    I was wondering how many days it would take before CNN would completely scrub it's front page of any of the Obama scandals and then show how many Americans still support him.

    May 20, 2013 12:51 am at 12:51 am |
  13. FM

    A concentrated dose of invented anguish over storyless stories and this is the result. Nobody was fooled. Obama is so much more relatable as a person than most of the people attacking him that phony projections of him don't stick all that well. Transparent attempts at firing up people over these "scandals" is ultimately backfiring. It doesn't work and it wastes everybody's time & $.

    May 20, 2013 01:00 am at 1:00 am |
  14. simba

    The presidency is not an office of/ for popularity. If a president is concerned with being liked and accepted, then he should be a movie star.. that is their only function; to be liked. The presidency and any leadership position for that matter (and I have held leadership positions) involves making the right decisions; decisions based on adequate information, sound reasoning and beneficial results. In the case of the president, such decisions are constrained by the US constitution. As long as the president is not violating the constitution (for which he needs to ensure he has adequate legal guidance from qualified individuals), and his decisions deliver, then he need not worry whether or not he is popular. If the president makes a mistake, he should take it upon himself to render immediate and adequate apology and initiate remedial actions to rectify the error. It is only when the president thrives to 'dodge the bullet', by not owning up or implementing corrective measures, that the people lose trust in him. There are many decisions which the president makes which we as common citizens do not understand. There is a lot of information at the president's avail that we as common citizens will never see or hear about.There are many, many things that take place in this world, that none of us will ever know (trust me, I was a former US Marine, special forces). Decisions made today, may not have an impact for another 6 months or more; thus we can not judge the president's ability on his present day actions; we must extrapolate and determine what the net results of those actions will be in the long run.
    We must get away from this hollywood mentality. As I have said before, celebrities, in the grand scheme of things contribute little to nothing to the greater welfare of society. Their (celebrities) sole purpose of existence is to serve as distractions.. in the long run, if all the movie stars in hollywood were to vanish tomorrow, life would go on. If all the engineers, doctors, plumbers, electricians, and other workers were to vanish, life would grind to a stand-still. Hence, do not apply this 'popularity criteria' to presidents. Apply it to the irrelevant movie stars, they are the ones who value that concept.

    May 20, 2013 01:03 am at 1:03 am |
  15. reaperfearer

    obama doesn't run the IRS. He's as disgusted as the republicans. And he actually did something about it, which the republicans can't say they did because they didn't. I love the republican party, but I just don't understand how they suppose these investigations point to our President.

    May 20, 2013 01:04 am at 1:04 am |
  16. Thatguy371

    GOP thinks everyone is as shocked and appalled as they are at any and everything The President Of The United States does. They're still panicking that the Ben Casey episode didn't give them the slam dunk impeachment they'd hoped for. Most people realize President Obama is doing a good job. No, he isn't getting everything right. I myself disagree on some decisions he's made... but I'm smart enough to know that no Prez gets it right 100% of the time.

    May 20, 2013 01:11 am at 1:11 am |
  17. maryredwhiteandblue

    Benghazi – let the Navy Seals and US Ambassadors sort it out. They've learnedthe hard way they can't trust this administration. The AP thing – let the media sort it out. Most of them are left leaning so they shouldn't mind being investigated or spied on. But the IRS thing should be a disgrace for every American. This is the kind of thing Putin/Stalin/Lenin does. The fact that the IRS audited the top 8 Romney donors should have sent up a red flag. Everyday Americans don't have a choice when it comes to the IRS. They are a modern day gestapo. Imagine if a Republican president did this to Democrat donors (or maybe that has already happened). This is the real story. We need a flat tax with no wiggle room or loopholes for the corporations. The USA is becoming a country of gluttonous power, like Rome before the fall.

    May 20, 2013 01:12 am at 1:12 am |
  18. NameJoe

    Real talk: r u serious? This has nothing to do with party affiliation. This is morally reprehensible to our constitution. You need to WAKE UP AND SMELL

    May 20, 2013 01:17 am at 1:17 am |
  19. CNN Whistleblower says Obama Admin pays media for censorship and propaganda

    CNN Whistleblower says Obama Admin pays media for censorship and propaganda

    “Instead of watchdogging governments around the world, CNN International is earning money from them, producing what might as well be called ‘infomercials-for-dictators’, sponsored shows and content that cast a positive light on some of the world’s most oppressive regimes. With vague disclosures, the news organization is defrauding unsuspecting viewers and its own journalists who often risk their lives to expose those same oppressive regimes. The ‘Most Trusted Name in News’ must ultimately decide whether it’s in the business of government propaganda or journalism, because despite the network’s claims of objectivity, I learned firsthand CNN is having trouble biting the hand that feeds it. I’ll take this time to remind network executives: “Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed. Everything else is public relations.” -George Orwell” ~ Amber Lyon !

    Amber Lyon is a three-time Emmy Award- winning journalist and filmmaker obsessed with hackers, human and animal rights, and revolutions.Amber joined CNN in June 2010. She was the only reporter to broadcast live while scuba diving in a HAZMAT suit from beneath the oil spill in order to connect viewers with what was happening beneath the BP disaster. Her reporting contributed to CNN winning a Peabody Award for coverage of the spill.

    Abby Martin interviews Amber about how CNN is being paid by governments worldwide to produce and air sponsored programs disguised as news with minimal to no disclosure to viewers.

    May 20, 2013 01:19 am at 1:19 am |
  20. WakeUpUSA

    The same week as the 3 scandals – a second Appeals Court joined with the D.C. Circuit Court and found that Obama's recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board [HIS Union buddies] were UNCONSTITUTIONAL. And that decisions made in the wake of these appointments were ALSO unconstitutional.

    So this creature once AGAIN tramples all over the Constitution he swore to uphold. What is WRONG with a country who tolerates this disgrace? It beggars belief.

    May 20, 2013 01:20 am at 1:20 am |
  21. John

    Obama still walks on water to the people who put him back in office & that will not change. The Republicans are due to lose in the next election unless they start doing something different. Everytime a microphone is infront of them they either say something so stupid you just have to shake your head or they look like an idiot looking for water on live TV. We are the ones that believe in pulling yourself by your bootstraps but we have too many people playing the victim & looking for the Govt. for help & that is a vote for the Dems. How are we going to change this???

    May 20, 2013 01:28 am at 1:28 am |
  22. Steve Wilkinson

    Not really all the surprising, IMO. He's mostly giving people what they think they want and doing what's popular and 'edgy' among the younger crowd. Since most people these days can't think their way out of a paper bag, they can't even begin to ponder (or care) what the effects will be or how it will all be paid for.

    Hi numbers will probably remain high until the ship starts really listing or sinking. But, at that point, no one is going to care about any kind of numbers, as they will just have to figure out if and how they might survive. I guess if there is any good news in this all, it is that it is happening so quickly now, I doubt we'll make it until the end of his term.

    May 20, 2013 01:31 am at 1:31 am |
  23. Teamchaos

    Who did they poll. With all of this going on you have to remember the speed of the troops is the speed of the leader. So either he knows or he is not a leader and it is animal house

    May 20, 2013 01:33 am at 1:33 am |
  24. disgusted citizen

    This administration is threatening the 2nd amendment (gun control), 1st amendment (AP news), national security (Bengazi), and getting into our pockets (IRS). We have a thug government.

    May 20, 2013 01:34 am at 1:34 am |
  25. loadmaster3

    Totally amazed at all the "warm & fuzzy" libs backing the Barry Obama regime. Hopefully the damage the we will sustain over the 8 years of this tyranny can be repaired after he's gone. The November mid-term elections will be the final nail in this regime's coffin

    May 20, 2013 01:37 am at 1:37 am |
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