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. TewksburyBob

    I have no idea where or how these polls are conducted but I do not know anyone that is happy with what has been going on. Maybe it is an inner city poll or they are wording it strangely. In any event, things are improving, sequester had to happen to help get our checkbook in order although it could have been handled better, but I do not think Obama had much to do with the improvements. Washington is gridlocked which means they can not do anything. The country is improving on its own.

    May 20, 2013 05:35 am at 5:35 am |
  2. Kris

    His ratings remain steady because the GOP has hit rock bottom. Nobody really cares what they think of him, or how they manufacture scandals, except Faux News of course.

    May 20, 2013 05:45 am at 5:45 am |
  3. larry

    These Polls are irrelevant.

    May 20, 2013 05:49 am at 5:49 am |
  4. Mark

    Dear CNN, Please compare Obamas average poll stats to Bushs at the same 52nd month of presidency. You will see Bush was far more popular. Then compare Obama today to Bush's final 8 year average that includes his low years near the end. Bush is still more popular than Obama.

    May 20, 2013 05:51 am at 5:51 am |
  5. ts

    wish they had polled my family....his rating wouldnt be so high

    May 20, 2013 06:03 am at 6:03 am |
  6. nelbert

    CNN jumps the shark again. It took a little more than a week before Nixon's approval ratings started sliding. Why, with the administrative spin machine of the main stream media, would one expect an immediate plummet.

    May 20, 2013 06:14 am at 6:14 am |
  7. Opinion8iit

    Republican lie machine losing its effect

    May 20, 2013 06:27 am at 6:27 am |
  8. William hill

    The majority of the electorate is not dumb to fall for the GOP strategy of politicizing everything to the max to hurt Obama. The majority can tell the difference between hate and legitimate opposition.

    May 20, 2013 06:28 am at 6:28 am |
  9. Steve

    It is just incredible how CNN and almost all of our news organizations get slapped in the face continuously by this president yet keep him on his lofty perch. Like a battered wife stays with the battering husband despite all of the facts and encouragement from supporters, the press flocks right back to President Obama to wait for more abuse. Your Constitutional rights have been violated yet you, the press, seem fine with that. Where are the days when news organizations reported the news instead of pitching a political agenda. You cannot honestly believe that the majority of your readers believe this poll, do you? Democrat or Republican, we are Americans first and to allow and support repeated attacking and twisting of our Constitution should not be encouraged, let alone praised as you attempt to do with articles such as this.

    May 20, 2013 06:28 am at 6:28 am |
  10. dillweed7

    Mitt Romney doesn't care about 47% of this.

    May 20, 2013 06:33 am at 6:33 am |
  11. Dan Haney

    It’s just amazing how badly Republicans want bring down President Obama (and Hillary Clinton) that they’ll fake this outrage over their own made up “conspiracies,” yet:

    They love a man in Ronald Reagan who sold illegal arms to Iran
    Elected George H. Bush, who was the Vice President when we sold those illegal arms to Iran
    Elected, then re-elected, George W. Bush who sent thousands of Americans off to die in Iraq, and found exactly zero WMD’s

    But please, Republicans—tell me more about a Marine holding up an umbrella, the “conspiracy” in Benghazi which is based on edited emails and the IRS situation which occurred while a man appointed by George W. Bush was in charge of the IRS.

    May 20, 2013 06:34 am at 6:34 am |
  12. BostonJudy

    Another interpretation is that perhaps while Americans are not as upset about the IRS as they would be because they don't like the Tea Party dirty tactics either. While wrong on many levels, a lot of folks think turn-around is fair play. And what the Republicans don't grasp, is that the majority of voters selected the President with a great deal of thought and are not about to change their minds as a result of politically driven attacks. Voters want to get to the truth, but we like our truth uncolored by partisan rhetoric.

    May 20, 2013 06:41 am at 6:41 am |
  13. Siesta Beach

    I continue to thank God every day that the Republican war mongers are not in control of the White House. I like and respect President Obama. The Republicans with George Bush almost brought this country down.

    May 20, 2013 06:43 am at 6:43 am |
  14. Get Real

    Another useless CNN JOKE poll. Report something worthwhile.

    May 20, 2013 06:44 am at 6:44 am |
  15. William R. Hill

    The majority of the electorate is neither dumb enough nor polarized enough to fall for the GOP's ongoing strategy of politicizing everything in an attempt to hurt Obama and the Democrats. The majority also can tell the difference between hate and legitimate opposition. Obama's biggest problem is that there are still a lot of people who can't stand the idea of a black in the White House.

    May 20, 2013 06:47 am at 6:47 am |
  16. Nick

    It's frightening that 60% of those poll thought the President's statements about the IRS scandal are true, while not discerning from those statements that he and his senior advisers were completely asleep at the switch. Same goes for Benghazi. When will this country demand good leaders and hold them accountable the same as any other private citizen would be?

    May 20, 2013 06:52 am at 6:52 am |
  17. bob

    Those out there that think the GOP is overblowing something, would you want the IRS targeting you because somethere disagrres with your view? Or how about you say something negative and they come after you to find out who said it. Or they swept stuff under the rug so they could get elected, hmm sounds alot like like the gangsters from the 1930s... No doubt about it Obama needs to be impeached and removed from office for being directly responsible for the death of 4 americans then using the IRS to bully openents and then trying to find out who the leaks are in his cartel. I actually think a Joe Biden presidency would be better then Obama at least he understands on a basic level international politics.

    May 20, 2013 06:52 am at 6:52 am |
  18. Jerry

    When you give everyone everything and they don't have to work for it they tend to look away for your discretions.. OBAMA needs to be impeached now!!!

    May 20, 2013 06:56 am at 6:56 am |
  19. Jerry

    IRS and DOJ needs major overhaul now.. AG needs to be fired today and IRS agents responsible for targeting need to be fired and if the broke the law they need to go to jail.

    May 20, 2013 06:58 am at 6:58 am |
  20. NoohBS

    The media is becoming more and more expensive to BUY, but it's free for the President.

    May 20, 2013 07:02 am at 7:02 am |
  21. TommytheT

    HA HA CNN, good one. Psst, any thinking American does not believe this at all.

    May 20, 2013 07:04 am at 7:04 am |
  22. Marti58

    Seems to me the media misses the fact that millions and millions of Americans respect and admire President Obama..

    May 20, 2013 07:05 am at 7:05 am |
  23. gkgebel

    The title of this article shows the media bias: CNN Poll: Controversies hurting Obama? Has GOP overreacted? Notice it makes Obama a victim and the GOP as opportunisticly trying to hurt him. This pro-liberal bias in reporting is getting old and people are smart enough to see it and are moving away from mainstream media news in droves because of this bias.

    May 20, 2013 07:18 am at 7:18 am |
  24. John

    If I remember my history, Mr. Nixon went into his hearings with approval ratings in the high 40's. This is actually an indictment on how apathetic the public is and how poorly the media is fulfilling it's historical self-imposed obligation to inform said public.

    May 20, 2013 07:18 am at 7:18 am |
  25. FubarObama

    When 52 % of so called Americans vote for a politician who has created the biggest divide I. This country and welcome handouts at the expense of others .. This is what you get.. General apathy from serious events.

    May 20, 2013 07:19 am at 7:19 am |
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