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. Agatha

    Hitler's/ Stalin's people believed them until it was too late. This much Government Corruption starts with the Leader. In some cases, the LACK of leadership.

    May 19, 2013 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  2. joe d.

    as for benghazi the c.i.a. owns that mess, lets get down to creating jobs ! constuction jobs ! no phony tax breaks for phony republican stooges !

    May 19, 2013 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  3. lolMuhrica

    as long as he is black, the same people will still love him or hate him.

    May 19, 2013 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  4. Name


    May 19, 2013 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  5. nofaithinamericanpoliticians

    President Obama Abandoned all the Hurricane Sandy Victims to the Abuse and Gross Mistreatment of the Great American Fraudulent Insurance Companies. For That Obama should be Impeached!

    May 19, 2013 09:32 am at 9:32 am |
  6. blakenaustin

    It is deeply disturbing that half of America supports a compulsive liar and deceiver, a man with no moral compass, as president.

    May 19, 2013 09:32 am at 9:32 am |
  7. bankrupt1

    why was it a tough week for him? we're the ones that suffer.

    May 19, 2013 09:33 am at 9:33 am |
  8. Bob Hope's Ghost

    that's what happens when your followers are sheep. They don't care.

    May 19, 2013 09:33 am at 9:33 am |
  9. bankrupt1

    Fuel is $4/gallon. Groceries are outrageous. Nobody can afford to be alive anymore. I'm sure he's doing fine. We're the ones you should worry about.

    May 19, 2013 09:33 am at 9:33 am |
  10. smorrow66

    So what? We should not investigate because his poll numbers are the same.

    Let me agree with Bill Maher here. Most Americans have trouble remembering their own names these days, much less giving any issue deep thought.

    Nixon's poll numbers didnt drop when Watergate was first exposed. And pursuing the truth should never be a popularity contest.

    May 19, 2013 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  11. Ken

    The basic problem is people who support Obama are either to stupid to understand what is going on, or, to filled with hate and rage towards others blaming them for their problems in life. The first group is too busy watching American Idol or Dancing with the Stars and probably haven't even heard of Benghazi (let alone know how to spell it correctly). The second group could care less about laws being broken as long as people they think hurt them are finally being hurt back. This skews the polling numbers. When they ask "Are you concerned about the IRS targeting conservatives and the Tea Party", the stupid group answers Yes as they know they should be concerned about things relating to the IRS and they want to look smart, while Obama's core supporters (those filled with hate and rage and blame of others) will answer No as they want others hurt no matter how it's done. This leads to over 7 in 10 saying they are concerned. But then you ask do you approve of how the president is doing their job, the core group simply says approve, while those with tiny intellect, oblivious to the reality around them, also answer approve. Come on, you know this is true...

    May 19, 2013 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  12. BUTCHM

    President OBAMA is a good man who is trying to help the poor americans while the repubicans are only out to help rich people, because those are the ones who grease their pockets. I asked senator graham about investagate his friend john mccain and the USS FORESTAL and the 132 dead soilders?

    May 19, 2013 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  13. Nick

    Yeah some bad things happened, but most people still think it's a stretch that Obama acted in bad faith or is not trying to deal with them.

    May 19, 2013 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  14. Liberalism RequiresTyranny

    President Obundler has never had a rough week. He isn't likely to ever have a rough week, with the news media running interference for him.

    The IRS is just starting to get busted for a years-long blatant frontal assault on conservativism and conservatives. If it reinforces one thing, it is this. Human beings are born to abuse their power. It's what we do best and most naturally. We figure out how we can use the levers available to us, and we take advantage of them as we see fit. That one point was paramount to the founders. They were wise to fear themselves.

    More and more, CNN and our government both remind me of Lennie Small, from the Grapes of Wrath.

    May 19, 2013 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  15. Big Game James

    He is running this country well. Economy is back on track (long way to go but improving) Hiring up. Leave him the hell alone. When you work on enemy soil your life is always at risk. Tea Partiers are mad because they were targeted for tax status? Good. Arent they for fiscal responsibility?

    May 19, 2013 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  16. GD

    We have more military personnel who speaks different languages, these guys can be the first line of securities at our embassies across the globe, think about it, we so fortunate to have them in our them on our side, remember natural speaking language is better than the one in a classroom

    May 19, 2013 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  17. gman

    Hmmmmm. Calling these things 'controversies' and shifting the focus on to the Republicans. Smells like propaganda to me!

    May 19, 2013 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  18. jcvet33

    Sadly most Americans who support him don't even know about the scandals, who the vice president is, or do they even care.

    May 19, 2013 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  19. sammy750

    His poll numbers stay the same, since Obama is staying cool, with the attacks from the Republicans. Voters know what the Republicans are doing to Obama and this nation. Republicans are evil and are the real TERRORIST of this nation. Republicans continue to create excuses for not doing anything and the voters understand there agenda, defeat Obama. Republicans will be defeated in 2014 and 2016, voters are SICK of the Republicans and the wasted millions they create.

    May 19, 2013 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  20. Alex

    One useless man.

    May 19, 2013 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  21. woodsrocks

    The tea party is having taxpayers subsidize their activities. This, and all other political organizations should not have tax exempt status. The supreme court allowed this – the supreme court should stop it.

    May 19, 2013 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  22. dave z


    May 19, 2013 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  23. Randy, San Francisco

    Of course there should be a serious investigation of the three issues...but a political witch hunt by the Republicans and Tea Partiers will only back fire and make them look like political opportunists.

    May 19, 2013 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  24. SciGuy

    I learn from this article that about half the American people will give Obama a free ride, regardless how vile he is. This is racism with a vengeance.

    May 19, 2013 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  25. Mary

    Before you take this to be true, checkk out Real Clear Politics!

    May 19, 2013 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
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