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. Joe Byrd

    I watched several video's where people were asked about the 3 scandals and 9 out of 10 have no clue. Several didn't even know who was VP. The society has become ignorant and voting on who they think is cool. They have no knowledge of how bad or how quickly this country is failing. The main stream media is doing thier job keeping people dumb down and too many distractions are taking the focus of this administrations failures.

    Face it people, half of Americans do not care at all how this country is run!

    May 20, 2013 07:21 am at 7:21 am |
  2. John

    Looks like Romney was right about that 47%.

    May 20, 2013 07:23 am at 7:23 am |
  3. Free Man in the Republic of Texas


    " "I" am just too awesome ! "

    May 20, 2013 07:23 am at 7:23 am |
  4. chet

    Nothing surprising here – if you dislike Obama you are a racist! All the Liberals do is hide their heads and point toward others blindly, it is never his fault!

    May 20, 2013 07:24 am at 7:24 am |
  5. cdmitchjax

    A CNN poll shows most still favor the job he's doing. Ha. I'm shocked. What else would you expect from a CNN poll?

    May 20, 2013 07:28 am at 7:28 am |
  6. EVN

    Obama is not the best president the U.S. has had, but the constant endless nitpicking and fault finding of the GOP makes the entire party look like nothing but a bunch of sore losers, spoiled brats, and the banner carriers of the 1%.
    It a good thing evolution applies to political parties and this sad pack of vultures will be relegated to the dust bin of history soon enough.

    May 20, 2013 07:29 am at 7:29 am |
  7. Eddie B

    I am an independed and the more I see this from the right the more I am going to vote left. there like foaming at the mouth radicals.

    May 20, 2013 07:35 am at 7:35 am |
  8. Ron

    Is this really a survey "923".. .. it would be nice to see a much larger number that is really representative of the nat.ion

    May 20, 2013 07:39 am at 7:39 am |
  9. Eagle35

    This poll is consistent with just about every poll in the past. Most concerned about the scandals by calling them "serious". Most believe lives could have been saved in Benghazi. Only 42% believe he handled Benghazi correctly. 70% believe is was wrong to target conservative groups. This is the same with the economy. In just about every area the administration get poor marks but for some reason they approve of Obama "the person". This should be of little consultation for Obama supporters. The people want to get to the bottom of this and for now give Obama a pass.

    May 20, 2013 07:42 am at 7:42 am |
  10. ally buster


    What is surprising about his poll numbers? The man runs the executive branch with intelligence and restraint. A nice change from the previous occupant!

    May 20, 2013 07:44 am at 7:44 am |
  11. Moirraine




    NO, this isn't overreaction, this is BEING INCENSED AT THE LIES, malfeasance of power and resources as well as traitorous actions by the IRS AND the Os BOTH.

    1. Fast and Furious

    2. Seal Team 6 deaths (!)

    3. IRS TWO YEARS of investigation and now an "apology" when it is CLEAR laws were broken!

    4. Benghazi – 4 dead Americans and SURVIVORS who have been INTIMIDATED BY THIS GOVERNMENT

    5. AP "investigation" – Freedom of the Press? How about the Fourth Estate being corrupted in the first place? You all gave O a pass without a single investigation that made a difference.

    These are the most gregarious – but make no mistake, this isn't all of the scandals, just the most DANGEROUS.

    May 20, 2013 07:45 am at 7:45 am |
  12. frank landa

    Once again the media plays down the criminal activities which obama asked for in public. When obama campaigned against the Tea Party he claimed openly that they were criminal which was a defacto request to the IRS to focus on them. What would you do if you ran the IRS and your boss claimed conservative organizations were criminal in public. You would investigate them.

    May 20, 2013 07:47 am at 7:47 am |
  13. TSB8C

    CNN has a special call list thy use for these polls. That's how they came up with that bogus "90% want more gun control" poll and that's how they come up with these bogus numbers that Obama has no drop in approval after all these recent scandals. These polls mean nothing. Obama's jig is up and everyone except the most die-hard liberals know it. Laws were broken and people should be going to jail.

    May 20, 2013 07:48 am at 7:48 am |
  14. glenview0818

    If this does not stick to him he is made of teflon. I don't think he is necessarily directly involved in any of the scandles, but he sure is a poor administrator/leader because he should know what his people are doing. Not to mention there sure is blame in all of these scandles and not a single person has been made accountable. You can not count the head of the IRS, he was not there when the violation occured.

    May 20, 2013 07:48 am at 7:48 am |
  15. Vader

    Benghazi – Repbulican overreaction and political reach
    IRS – most troubling, and ignores the underlying false premise the most recent 501(c)s deserve tax exempt status at all, as they are being used for hiding political contributions
    AP phone records – shouldn't have happened, but frankly, it's the press who is making the mountain out of it

    May 20, 2013 07:49 am at 7:49 am |
  16. Stevelb1

    Hey Republicans, scandal isn't policy. Go to work on jobs and the economy.

    May 20, 2013 07:50 am at 7:50 am |
  17. Mike

    Where were all these news polls over weapons of mass destruction falsely being used to take us to war? Liberal Media ? Yea sure it is. Wake up.

    May 20, 2013 07:50 am at 7:50 am |
  18. Moonraker

    The GOP is very transparent in its effort to hurt Hillary's 2016 bid – that's all this is about and no one is buying it.

    May 20, 2013 07:53 am at 7:53 am |
  19. Joe Obizo

    Not surprising numbers, they are handled by cnn

    May 20, 2013 07:53 am at 7:53 am |
  20. rob


    May 20, 2013 07:54 am at 7:54 am |
  21. Libertarian_First

    This guy makes Nixon look honest, Carter competent and Bush a genius, and his poll numbers stay up.

    Further proof that the American citizenry is blinded by glamour and the IDEA of obama while turning a blind eye to the corruption, unconstitutional utter train wreck this administration is.

    How can you people be so damn willfully blind?

    May 20, 2013 07:54 am at 7:54 am |
  22. Vic7

    I can see where the approval ratings hold the same or within a few points. Unlike the flakes that buy into all the tea party crap, most people realize there's two sides to every story. Who pays taxes? Everybody that's not "tax exempt". How the hell do political PAC groups qualify for tax exempt status? And who gets stuck paying the taxes? Wake up Republican "do nothings". Get a job! Get a life! Get a Party! Get out or be thrown out.

    May 20, 2013 07:56 am at 7:56 am |
  23. Over It!

    Is this hurting Obama? No...Thanks to the media's spin. Has the GOP overreacted? No! If anything like this had happened under, say the Bush administration, Dems would be calling for some heads to roll. This poll of yours (CNN) is a joke!

    May 20, 2013 07:56 am at 7:56 am |
  24. JjkName

    So the first sentence betrays a bias in this article that reflects at least the efforts of partisan Republican spin seeking to create a crisis where nine really exists.
    Benghazi so the idea of a WH lead effort to "coverup" the tragedy of 4 American deaths has been the lead item in this effort since last September. Now we have the WH releasing the emails of its efforts to coordinate a response and they definitively prove how untrue this is. But the Republican blame game goes on and on and most of the media way it up and keep dishing it out to the public as if there is real substance here.
    IRS the facts have barely come out and demagogues like Rand Paul and John Boehner race to the camera to speculate that the President or someone who directly reports to him was behind the actions of the IRS agents who targeted tea party groups. Once again we will see that this is about as true as the coverup in Benghazi.
    The AP phone records collection has also not been in any way definitively determined yet to be the case of Govt overreach that has been alleged but who cares. Also who cares that it reflected an important determination of our Govt to prevent classified information from leaking that would jeapordize our efforts to combat terrorism.
    The reason why the polls reflect s majority of support for the President is easy to understand. The American public gets it even if their media like CNN lies to them

    May 20, 2013 07:59 am at 7:59 am |
  25. Danno

    Being an independent, I actually agree with the GOP on this. Someone needs to bring to light the failures of this presidency, seeing as they are serious and hurtful to this country. So many people are blind to the president's failures and practically worship him as if he could do no wrong. I'm not saying that he's the only one who's messed up. This whole process is part of the American people demanding answers, and demanding better from our elected officials.

    May 20, 2013 08:00 am at 8:00 am |
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