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. NameJoe

    This nation is a disgrace. Our founding fathers must be turning over in their graves.

    May 19, 2013 10:11 am at 10:11 am |
  2. grumpy?

    Come together, grumps? Boston got bombed and Republicans spend time calling Obama Nixon. They have been calling him Nixon, Carter, Hitler ... for 5 years, Republicand cont deserve this free marketi g to their rube obama hating base. Which is all this is. That and an excuse not to do anything.

    May 19, 2013 10:11 am at 10:11 am |
  3. Dave

    Republicans freak out. I think it is a personality disirder.

    May 19, 2013 10:11 am at 10:11 am |
  4. Ho Hum

    Republicans try as they might can't knock down Obama. What really is hurting is the Nation and the People. If these GOP republicans would have placed all that energy into actually doing good by the people and the Nation, we would be in a better place. But God forbid, that they would help Obama fix the mess that the GOP and Bush left us with. Something that they still refuse to acknowledge or own. They would rather see the Nation destroyed than making it seem like they are helping Obama fix the mess.

    May 19, 2013 10:11 am at 10:11 am |
  5. Frank Landa

    Most people are low information voters. obama has been effective at lies and deception. The people are easy to deceive and they have been provided gifts for their vote. Until gifts for votes is illegal or people who cannot support themselves are denied the right to vote the country will continue to decay.

    May 19, 2013 10:12 am at 10:12 am |
  6. dingbat36

    No the GOP did not over react, the Republicans were active in getting rid of Richard Nixon over his lying and coverup of the Watergate break in and NO ONE died in that incident. What we have is a pattern by this administration of using the Sergeant Schultz defense. It happened with Fast and Furious (dead Border Patrol agent), and again with Benghazi (dead ambassador, aide and 2 Navy Seals) and here we go again with the IRS kerfuffle......either the President and his "employees" (his appointed employees) are totally incompetent or some or all of them are lying. Harry Truman was right, the buck stops at the President's desk but this chief executive is try to hand off responsibility to anyone available. This isn't a football game and if the President was CEO of any large corporation, he would have been fired long ago.

    BTW, what's the body count for Navy Seals since 2008?

    May 19, 2013 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  7. t-bone 2

    Sheep will be sheep.

    May 19, 2013 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  8. Obvious

    I like how half of a nation, means you're doing a good job

    May 19, 2013 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  9. Bill Richardson

    I would just like to point out that any other president in our history that were to do the things that this president has done would be excoritatingly lambasted. Presidential numbers rise and fall, and usually, begin to fall towards the middle of the second term. This, to me anyway, is proof that the love affair with this president transcends his actual worth as a president.

    May 19, 2013 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  10. Dustin Goldsen

    I can remember people in my parents and grandparents generation saying that they didn't care for everything the Democrats did but they didn't want to go through another Republican Depression. I think that may be back of people's minds again today.

    May 19, 2013 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  11. Mr. Kalamazoo

    His numbers remain the same because those no on the right are smart enough to recognize contrived blather from the deranged and deluded mess that is the Republican party and all of its acolytes.

    May 19, 2013 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  12. Pushover

    Obama is making some serious mistakes. We accept things may need to be done in "love and war" it is the cover-ups that foment. From Nixon to Clinton, cover ups will haunt Obama, and we are barely a few months in to his second term. He barely won a popular majority in Nov. We understand things are done, but once it comes out in the open, just fess up and it will die down quickly. "CLear and Present Danger" H Ford said it best, paraphrase, "no sense diffusing the bom once it has gone off"

    May 19, 2013 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  13. grumpierthanyou

    "... 59% now say that the U.S government could have prevented the attack in Benghazi..."
    Yes, in retrospect that is true. The government could have also prevented 911 and Pearl Harbor.

    May 19, 2013 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  14. Kevin H

    This will backfire on the GOP. The fiascoes in these departments happened on Obama's watch, he's responsible. He acted decisively and fairly quietly – those people resigned (were fired) who were responsible for the shameful fiascoes. But the GOP will spend enormous resources to make this a campaign issue. What they don't recognize is that the side show will grow very old and tired with taxpayers very quickly if there's smoke but no fire. And they won't recover from that. The Daryl Issa's of the world will be seen by centrist Republicans as mean, vile and shady – but then...well he is kind of...

    May 19, 2013 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  15. sammy750

    The Republicans are assuming that the American voters want the Tea Party to be tax exempt. WE DO NOT. The IRS is doing there job well in trying to determine if the Tea Party is LYING on their forms. The IRS is doing a great job, except where they allowed some Conservative fund raisers to be tax exempt. These should be reviewed and take away there tax exempt status. Republicans are trying to tie the Health Care bill to the IRS, They will use every dirty trick in this world to defeat the health care bill, just ask NASTY Boehner. We will defeat the Republicans in 2014 and 2016, the voters have had enough of the do nothing Republicans.

    May 19, 2013 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  16. rh

    Republicans are playing this too hard, too soon. The disgrace is there, but to immediately say it is clearly Obama's fault before any true investigation was a big mistake.

    Yet again, Republicans get the opportunity for an easy touchdown, but they are too busy waving to the crowd to actually cross the goal line.

    May 19, 2013 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  17. Johny T. Scucho

    How elevating is that the lower chamber of Congress waste the time arguing about and creating scandals, while weapons murders rampage our cities and masacre children with the approval and blessing of the NRA. Surely, they pay these parasites to get to Congress but not we the "law-abiding citizens.

    May 19, 2013 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  18. Concerned

    I believe these scandals would have surfaced no matter who is/was/will be in the WH.

    " Are Americans’ trust in the government shaken?" I have never trusted the govt. and as time goes by I have less trust in govt.

    If the American voters don't get off their A S S and
    #1 Insist on outlawing special interest groups (they have corrupted all politicians)
    #2 vote all of congress out of office and replace with new blood.
    #3 establish term limits of two to four years for all politicians.
    Then the USA will continue to slide into oblivion.

    May 19, 2013 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  19. Floydzepp

    The dying GOP grasps at imaginary straws.

    May 19, 2013 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  20. liberal disease

    not to mention a rough year for the 4 families of the dead in Benghazi, the horror of going through an IRS audit and the discovery of having your phone lines tapped by your gov....Barry had a relatively EZ week, because he took no responsibility and probably played golf all weekend

    May 19, 2013 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  21. john

    Don't know how any reasonable person could think Obama is involved in any one of these "scandals." Bunch of baloney.

    May 19, 2013 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  22. Seattle Sue

    It would seem to me, there are a lot of racist pigs writing on this post.

    May 19, 2013 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  23. budshot

    Of COURSE his poll numbers are the same. They'll probably rise. Republican lies tend to do that kind of thing.

    May 19, 2013 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  24. Charlie Cousins

    Obama has served every day since his open bid for the presidency under siege by a coalition of interests that range from social conservatives to your garden variety racial bigot. After McCain's hugely bonehead choice of Palin for the veep candidate, legitimacy was extended to the fringes of the GOP party supporters. We reap the reward for that choice to this day with a paralyzed legislative process and a House that will stop at nothing to impose its will regardless off either logic or public opinion. It's the worst sort of politics.

    Investigating the choices and events that led up to the murder of our ambassador to Libya is competely justified. Investigating merely as a cover for political gain undermines foreign policy. Considering it takes about five years to get approval for non profit status, and that ALL non profit apps should be rigorously audited that stink of politics–the concerns of being targeted by the IRS are pretty weak, since no app that was pulled up in that review was denied. So who was harmed? And that's the basic question the law needs to answer. There needs to be retraining and, perhaps, an example made of employees who targeted specific groups and ignored others equally deserving of focus. What does that have to do with a president?

    The only real issue I see is the AP wiretap. That, if tied directly to Obama, could become a legal basis for impeachment.

    But will the GOP in Congress use logic, serve the People, and learn how to get along in a Democratic Republic? I've seen no evidence of that. The reasoned voices in that party have been drowned out by the yahoos.

    May 19, 2013 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  25. don

    Its because people are not stupid. Fox News (the Bengazi News Corp) is such a joke people see right through the phony reports and reporters.

    But keep that on the air. It just helps all of us Democrats who are true Americans trying to make this country better.
    Not always being negative.

    May 19, 2013 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
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