Poll: Americans say IRS the 'most important' controversy
May 30th, 2013
06:00 AM ET
8 years ago

Poll: Americans say IRS the 'most important' controversy

(CNN) - Of the three major controversies plaguing the Obama administration in recent weeks, the drama surrounding the Internal Revenue Service is the most pressing to U.S. voters in a new survey.

According to a Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday, 44% of registered voters say the IRS probe of conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status is the most important. A little fewer than a quarter - 24% - say the Obama administration's handling of last year's terror attack against a U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, is of the most concern, while 15% say the same about the Justice Department's seizure of phone records of Associated Press reporters.

But a large majority, 73% to 22%, say improving the economy is a higher priority than these three issues, according to the survey.

More than three-quarters of Americans say a special prosecutor should be appointed to investigate the IRS's targeting of conservative groups. Broken down by party, 63% of Democrats want such an independent probe, while 88% of Republicans say the same thing.

A plurality - 44% to 33% - say members of Congress who criticize the administration over the IRS controversy are raising "legitimate concerns." Current and former IRS employees have appeared for congressional hearings in recent weeks, with more scheduled to come.

"There is overwhelming bipartisan support for a special prosecutor to investigate the IRS," said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. "Voters apparently don't like the idea of Attorney General Eric Holder investigating the matter himself, perhaps because they don't exactly think highly of him."

According to the survey, only 23% of voters approve of the job Holder is doing, compared with 39% who disapprove.

Regarding Benghazi, a plurality - 44% to 32% - say the criticism from congressional Republicans over the administration's handling of the terror attack is "just politics." As for the seizure of journalists' phone records, 37% of voters say such action raises "legitimate concerns," while 24% disagree.

As for President Barack Obama, his job approval rating stands at 49% in a new CNN Poll of Polls, which averages the six most recent nonpartisan, live-operator national surveys of the president's approval rating; 46% said they disapprove. The polls were conducted in the past two weeks, after the IRS and AP controversies made national headlines. The president's rating stands little changed from the CNN Poll of Polls conducted over the whole month of April, which showed the approval-disapproval split at 49-47.

In the Quinnipiac poll, 1,419 registered voters were surveyed May 22-28, with a sampling error of plus or minus 2.6 percentage points.

- CNN Political Editor Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.

Filed under: IRS • Justice Department • Libya • Polls
soundoff (234 Responses)
  1. The REAL Truth...

    @blakenaustin – All the Obama scandals are substantive and matter. They reveal compulsive lying, deception, cover-ups, and criminal activity. They should lead to the end of the political careers and potential prison time for Obama, Hillary Clinton, Holder, Napolitano, Rice, and Carney. It is time for some accountability.
    Bwahahhaha... the whining from the right is drowning out the whimpers from the Nov election loss. I'm fine with what you want after Bush, Cheney, Ashcroft, Rumsfeld and Condi are put there first. It's time for some accountability.

    May 30, 2013 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  2. Scott

    Nothing to see here folks, just keep moving!!!!!

    May 30, 2013 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  3. Data Driven

    I thought the IRS thing was important too until more information came out about it. Now I'm mildly outraged that political groups like the "tea party" successfully got out of paying taxes.

    In any case, the 70%+ of Americans who think the real focus should be on the economy ought to give you a hint, Media. Quit wasting our time. When it comes to scandals from Democratic Administrations, it appears that the GOP has contracted boy-who-cried-wolf syndrome.

    May 30, 2013 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  4. RDH

    Funny how citizens think the same government that destroyed the economy is the same one that will fix it. End the IRS and Federal Reserve and that'll fix it.

    May 30, 2013 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  5. rs

    Washington's new equations:

    Obama = Nixon
    Holder = Halderman
    Geithner = Mcgruder
    Your observations= Alice in Wonderland

    May 30, 2013 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  6. Clem

    Polls, polls and more polls. Here we have a poll, there we have a poll. Everywhere a poll poll. The republicans believe this. The democrats believe that. The wheels go round and round. The news media really doesn't care whether the country is ran properly or not. The real advertising dollars are brought in by stirring people up, and selling space for corporate ads. The real trick is getting the sheep (the people), stampeded in the right direction, so profits can be assured. Call me a sync, but there seems to be a lot of whipsawing going on these days.

    May 30, 2013 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  7. Truth2012

    This will be a Fox news troll banner day for propaganda...
    If your involved in intelligence leaks, you need to be investigated, if your a part of a group who has stated their only mission was to overthrow the government, they should be investigated, if you are doing nothing wrong then why should you care about the law... (great GOP line used over and over, but obviously has a double standard...)
    Have a nice troll day, POTUS will never be impeached and your kind will never be in office again, the people spoke twice and are not interested in you paranoid sociopath solutions, not in '16 or '20...

    May 30, 2013 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  8. As-if

    I feel for Obama, the GOV is just to big to manage. Clearly more gov is not the answer to anything. The GOV no longer represents the constituents. It is not even an representative republic anymore. Just big interests and big money on both the LEFT and the RIGHT. Time for a revolution.

    May 30, 2013 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  9. Freedom Storm


    Anybody remember those? They rang loudly. They rang almost continuously. They rang from shore to shore and from border to border. You and me ... so many of us ... kept those bells ringing. Here is the question the bells were ringing:


    Now we see the answers to that question ... coming at us fast and furious.

    Copy and paste at will. Keep truth moving.

    May 30, 2013 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  10. Brendan

    People saying "they should be scrutinized" are missing the controversy. It's that they were targeted over groups that supported the administration. If it was simply because they were operating like PACS then target the left wing groups that do that too..... they didn't by their own admission. You far left wing apologists will find any excuse.

    May 30, 2013 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  11. damo12345

    As the New York Times just demonstrated, the Tea Party groups ended up getting targeted not as punishment for their political beliefs but because they genuinely were more likely to be breaking the rules. If this is the "most important controversy" to the American people, that's a fact that should be addressed.

    May 30, 2013 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  12. Clem

    Corrected spelling (cynic), for last post. So sorry for the mistake.

    May 30, 2013 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  13. university of colorado

    the IRS scandal is the most important issue this country has ever faced – spare no expense to make the IRS accountable!!!!

    May 30, 2013 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  14. Dan

    if the government agencys are not working, they should be de-funded.

    how much is wasted in our economy by the IRS, failed IT project(s multiple), corruption, waste, time spend collecting, reporting, and fillng out tax forms, attorneys, tax prep agencys, etc.

    all go away with the fair tax. it is progressive in that those under poverty pay nothing, but gradually more as you spend more.

    This won't happen because then the gov won't be able to incentivise us by the ever growing ream of tax laws.
    Tax spending, and import export.,

    most states have the abilty to collect taxes at point of sale.
    it's broken, let's fix it by removing the cancerous growth.

    we do that by defunding the failing agency...


    May 30, 2013 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  15. Lenny Pincus

    Headline should have read "Three in Four Americans think Economy more important than Republican Conspiracy Fantasies."

    May 30, 2013 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  16. Solomon Walker

    No, it's not.
    But this poll reflects that Americans are not being told the rest of this story.

    Hate crimes and domestic terror are and have been carried out by public officials of the Democratic party and some of the Republican party, the Southern Baptist Convention and some favorable to middle-eastern interests such as United States Senator and her husband Jeanne and Bill Shaheen (Shaheen & Gordon, Dover, NH) against the family of a law student from the State of NH of Jewish descent that reported the domestic terror to federal authorities over the last decade.

    She's been blocked unofficially through defamation from becoming a member of any of the state bar associations as a result.

    Not one major news source reported these very serious international crimes.
    The law student possesses Emails with admissions by reporters associated with NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN that they had foreknowledge of the incidents of terror, especially CNN's Anderson Cooper.

    This statement is for official record.

    May 30, 2013 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  17. dw1650

    Why is "accountability" an issue only for a democratic president? Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rice KILLED American and countless innocent lives by lying to Congress and the American people to pursue their personal war in Iraq. You republicans want accountability? Fine!... .START WITH THEM!!

    May 30, 2013 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  18. Lee

    Mike- Progresives can be both Repub and Dem groups. That's the scary thing. But, no remotely political groups should get tax exempt status including tea party groups and President Obama's brother's group. As far as the IRS...a flat tax or "fair tax" would solve that problem in a single stroek of the pen. I also advocate for publicly funded federal elections to abolish the current money grab for elections and make the politicians actually focus on the business of governing the will of the people instead of both parties pandering to PACs, corporations, and special interests.

    May 30, 2013 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  19. university of colorado

    The IRS has the attitude that they are above the law. Its absolutely terrifying and appalling.

    May 30, 2013 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  20. John

    The problem you libs have is THE IRS ADMITTED THEY TARGETED SPECIFIC GROUPS!!!

    May 30, 2013 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  21. university of colorado

    why isn't CNN airing more of the IRS issue when its the biggest story? what kind of news is this – BORING.! its no wonder they're lacking in ratings.

    May 30, 2013 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  22. David

    All of these groups should pay taxes. Church's should pay taxes. People making less than the nations median income pay thousands in taxes to the IRS. Yet these cry-babies whine about being targeted for what? Getting away with breaking the law? They should lose their "exemption" status and have to pay back retro-actively every penny they owe to American taxpayer's, with interest and penalties.

    May 30, 2013 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  23. Chris

    THE most interesting story is how Obama has operated during his "reign" over the American taxpayers! His arm deal with Mexican drug cartels got an American murdered with one of the weapons he provided, his inability to make a decision cost us several Americans murdered in Benghazi, he's spent billions on increasing the welfare roles, he's even lead the IRS into 'special' situations of checking on groups who do not support his ways of governing (or lack of). Yes, Obama is quite the story isn't he?

    May 30, 2013 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  24. sly

    I am proud of the IRS for their efforts to prevent Tax Fraud by political action groups.

    America has a good system of checks and balances, and our regulatory agencies do a damn good job.

    I am confident that if any regulations were violated the appropriate disciplinary actions will be taken. Perhaps a couple of employees need some retraining and comments in their performance reviews.

    May 30, 2013 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  25. Lee

    ...and every member of Congress that voted for the war as well. Hey...you need to include the Clinton administration that supplied much of the intel for the war too. I was no fan of President Bush but fair is fair. President Obama called for transparency, so he should try practicing it and leave the Chicago style "gangland" politics in the past.

    May 30, 2013 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
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