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. Liberal Sense (Or lack thereof)

    Considering the IRS will be enforcing the Obamacare tax This is a very major problem for the country.

    19 new taxes fro the middle class. Democrats must be so proud.

    May 30, 2013 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  2. Rudy NYC

    Federal income taxes will never be replaced with a consumption tax. End of story. It would tip the scales even further in favor of the wealthy. Like I said, most interstate purchases are not taxed. One could go through life and NEVER pay any taxes. I know that's the idea, but sorry, it's never going to happen.

    May 30, 2013 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  3. JOHN

    ANYONE who believes obama and his henchmen did not direct this is a typical leffttyy looosser in lala land.

    May 30, 2013 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  4. JOHN

    hey rudy..."tip the scales" what are you talking about u brainwashed lib. The rich pay a higher percent of their income in taxes while the moochers pay nothing. Yes the scales are tipped....but against those who produce and contribute.....pathetic.

    May 30, 2013 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  5. Rudy NYC

    Slightly confused wrote on page 5:

    sooooo.... if this IRS scandal is so important to the public, why isn't there more written about it on CNN? I haven't seen much on the Benghazi trials either.
    Confused? It's pretty simple, actually. The issues are not as important, nor real, as you think they are. Oops, I mean not as important as you've been taught to think that they are.

    May 30, 2013 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  6. Rudy NYC


    ANYONE who believes obama and his henchmen did not direct this is a typical leffttyy looosser in lala land.
    The Bush administration had Republican members of Congress PUBLICLY ORDER, the IRS to audit the NAACP just before the 2004 elections. They were looking to find evidence the group was actually a political group, pretending to be a non-profit organization. They found no evidence of political contributions, ad purchases, or anything that could be misconstrued or twisted to look as if the NAACP were anything but a non-profit. This two year audit affected all of the hundreds of local branches across the nation. It cost the group millions.

    May 30, 2013 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  7. rs

    and now thanks to obama and the democrats, the irs will be able to target people because of their healthcare coverage. isn't that just wonderful.
    Remind me- where on your income tax form is the slot for "political affiliation"?

    May 30, 2013 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  8. rad666

    So, they all take the 5th and shredded the evidence.

    Home free with pensions.

    May 30, 2013 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  9. Tony in STL

    This is kind of interesting, since the majority of people don't necessarily "like" the IRS. I think people are kind of sitting back to see how the tea people/cons fair on this one. Kind of a silent support, in a bad kind of way. If they win, there will be a lot more lawsuits brewing no doubt.

    May 30, 2013 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  10. rs

    The problem you libs have is THE IRS ADMITTED THEY TARGETED SPECIFIC GROUPS!!!
    Yes! The obviously ANTI-TAX ones! Duh! That's their job.

    May 30, 2013 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  11. Olaf Big

    So, if you read beyond the headline, the overwhelming majority of Americans doesn't give a rat's tail about these scandals... Where is the news anyway? CNN has become a human interest and freak show website. Not that there is anyhting wrong with it if your reason for running a website is to keep the visitor counter clicking to raise advertising fees. The problem is that people who go to a news website to read a headline story about the "son in jail who works for mom's bail" are probably not the right target audience for anything other than "amazing new diet helps you to keep the pounds off" advertisement.

    May 30, 2013 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  12. rs

    like we needed the irs in our life more than it already was. now they will be crawling all over our medical coverage. you want big democrat government america?! well, bend over and get ready for it because it is coming fast with obamacare.
    And the GOP Healthcare Plan is.....?
    I think last I heard it went like this: The rich can pay for anything, and the poor can just die. That sound about right?

    May 30, 2013 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  13. B

    The former head of the IRS visited the White House more times than any Cabinet member, according to an analysis by The Daily Caller, raising questions about the nature of those visits - particularly around the time the agency was targeting conservative groups.

    The Caller analysis of White House visitor logs showed former IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman visited the White House at least 157 times under the Obama administration.

    May 30, 2013 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  14. LawrrenceOfAlbania

    So some tea baggers get their nose out of joint because they can't get a 501C4 from the IRS. Time to move on!

    May 30, 2013 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  15. Liberal Sense (Or lack thereof)

    Anyone wanting to move on from this obviously doesn't care if democrats break the law.

    May 30, 2013 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  16. Anonymous

    Funny how the Repubs/Tea Partiers who call those who don't have to pay federal taxes "moochers" are now all gun-ho supporting groups that should be paying taxes but were trying to get away with not doing so. Like John Huntsman called Romney a well-oiled weather vane, this is what the entire GOP is...they sway with the wind on EVERYTHING as long as it is something they can pin on President Obama. I honestly believe most Americans see through their idiocy.

    May 30, 2013 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  17. gib

    Polls have become one step above media and congress in reflecting right and wrong. Our culture is made of people educated by media, movies, TV and public education. We the people are pretty much numb to critical and conceptual thinking. We just want to be fed and entertained. Anything else gives us a collective headache and we vote no if it is not fun and yes on "awww.". These polls that accurately demonstrate what we think we want in no way demonstrate what would TRULY work best for most of us, how and why. Didn't media's charge used to be to report the FACTS of what, when, who, why and how, rather than "Hey, Look at this!!" ?

    May 30, 2013 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  18. Dave

    DOUGLAS SHULMAN, former IRS commissioner, visited White House more times than any Cabinet member, according to The Daily Caller analysis — particularly around the time the agency was targeting conservative groups

    May 30, 2013 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  19. Christian Grey

    Fox news head line reads
    IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman visited the White House at least 157 times under the Obama administration.
    CNN has nothing to say about it. I guess CNN does not think your freedom is worth reporting. First reported by the Daily Caller.
    Are we the fools they think we are?

    May 30, 2013 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  20. Anonymous

    @Veritas – "Remember...this is the agency (IRS) that Obama wants us to "trust" to run his giant takeover of the US healthcare system.Any one else seeing a bit of a problem with that now?"
    Looks like the Repubs/Tea Party gang got you hook, line & sinker. Thank you for confirming that this whole IRS controversy is to discredit the IRS in hopes to put Obamacare in a more negative light. All to use in the mid-term elections.

    May 30, 2013 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  21. Anonymous

    @Lindsey – Strangely leftist / liberals polled said "WHAT DOES IT MATTER"!
    Apparently nothing is important to them and doesn't matter – – UNLESS it might affect them.
    Please enlighten us how any of these "scandals" affect you as an average American citizen.

    May 30, 2013 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  22. Liberal Sense (Or lack thereof)

    The liberal consiracy theorists are out in force I see.

    May 30, 2013 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  23. sdfad

    Obama is responsible whether he knew it or not. If he didn't, he should have. He's nothing but a political animal. Notice that we haven't seen any firing of people who should have informed the president. Shulman looks guilty and Lerner even more so.

    May 30, 2013 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  24. albert yester

    A lot of you people on this forum do not deserve to live in a democratic republic. You don't care that the First Amendment has been violated, political opponents of the party in power have been targeted and that four Americans were killed because of the concern for political gain. You have sacriificed your self respect, if you ever had any, for political advantage. I can see now that this country is in real trouble and we are all now on a steeply downward path.

    May 30, 2013 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  25. Chuck

    What about those Democrat Congressmen who wrote to the IRS and told them to investigate Tea party groups. Dicky Durbin, for one.

    May 30, 2013 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
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