June 17th, 2013
06:00 AM ET
9 years ago

CNN Poll: Obama approval falls amid controversies

Washington (CNN) - President Barack Obama's approval rating dropped eight percentage points over the past month, to 45%, the president's lowest rating in more than a year and a half, according to a new national poll.

The CNN/ORC International survey released Monday morning comes as the White House has been reacting to controversies over a massive U.S. government surveillance program; the Internal Revenue Service's targeting of tea party and other conservative groups who applied for tax-exempt status; the administration's handling of last September's attack in Benghazi that left the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans dead; and the Justice Department's secret collection of journalists' phone records as part of a government investigation into classified leaks.

The poll indicates that for the first time in Obama’s presidency, half of the public says they don't believe he is honest and trustworthy. And Americans are split on the controversial National Security Agency anti-terrorism program to record metadata on U.S. phone calls, but they support the NSA program that targets records of Internet usage by people in other countries. That doesn't mean they necessarily like what is going on: Just over six in 10 believe that government is so large and powerful that it threatens the rights and freedoms of ordinary Americans.

A slight majority of those questioned in the poll, which was conducted Tuesday through Thursday of last week, disapprove of the actions of the man who leaked sensitive information about the NSA program. A similar number say Edward Snowden, who fled to Hong Kong, should be brought back to the United States and prosecuted.

What the approval drop means for Obama

The president's approval rating stands at 45%, down from 53% in mid-May. And 54% say they disapprove of how Obama's handling his job, up nine points from last month. It's the first time in CNN polling since November 2011 that a majority of Americans have had a negative view of the president.

"The drop in Obama's support is fueled by a dramatic 17-point decline over the past month among people under 30, who, along with black Americans, had been the most loyal part of the Obama coalition," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.

The president also dropped 10 points among independent voters, from 47% last month to 37% now, with Obama's disapproval among independents jumping 12 points to 61%.

What's behind the drop?

"It is clear that revelations about NSA surveillance programs have damaged Obama's standing with the public, although older controversies like the IRS matter may have begun to take their toll as well," adds Holland.

Details on NSA-thwarted plots coming, lawmaker says

Six in 10 disapprove of how Obama is handling government surveillance of U.S. citizens, which is higher than the 52% who disapproved of George W. Bush on the same issue in 2006, when government surveillance was also in the headlines.

Obama's approval rating on terrorism, although still above 50%, has taken a 13-point hit since mid-May. By contrast, his approval rating on domestic issues such as the economy, immigration and the deficit only dropped by two to four points, within the poll's sampling error.

Views of Obama's personal characteristics have also declined.

The number of Americans who think he is honest has dropped nine points over the past month, to 49%. Fifty-seven percent of those questioned say they disagree with the president's views on the size and power of the federal government, and 53% say he cannot manage the government effectively. Fifty-two percent say the president is a strong and decisive leader. That's still a majority, but it's down six points from last month.

Cheney defends NSA, calls Obama's credibility 'nonexistent'

Forty-three percent of the public says that the Obama administration has gone too far in restricting civil liberties to fight terrorism, with 38% saying the administration has been about right and 17% saying it has not gone far enough.

"That's roughly the same reaction that the public had to the Bush administration in 2006 when the details of a similar program to gather phone records were made public," says Holland.

Fifty-one percent say the current NSA program to gather phone records is the right thing to do. By comparison, 54% felt that way about the Bush-era program back in 2006. Two thirds say they feel that the current NSA program on Internet usage is right.

More than six in 10 say the government has collected their phone or Internet data. What is the government doing with all of this information?

Just 8% of all Americans think the government has collected their personal data and is using it to investigate them. Just over half say they think the government has collected their data and stored it somewhere without analyzing it, and one third say they believe that government has not collected and stored any of their personal phone or Internet records.

WH: Obama not violating privacy; Snowden's whereabouts unknown

As for Snowden, 52% disapprove of his actions, with 44% saying they approve of the leaks by the former government contractor. Fifty-four percent say the government should attempt to bring Snowden back to the U.S. and prosecute him for his actions.

Documents Snowden provided to journalists revealed the existence of the secret NSA programs to collect records of domestic telephone calls in the United States and the Internet activity of overseas residents. Snowden, who fled to Hong Kong, was fired from his position at the consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton earlier this month. The FBI is investigating the leaks.

The poll was conducted for CNN by ORC International June 11 to 13, with 1,014 adults nationwide questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points.

- CNN Political Editor Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.

soundoff (1,117 Responses)
  1. wisconsin101

    I thinks he is going to have a long long 3.5years. Too many scandals to not be involved in some of them to some degree. I give him credit for keeping a lid on them until after he was elected. He campaigned in 07-08 on transparency and the last 4.5 years have been nothing but the opposite. Change you can believe in is starting to look like a big lie since all we are getting is more of the same.

    June 17, 2013 09:32 am at 9:32 am |
  2. steven

    americans want security but they do not want to pay he price that comes with that security ...they want snowden to be procsecuted because we think that he compromised our security..the congress was aware of the data mining and now that the republicans who started the whole program under bush are acting like it is some new revelation...it is all political folks....something to pin on obama...they are runnng scared and the hope to muddy the waters and by doing so hurt obama....

    June 17, 2013 09:32 am at 9:32 am |
  3. Bob

    Obama lied about Benghazi by blaming it on a video. All we know about Benghazi is what Panetta told us, and that was Obama told Panetta to do everything possible. Panetta and the rest did nothing but watch the drone feed. The 3AM call came and Obama handed off leadership duties. Obama lied about learning about the IRS scandal from news reports like the rest of us did and many of his peeps still believe that. Obama lies, that's why people think he is a liar.

    June 17, 2013 09:32 am at 9:32 am |
  4. Helen Troy

    That doesn't mean they necessarily like what is going on: Just over six in 10 believe that government is so large and powerful that it threatens the rights and freedoms of ordinary Americans.

    wow... this says a lot...

    June 17, 2013 09:32 am at 9:32 am |
  5. Phil Muse

    Your poll shows how divided and confused Americans are on these issues. A small but significant majority think it's wrong for the government to spy on our phone and internet records . But about the same majority think Edward Snowden should be prosecuted because he blew the whistle on the NSA for doing just that. Actually, much of this spying on Americans business dates back to the Bush administration. It is depressing to think how glacial our government programs are, that a change in administrations has made so little difference. What we need is smarter, not more massive security.

    June 17, 2013 09:33 am at 9:33 am |
  6. Jeff Kelly

    Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me! Good bye Obama.

    June 17, 2013 09:33 am at 9:33 am |
  7. cookie

    See all nwo you all are seeing what I saw at the beginning of his term. Ta bad we are stuck with him for another 3 years. OH well you all voted for him now you all have to suffer with the rest of us.

    June 17, 2013 09:33 am at 9:33 am |
  8. John

    His approval rating is 45% His DISAPPROVAL rating is 55%

    June 17, 2013 09:33 am at 9:33 am |
  9. JC

    I think Obama is 110% honest. He is the BEST President in my lifetime, and I'm 50.

    June 17, 2013 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  10. joy

    The poll results could actually be much worse. It all depends on the demographics. I never really trust these polls or give them much weight. Personally, I think if we took a vote instead of a random poll the results would show overall the American people dont trust him at all.

    June 17, 2013 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  11. Phil S.

    He wanted the job, but doesn't want any of the responsibility! Not for Benghazi, the IRS, the new NSA scandal...

    He's the boss, The CEO, and the leader of The Executive Branch. He ran us into the ground.

    June 17, 2013 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  12. myselfish

    Yea I've started to dislike him for all those reasons listed and now he is doing his best to involve us in yet another war.

    June 17, 2013 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  13. Ken

    He is not treating us like Americans. He's got a more foreign approach to the office. Next time people elect someone from here.

    June 17, 2013 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  14. James

    Don't worry CNN, it's not like you didn't try.
    Sometimes you just can't cover up everything.

    June 17, 2013 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  15. Steve

    Not surprised. But the Republicans are taking far harder hits in the polls, especially if they screw up immigration. Hillary 2016!

    June 17, 2013 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  16. Joe NYer

    Like this hasn't been going on for awhile?

    June 17, 2013 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  17. korkea aika

    This President is one of the most honest, real-people President we've had since Lyndon Johnson, who began his career as a grade school teacher in a poor mexican school in Texas. No one surveyed me. I totally trust President Obama to do the right thing with national security, the economy, healthcare, equal rights, Immigration reform and Guantanamo, to name a few. He is not a dictator, and has to work with the rest of the untrustworthy branches of govenment, namely the US house of representatives, infested with Tea Party seditionists. U GO BARAK!

    June 17, 2013 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  18. JMR

    thats still 44% to high

    June 17, 2013 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  19. mowey

    Yeah lets bring Bush back.

    June 17, 2013 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  20. POD

    " Meet the new boss

    Same as the old boss" !

    The Who......Won't Get Fooled Again

    June 17, 2013 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  21. ScottCA

    Hard to believe it, but I think the Democrats are handing the next election to the Republicans.

    If only there was a true multiparty system in place, so Americans were not slaves to this giant two headed monster.

    June 17, 2013 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  22. coyoteliberty

    What was it Bruce Springsteen sang: "...I'm going down, down, down..." ?

    By the way, that's just what happened: Big re-election win over a poorly positioned candidate, scandals blooming like flowers, stonewalling and denials...

    Can't wait to See Obama do the walk of shame to Marine Corps One....

    June 17, 2013 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  23. Joe

    I am surprised it took all of this to make a dent to be honest.

    He signed the NDAA
    He extended the Patriot act
    He defended the NSA spying
    He uses drones that have killed Americans (no trial)
    Jumping on the Trayvon Martin bandwagon when the trial has not even started yet.

    *These next events happened under his watch but I do not blame him directly*

    Monsanto Act
    IRS political targeting
    NSA spying
    Fast & Furious debacle

    So yeah, I was under the impression that he could do no wrong. I mean, if it was any other guy they would be hated right now. And before someone jumps in with "Well Bush ect do bad things!" My response is this. Two wrongs don't make a right. I know Bush was bad and others may even be worse, but that in no way makes Obama a better person. Especially when he ran on the premise of CHANGE. If anything he is just like all the rest and that is not something to be proud of.

    June 17, 2013 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  24. Roscoe

    This we already knew but wondered how long it would take people to realize.

    June 17, 2013 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  25. eric

    Of course his approvals took a giant hit, even the most die hard Liberals are smart enough to realize what an abomination this massive abuse of government power this spying program is! And Obama decides "Hey I totally am for this, it doesnt violate your rights..." and expects to be loved? Get the hell out of here, I tell you what Obama, make ALL your phone conversations and E-mail public so we can read them AND THEN I might let you have mine without a fight, other then that feel free to have your feelings hurt.

    June 17, 2013 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
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