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. Moderately Amused

    Libbies! Start your spinning! Ready......go!!

    I know, blah blah Bush, blah blah Tea bags, blah blah obstructionist congress... pathetic...

    June 17, 2013 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  2. guigsy

    Based on a CNN poll? Which has about as much worth as hearsay. most of the reasons we distrust congress are because of initiatives that began long before his tenure. Come on CNN!!!

    June 17, 2013 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  3. binag

    People are finally starting to wise up. You can not fool the people all of the time.

    June 17, 2013 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  4. david

    He does the opposite of what the majority wants ! We dont want socialist medicine, 13 million more criminals legalized, more gun control, gay marriage, etc....etc.... I have never seen a president do so wrong to the people.

    June 17, 2013 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  5. TD

    That's too bad. I guess the republican lies and false "scandals" have confused some people. Once these "scandals" have been shown to be what they are... a pathetic attempt by the extremists in the republican party to discredit our president at any cost....the approval ratings will go back up. the approval rating for congress is 10%. We just need to clean house and get the do nothing obstructionist tea party nuts out of congress. Then the president will have a team to work with...not these congressmen who's only goal is to obstruct.

    June 17, 2013 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  6. Johnqcit

    Wait until inflation kicks in and the price of almost everything skyrockets, then look at Obama's popularity. When new taxes kick in about a year, right before the 2014 elections, democrates running for office will not look to promising since it was a super majority of democrates passed the UNaffordable Care Act.

    June 17, 2013 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  7. guigsy

    CNN polls have about as much worth as hearsay. Most of the congressional distrust is from initiatives that started long before his tenure.

    June 17, 2013 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  8. dl

    Here's a few more ways he can keep the approval plummeting:
    – keep defending the NSA/spy programs/Homeland security
    – keep GITMO open for another 4 years
    – keep arresting whitle blowers – afterall we can't have people snitching on Govt wrong doings
    – keep droning (we LOVE war crimes commited by our Prez's)

    June 17, 2013 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  9. Goby Dillis

    Just over six in 10 believe that government is so large and powerful that it threatens the rights and freedoms of ordinary Americans. In other word the majority think we need to reduce the size and scope of governmental powers. I agree. The governments expanse is not needed, It has eclipsed its constitutional intent. The states are capable of their own governance without federal interference. Most law has been pre-established and usually is constitutionally verified without federal intervention. Besides the domestic issues it seems as though the feds are also taking their foreign policy beyond the scope of its intent as well. It’s to the point now where like some big greedy eating machine, it feeds itself money, forever hungry and endlessly consuming the prosperity of the people and redirecting it for the lobby and their monetary interests. No wonder they are attracting negative feelings about what they are doing. Out of order, Out of control, and out of their minds if they can’t see where they are directing this great republic.

    June 17, 2013 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  10. jan

    Dont worry Obama supporters, , Your mesiah will explain everything when he and his family come back from their 6 million dollar trip to Africa, he needs to regroup,

    June 17, 2013 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  11. Scott

    The NSA actions are what caused the drop in Obama's approval rates. Everyone expects some privacy and the government has shown that it cannot be trusted to protect it. A lot of trust has been lost.

    Nobody gives a damn about the IRS scandal. Everyone already knew Congress was corrupt.

    June 17, 2013 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  12. Justin

    I didn't vote for him, but I gave him a lot of hope. I always said "He's doing the best he can." Blind faith. Now, as far as I know, he could be watching me type this. The surveillance is what tipped the scale for me, and I'm not alone. The problem is, while there is a great deal of bipartisan agreement against this (now concrete) PRISM program, there is practically bipartisan support in both the executive and legislative branch in favor of this seeing-eye program.

    All-hail the mighty, all-powerful government. If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear, they say.

    Well, I say the same to them. And what do I hear; what do I hear?

    Silence. Obama is another con-man in a shirt and tie with power, just like Bush, Clinton, Bush, etc.

    June 17, 2013 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  13. Brett

    People are just NOW coming to the revelation Obama isn't honest and trustworth?!?!?!

    June 17, 2013 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  14. Obahtr

    Not many people like liars. Plus you can fool people for only so long before they turn away. Of course there will always be some people that will think he is a God.

    June 17, 2013 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  15. jschmidt

    when they try to coverup it always get them in the end.

    June 17, 2013 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  16. derykhouston

    Also....invading another countries sovereignty with drones in order to murder people has taken a toll on how the world feels about America.
    Obama has been a huge and bitter dissapointment to us all. But it should be no surprise because he did say in his book, "Odacity of Hope" that he believed in defending American interests overseas and that he would use any method available in order to do that.
    International law is one of the core foundations of a civilized world.
    Obama has proven that he doesn't see the value of that idea and so we are all placed in greater danger because if that.

    June 17, 2013 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  17. Just_One

    'twould appear reality is finally catching up to America regarding Dear Leader. When do we get to the Hope and Change part?

    June 17, 2013 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  18. JOE B

    The problem is, President Obama said that the NSA wasn't listening in on phone calls and then just this past week independent investigators stated that the NSA was listening in on phone calls. Can we trust him?

    June 17, 2013 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  19. Chris

    A lot of good his ratings will do now. Hes on his last term and ratings dont mean much when youre not up for reelection. Maybe that should have mattered more before he was reelected? All of these scandals his office is being investegated for are going to be swept under the antique furniture he kicks his feet up on. Obama is untouchable and its our fault. Well okay, its the people who voted for him the second time who are at fault. People should be educated before being allowed to vote.

    June 17, 2013 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  20. Aimleft

    Anything to bash this president. Including total uproar over many things that for some reason were just A-OK when Bush was in office (and implemented most of them).

    June 17, 2013 09:44 am at 9:44 am |
  21. toohip4u

    This happened because he tried to please both sides and everyone. This steers away from doing the "right thing." The people he is losing are the late comers he won over – the swing voters.

    June 17, 2013 09:44 am at 9:44 am |
  22. Marecuh For Teapurty

    Still not as bad as CNN's tv ratings which manage to drop 20% year after year. Keep up the good work Fox jr. Soon no one will watch your Conservative News Network

    June 17, 2013 09:44 am at 9:44 am |
  23. Dan

    Don't forget the killings of Border Patrol agents by the same guns the Justice Dept was sending to Mexico. . . . . .

    June 17, 2013 09:44 am at 9:44 am |
  24. Randy

    Sounds like people are waking up to this incompetent despite the media trying to cover for him at every turn.Too bad they couldn't realize what a failure he was prior to reelection. Just wait until people start paying higher health insurance premiums. " But I thought prices were going to go down" Yeah right Kool-aid drinkers.

    June 17, 2013 09:44 am at 9:44 am |
  25. vic

    He is in good company. Not one republican is trust worthy. We are related to quite a few and they are liars, every one. My republican neighbors do not have one brain in their heads.

    June 17, 2013 09:44 am at 9:44 am |
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