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. coskid

    Bush put the phone tap mess into motion. It was a good thing THEN. Now, it's another story. A lot of the mess in D.C. continues because no one has the audacity to tear it up (the way Bush did when he set it up). Seems like ethics don't get the job done (but unethical, back-room dealings do!).

    June 17, 2013 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  2. Daisy Cutter

    We must stand with our President to show our loyalty to him .

    June 17, 2013 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  3. c.oestricher

    Ok, how is this news? The NSA surveillance apparatus which was put in place during the Bush administration enjoyed far more significant abuse per say as compared to what President Obama is overseeing today. Further everyone knew about this YEARS ago. So why suddenly this OUTRAGE NOW? This waffling? The economy is getting back on track so the bitter, conservative caucasian male voter has nothing to gripe about there so now their republican representatives look to manufactor a scandal in order to bring down thus presidents standing. Mr. Obama is doing an admirable job considering the mess he was left with by a man whom no one griped about when there was a LEGITIMATE reason to be alarmed. Also the concerted efforts by a group of shameless and truly dishonorable conservatives who will stop at NOTHING to discredit OUR PRESIDENT should provoke disdain and real outrage. Add to this a true scandal in regards to this disgraceful TRAITOR who found it the honorable thing to leak classified information to other countries under the guise of a concerned American and what,you have here is a truly UGLY political landscape. All driven by one thing. Stark HATRED for a man because of his Race and his stance on what he feels are the ills of this country,socially,economically and politically.

    June 17, 2013 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  4. greasemonkey

    So the Presidents approval ratings have dropped due to the perception that he has not dis-continued enough of the policies that Conservatives enacted and has not enacted enough of the policies that progressives support....................yet the CONs are acting as if this good news for their side.........too funny.......

    June 17, 2013 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  5. truth hurts but reality bites

    One thing has been a constant with Obama over the last 6 years. What he says and what he does are never ever the same. People are finally starting to wake up and see this, even his supporters. It is almost like he doesn't know that everything he says and does is being recorded. Given this well documented patttern, it is still rather shocking that 45% are still clueless. It would appear we have a large percentage of koolaide drinkers or totally clueless people. Either one is a scary thought.

    June 17, 2013 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  6. Name

    No matter what he can do for this country never going to be enough now do u really think who put our country late this easy to point finger and someone else the really tried to found the real person. O what u can do to put our nation the way suppost to be another county getting reach and our getting the worse

    June 17, 2013 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  7. Cas

    I am not even American but I think that was a dumb leak by some know-it-all loser ...and no doubt a traitor to his country.

    My understanding is that the program went through many branches of governments and courts.....and it is a way of efficiently protecting the American people from multiple of threats both domestic and foreign.

    June 17, 2013 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  8. Cynthia

    Character counts, folks!

    June 17, 2013 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  9. bryan

    I would doubt his numbers go back up. Why are people going to start trusting him again?

    June 17, 2013 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  10. andyv2k14

    The problem is not necessarily the President. I am not an Obama fan, but he is not the one that started these trends. The problem we face now is a Federal government that has become too big. Obama is simply guilty of wanting to expand it. The major problem is the attitude of Americans. Whereas people in my father's generation accepted the fact that you ahd to go out and work for a living, now people want to sit back and have the government hand them welfare, healthcare, etc. That is not the American Way. Our society has gotten weaker and Obama is just catering to that society (as one would expect from a politician in a democracy). I don't like him because I feel that society is weaker and he caters to it, hence we disagree on most issues. And he's dishonest, but then that's most politicians.

    The baseline problem is that when the government gets big enough to give people everything, then it is also big enough to take everything away. I'd rather bust my butt working for a living then have a government that is pulling my phone records, taking my hard earned money to pay for someone else's doctor, etc. If someone else lacks the competence, work ethic or morales to hold a decent job, then that's their problem and why should the finances of hard working Americans be penalized. I've worked around welfare stations and most of the people there have, on one level or another, brought their situation upon themselves.

    June 17, 2013 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  11. Thomas

    Worst president in American history


    I would say , GW Bush, then Warren G. Harding.

    But then I'm not as educated s you are Joe.

    June 17, 2013 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  12. rick7809

    The President has dropped in approval ratings. "W"'s negative rating was above his positive from June 2005 to January 2009. The Congress has been below 30% approval for years. The man has no more elections to win. I am not sure this is something to worry about if you are in the White House.

    June 17, 2013 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  13. Polar Bear

    People finally waking up to their mistake. Inevitable.

    June 17, 2013 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  14. Name

    Also rich people getting the good benefits when the middle class suffer and paid the double now who can do something about it

    June 17, 2013 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  15. TrudyBird

    I support him and am very proud of him. About these polls... Why am I never asked? I don't believe in the polls. With the amount of hate spewing out of the internet and really weird hate organizations... that truly are out of control... there is no accurate polls of intelligent, average Americans.

    June 17, 2013 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  16. ranchotm

    Sooner or later Obama has to take responsibility.

    June 17, 2013 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  17. pflatman

    Yep. He's not the only one. There are few respected politicians today, and those who consistently sell out to Wall Street, corporations, big ag, the military-industrial complex and insurance/pharma will ALWAYS be known as slimebags.

    June 17, 2013 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  18. westsidebilltx

    His approval rating should be MUCH lower at this point – only goes to show just how much the mainstream media is working to keep him and his image propped up.

    June 17, 2013 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  19. Steveo


    "Like the Who said – "Won't get fooled again"."

    And yet you have been, because all of that "tapping" occurred under Bush, so your apparent belief that this is somehow Obama's fault and something new indicates that you got fooled the first time.
    Come on Sniffit. Everybody needs to stop circling the wagons! The Bush administration (gone for FIVE years), started the program BUT the Obama administration continued it. So yes, the CURRENT administration owns this. President Obama ran and won as the un Bush. Yet he keep more Bush policy, the same policies the left hollered about when Bush was in office. The TRUTHFIUL will recognize this now belongs to the CURRENT occupant of 1600 Penn. Ave.

    June 17, 2013 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  20. TruthHurts

    Bush 2.0. What is the point in voting anymore when all you have are two nearly identical and equally dishonest options?

    June 17, 2013 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  21. allens

    i still think he was the best choice. how can he have come through on the very agendas he campaigned on with that hateful group in congress and the rest of their lock step voters. you know the ones that cannot stand doing anything to help the average american. the funny part is, many are such sheep they do not understand the positions their rulers have taken. that said, in my eyes the only thing that was a huge disappointment was not firing holder when it came to light he was going after reporters info. outright sleazy of holder. one step closer to an authoritarian government. this is the sort of thing we would expect in china, russia and iran

    June 17, 2013 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  22. BroKnows

    Obama voted for the patriot act in '06. Keep that in mind.

    June 17, 2013 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  23. Gaff

    It's funny how many posters are saying the President is worthless. The numbers pretty much indicate he is fairly average at his job. Everybody is so determined to have the best or worst of things. This President campaigned on eliminating the polarity in Washington, but when it takes two to tango and nobody else is dancing then we end up where we are at today. We are all a part of the problem. It's time to dance.

    June 17, 2013 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  24. John P. Tarver

    Obama used the IRS to steal an election, only a fool would rate him trustworthy now.

    June 17, 2013 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  25. c.oestricher

    How disingenuous some of you so called concerned americans are. I for one did not forget sept.11 Obviously quite a few of you did. I love my country and although it is not perfect it is STILL the best system going compared to others. Which is why a LOT of people come here looking for a better way of life. We are dealing with a new form of aggression. It requires that we use the tools and resources that we have at our disposal, that being the NSA. This is nothing NEW. We have ALWAYS had covert surveillance prior to EITHER former President Bush and now President Obama. It was okay when the former was in office. And I felt and still do that is was a necessary move and there I give Bush high marks if for nothing else. What's different about this president? Those with sense ALREADY KNOW THE REAL REASON.

    June 17, 2013 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
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