CNN Poll: Did White House order IRS targeting?
June 18th, 2013
06:00 AM ET
9 years ago

CNN Poll: Did White House order IRS targeting?

Updated 8:01 a.m. ET, Tuesday, 6/18

Washington (CNN) - A growing number of Americans believe that senior White House officials ordered the Internal Revenue Service to target conservative political groups, according to a new national poll.

And a CNN/ORC International survey released Tuesday morning also indicates that a majority of the public says the controversy, which involves increased IRS scrutiny of tea party and other conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status, is very important to the nation.

Republicans argue that the Obama administration used the IRS to intimidate and harass political opponents. Democrats say poor management at the tax agency, rather than political bias, is to blame. Congressional sources on both sides say that interviews with IRS workers so far have found no evidence of political dealings by the White House. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, touting an independent IRS inspector general report, has said the scrutiny appears to have originated with "IRS officials in Cincinnati," where the agency's tax exempt division is centered.

GOP tries to keep focus on IRS targeting scandal

Last month only 37% of the public thought that the IRS controversy led to the White House, with 55% saying that agency officials acted on their own without direct orders from Washington. Now the number who say the White House directed that IRS program has increased 10 points, to 47%, virtually the same as the 49% who believe the IRS agents acted on their own.

"Younger Americans are much less likely than older Americans to believe in White House involvement, and there is, not surprisingly, a partisan divide as well," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "But the Obama administration may be losing independents on this matter. In May, only 36% felt the White House ordered the IRS to target conservative groups; now that number has crossed the 50% threshold."

Fifty-one percent of those questioned said the IRS controversy is a very important issue to the nation, compared to 55% who felt that way in May. In the past week and a half, the IRS story has been put a bit on the backburner, as the controversy over the federal government's massive surveillance program has dominated the spotlight.

The poll was conducted for CNN by ORC International June 11-13, 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

Filed under: CNN/ORC International poll • IRS • White House
soundoff (726 Responses)
  1. Evergreen

    Souces on both sides say there is no evidence of WH involvement, yet nearly half Of those poll belive there is. This says more about the media's ability to report facts rather than just keeping the populance entertained.

    June 18, 2013 08:58 am at 8:58 am |
  2. ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®©

    Most Americans believed Iraq had WMD when we invaded it in 2003, too.

    Heckuva jerb, corporate media.

    June 18, 2013 08:59 am at 8:59 am |
  3. Hazel Motes

    No, the Tooth Fairy did it. Bush or Reagan perhaps?

    June 18, 2013 08:59 am at 8:59 am |
  4. 2centsworth

    Poor management or political targeting... Not necessarily mutually exclusive. At minimum there should be firings at the top and possibly prison time. Unfortunately, I suspect some token will be fired a day before a prearranged retirement.

    June 18, 2013 09:00 am at 9:00 am |
  5. ellie

    Ha! This poll was a sure bet for all except CNN news staff! Does this mean we will begin getting meaningful journalism or will CNN continue to wear the Oval Office Propaganda Hat? NOT!

    June 18, 2013 09:01 am at 9:01 am |
  6. Voter with a Long Memory

    This does not matter. The "low information voters" that vote for the tyrant do not pay taxes. They could care less about the payers. Just as long as they keep getting their bene's it is all good.......

    June 18, 2013 09:02 am at 9:02 am |
  7. Tom

    The story about this being caused by a couple of rogue agents sounds a lot like another scandal caused by a YouTube movie.

    June 18, 2013 09:03 am at 9:03 am |
  8. Jean

    Again it's about time Americans are waking up to Obama and his hench-men and their Chicago style of politics. He is a disgrace as is the majority of his cabinet. Too bad it's too late for this country for the next 3 1/2 years. We will have a long road back after this guys done but I am confident in the resolve of this country and we will be better and stronger despite Obama. As long as we stay safe between now and then, which is what I worry about most these days, I have never felt more unsafe for the US or the world then I do now due in large part to Obama's pure ineptitude on foreign policy. Disgraceful.

    June 18, 2013 09:03 am at 9:03 am |
  9. apetra

    A growing national consensus that the Obama Administration has committed crimes worthy of impeachment.

    June 18, 2013 09:04 am at 9:04 am |
  10. Stanleyannd


    Who had motive? Only the president had the motive to pursue this and coordinate all the various offices in Cincinnati, Virginia, DC, CA....

    No rogue agent would have risked his pension or been in a position to logistically coordinate all of this.

    June 18, 2013 09:08 am at 9:08 am |
  11. Jerry

    Come on CNN, that is a known fact. Apparently, only your reporters/anchor people did not know or attempted, as usual, to cover Obama's clueless/vindictive butt.

    When are you folks going to start practicing "Objective: reporting?! THERE IS STILL TIME!!!

    June 18, 2013 09:08 am at 9:08 am |
  12. Not Impressed

    It's either corruption, incompetence or a mix of the two. I'm leaning toward corruption but the White House's cabinet isn't exactly full of accomplished managers so incompetence is always a possibility. Either way, every US citizen should be terrified of this ugly mess because it shows that they may end up on an IRS target list for trying to exercise their Constitutional rights.

    June 18, 2013 09:08 am at 9:08 am |
  13. Keyser

    Who else would have issued the directive for IRS investigations of conservation groups and GOP donors. The evidence indicates that the investigations went much further than the IRS, including the ATF, FBI and DHS. The IRS could not have coordinated the efforts of all these agencies. Yes, the trail will lead to the White House, but I doubt we will ever find evidence leading to the POTUS. He is far to shrewd to make that mistake. More than likely the directive was conveyed verbally to a close aide, who then distributed it to high ranking allies in these agencies to carry out. The whole thing stinks to high heaven and does not bode well for the sanctity of our nation's future when the government is corrupt to the core and the only thing they care about is which party stays in power. I say we fire all of them. The entire legislative, executive and judicial branches need to go and we need to start over.

    June 18, 2013 09:08 am at 9:08 am |
  14. A True Conservative

    Of course it's a very important issue for the nation. It simply astounds me that so few people care about it. These polls should show that 100% of Americans are deeply concerned about this issue and far more should be able to see that this wasn't some few employees in a distant office dreaming this up. This started from very far up the food chain!

    June 18, 2013 09:09 am at 9:09 am |
  15. Mark S

    And the other half voted for him.

    June 18, 2013 09:09 am at 9:09 am |
  16. CHSIndependent

    Sooner or later, regardless of the political stripe or "pop culture" popularity of a a president, people will demand that president assumes responsibility for those things done while he's in office. So far as political operators go, Obama and his supporters have been better than almost any before in political maneuvers aimed at his ducking the "accountability" aspect of his presidency. Much of the public is culpable in this, giving him more than 6 years of "grace" due to the skillful and to some, perfectly reasonable redirection (misdirection) of accountability toward anyone ranging from Nixon to the congress, the Great Pumpkin, and anyone in between.

    Sooner or later Mr. President,the buck lands in your lap squarely in front of the public eye, and there's no more room to smooth it over, to dissimulate or work a deal behind the closed doors you promised to leave open, and the American people will finally demand some answers.

    June 18, 2013 09:10 am at 9:10 am |
  17. As-if

    What Obama lies? How dare you question our awesome leader! He has a halo on his head, I saw it on a magazine. It must be true.

    June 18, 2013 09:11 am at 9:11 am |
  18. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    There is some reason to do think it wasn't anyone higher up than either someone from DC (not the White House) or from the local office. There was a flood of these new groups wanting to be tax exempt. I'd question the new influx of crazy people.

    June 18, 2013 09:11 am at 9:11 am |
  19. Balanced99

    Directly, indirectly and likely both – the White House is definitely responsible for this.

    Any government investigation into a business or lawsuit against it, always looks at controls in place to stop something from happening. The examination into those controls always start with the "tone at the top".

    The tone at the top of this administration has been nothing but dirty Chicago politics – never leadership. It has been to look at any data and report only the obscure (mainly false) pieces that seemingly support your argument.

    Tactics are always the ends justify the means. That's the tone that's been set – carried out by Obama, his appointees and down the line.

    With all the government corruption and waste – how many of you really want the IRS running healthcare?

    June 18, 2013 09:12 am at 9:12 am |
  20. Rosa

    Really 47% believe the white house was trying to intimidate people through the IRS even though there is absolutely no evidence to support that assertion but there is ample evidence even testimony by the people involved that they acted on their own in an effort to streamline their work.
    What about the fact that political groups may have been trying to get tax exemption they did not deserve. They all got their exempt status in the end. That us the real scandal. Did they poll anyone about that?

    June 18, 2013 09:12 am at 9:12 am |
  21. weneedrubio

    This is my main problem with what is going on in this country, how could anyone, like him or not, not deduce that this is being directed by, at the very least, an Obama campaign or staff person? If underlings did this then the IRS should be eliminated, but who benefits? Not the IRS, Obama benefits, and the Democrat party.

    June 18, 2013 09:14 am at 9:14 am |
  22. Peach

    OF COURSE it is tied to White House-–Here's another clue-–Obama ordered it. Now you have your headline CNN....go to press.

    June 18, 2013 09:14 am at 9:14 am |
  23. Anonymous

    The W/H is GUILTY and it does not take an rocket scientist to figure it out!

    June 18, 2013 09:14 am at 9:14 am |
  24. Connor

    If the IRS scandal was down to "poor management", it would've affected both parties. It hasn't.

    June 18, 2013 09:16 am at 9:16 am |
  25. tony

    The real reason why dirs controversy has been put on the back burner is because upon further review they found out that originated with a conservative Republican, by his own admission. He did it to try to make the process more streamlined given the high number of tea party and conservative group filing for a 501 C. I know people want badly for there to be an issue here however there's not. It's simply corporate America at its finest...inept on all levels!

    June 18, 2013 09:16 am at 9:16 am |
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