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. Hal

    Just as Josef Stalin knew nothing about the Katyn Forest Massacre in 1940 and Adolf Hitler was ignorant of the Wannsee Conference in 1942, so Barack Obama was oblivious of the IRS harassment and persecution of political opponents in 2012.

    June 18, 2013 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  2. NickAnast

    If the media would actually do its job, someone would ask Darrell Issa this question: If the White House ordered this extra scrutiny, why did it order only the Cincinnati office to do it? Why not an office in a Southern state where the Tea Party is more prevalent?

    By the way, there's a HUGE difference between this nonscandal and Watergate: in the case of Watergate, President Nixon was caught ON TAPE ordering the Treasury Secretary to instruct the IRS to go after specific individuals (including Ted Kennedy) and groups (the Brookings Institute). And Nixon wanted more than just IRS audits. He wanted offices and homes broken into and bugged, safes cleaned out, dirt dug up. All of it on tape.

    June 18, 2013 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  3. Lenny

    This isn't about 'strategy' Chad.

    American Citizens were attacked by the IRS on behalf of the president and his 2012 campaign. You can deny this all you want. These are Soviet style attempts to SHUT down the VOICES of the American people.

    It only proves that the LEFT in this country does not resepect ANY of the Rights outlined in the Bill of rights. You constantly attack the 2nd Amendment and yet wrap yourself around the 1st Amendment. But only when the 1st Amendment benefits you. For your political ENEMIES (just like Nixon Obama has his own list) the 1st Amendment does not apply.

    I wouldn't put it past this Administration to authorize Drone Strikes on Tea Party Activists. Why wouldn't they. They use the IRS to attack political enemies, wire tap reporters, hack into reporters computers, sell assault rifles to drug cartel members in Mexico, and blame a stupid internet Movie for their incompetance in Bengazi.

    June 18, 2013 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  4. Bob

    The director of the IRS is a Bush appointed Romney supporter.

    The IRS was simply giving extra scrutiny to political groups pretending to be charities in order to get tax-exempt status.

    This fake scandal is going nowhere just like Spinghazi.

    June 18, 2013 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  5. Bud

    I voted for Obama, but this is very serious stuff here. If the IRS can make life miserable for people because of their political views, what's next? Audit people from red or blue states only? How about people with Hispanic sounding names or Italian sounding names? These IRS guys did not come up with this idea on their own-someone directed them to do this. It may have not originated from the White House, but someone needs to held accountable here.

    June 18, 2013 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  6. Bob

    Keep in mind that American Crossroads and the other huge huge money tea party right wing groups already had gotten their tax exempt status, the ones that were "harassed" were for the most part small potatoes. The idea that the election would hinge on these small players is to put it mildly, ...stupid. So you have to wonder why Obama (even if you think he'd stoop this low, which is ridiculous) you have to wonder why he would risk his entire political career and legacy on giving these small potato groups a hard time. This story is wildly far fetched. You seriously need to wear a tinfoil hat to believe it.

    June 18, 2013 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  7. Steve in Tulsa

    There was never a paper trail that proved Hitler was aware of his gas chambers and ovens either. Obama published on the whitehouse web site his list of 'enemies' and he and several congress people used the press to call out for more stringent investigations of conservatives while allowing left-wing groups to instantly get their exemptions.

    June 18, 2013 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  8. Joe

    You know, there is no proof that Hitler directly ordered the slaughter of Jews either. There is no paper trail or other evidence linking him, but I am pretty sure he was OK with it wouldn't you say?

    June 18, 2013 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  9. Steve Arnett

    To all those Kool-Aid guzzlers that think there is no evidence of White House involvement: How do you explain the EXPONENTIAL increase in IRS officials visiting the White House, especially immediately prior to the election? Were they there to play tiddly-winks? Do you really think that they're going to find a smoking gun, when the lapdog press covers for BHO, swallowing their excuses without so much as chewing? If George W. Bush had to endure even ONE scandal the likes of Fast and Furious, IRS-gate, Benghazi-gate, NSA-gate, AP-gate, etc., they would have been blue in the face screaming for impeachment. America has been hoodwinked into re-electing the worst President EVER. The only thing worse would be impeachment and Joe Biden taking the reins.

    June 18, 2013 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  10. Downhillslide

    Die-hard liberals are screaming about no EVIDENCE linking Obama to the IRS scandal, but they ignore two important things. First, it was Obama benefited the most from tea-party organizations being silenced during the 2012 election. Second, there is not a single known document that directly links Hitler to the holocaust.

    June 18, 2013 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  11. charlie

    When I read a post directly linking the Whithouse and Obama to the IRS thing, all I hear is: "I hate the fact that we have a black President, and this is another way for me to say it without actually saying it."

    June 18, 2013 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  12. pjoe

    Told his supporters at political rallies to argue with their neighbors and "get in their face".

    Wouldn't surprise me if he told his employees to do some controversial stuff too.

    June 18, 2013 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  13. TexasResponder

    This Obama Administration claims to have only heard off all these scandals through media outlets, and will always blame it was someone or something else and never step up and take any blame. If this is so, who is in charge of the country? Has it really gotten to a point where we have out of control agencies with control hungry hypocrites trying to control every aspect of our lives through intimidation, media and fear? The answer is YES!!

    June 18, 2013 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  14. John The Electrician

    That's right, it's a vast left wing conspiracy. More than 50% of Americans belive thier God will return and wipe the non belivers from the earth. In the long run, these people are of no good to anyone.

    June 18, 2013 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  15. Elaine

    The same right wing biased pollsteres that said Mitt Romney will win the election.

    June 18, 2013 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  16. Independant

    I don't think WH ordered the IRS targeting. I think they will know some day they will get caught. So, I think it is a middle management who started this and the IRS management itself was caught off guard.

    June 18, 2013 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  17. JJ

    the other half are the illegals , they don't know English or what's going on. My Concern is I think this Regime could have been hacking in the Supreme Courts personal Emails and threatened them if they were doing anything they didn't want Family members etc. to know. For Example was justice Roberts hiding something from his family, Obama could threaten many of the judges to push his radical agendas through., this is all to scary god help us

    June 18, 2013 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  18. cb

    This result is typical of confirmation bias fed by slanted media reports and a poll with a clearly leading question. There has been NO evidence presented that supports the possibility of WH onvolvement or direction but hey why bother to mention that FACT. And why bother to mention that the manager directly in charge of the IRS agents involved is a REPUBLICAN.


    June 18, 2013 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  19. NickAnast


    I doubt the WH ever directly ordered the illegal acts, but I suspect they nudged it as hard as they could to make it happen.
    Question: What illegal acts? The extra scrutiny of the applications by itself is not illegal, and conservative groups were not solely targeted. Several liberal groups received the same extra scrutiny (a fact that is rarely reported), including one liberal group that had its application rejected (another rarely reported fact). More conservative groups were targeted because more conservative groups applied for tax-exempt status, a direct result of the Citizens United ruling.

    June 18, 2013 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  20. Wake up People!

    @Chad. Great comment and very, very true. It also doesn't hurt them that Fox News has been a 24/7 Obama bashfest since January 20, 2009. I guess it's true, if you scream something loud enough and long enough, some people will believe it. Especially those with preconceived notions about the POTUS and those that don't think he deserves the job in the first place.

    It's sad that the media has become all about sensationalizing and to hell with facts. I'm still wondering why it's never mentioned in any article that liberal groups were scrutinized also and none of the conservative groups were denied.

    The MSM is beyond pathetic. Which is why I get my news from CBC and BBC.

    June 18, 2013 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  21. eric in NJ

    I always thought that it was suspicious that this happened to only conservative groups, after the big 2010 House turn over, started in Ohio (very much contested in 2012), and only advantaged Obama in the outcome of the malfeasance. Maybe just a coincidence but surely Obama has lottery winners luck in this whole matter if all of this just fortuitously occurred, in just the right time, to only his adversaries.

    June 18, 2013 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  22. DaveinIL

    "White House pushes IRS plan ". What kind of spin headline is that? Sounds like the administration is promoting a new tax plan rather than an abuse of executive branch power.

    June 18, 2013 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  23. Mike Gee

    CNN you are part of the problem. Your failure to cover significant issues like this (and there is a myriad of others) makes you culpable in the matter. As a lap dog for the administration what kind of treats are you getting that makes you so loyal?

    June 18, 2013 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  24. Devon

    There's no evidence that Obama is linked to the IRS targeting.

    This is just another conspiracy theory for the tinfoil hat crowd.

    June 18, 2013 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  25. Stephen

    Here are the numbers. In 2012 the IRS received 3,357 applications from groups for 501(c) (4) status. 298 applications were targeted for additional investigation, of which 85 were groups with "tea party" or "patriot" in their name. That's about 28% of ALL groups targeted for additional investigation. Of those "tea-party" groups targeted, all were eventually approved. Does anyone actually believe such groups are not actively, if not primarily, invovled in political activity, including elections, to warrant scrutiny of their application for tax-free status? Or are they conveniently seeking such status to hide their contributor list?

    June 18, 2013 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
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