Obama hits new low on foreign policy in CNN polling
September 9th, 2013
04:00 PM ET
9 years ago

Obama hits new low on foreign policy in CNN polling

Washington (CNN) - One day before President Barack Obama gives a prime time speech to make his case against Syria, a new national poll indicates the president's approval rating on foreign policy has hit an all-time low. And only three in ten approve of how he is handling Syria.

But according to a CNN/ORC International survey, the number of Americans who approve of how Obama is handling his job in general remains steady.

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Only four in ten approve of the job Obama is doing on foreign policy, with 57% of those questioned giving the president a thumbs down. The 40% approval rating on foreign policy is Obama's lowest level ever on that issue in CNN polling.

The CNN poll's Monday release comes as the president sits down for interviews with the country's major broadcast and cable news networks, including CNN, to push for congressional authorization for U.S. military action to punish the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for allegedly using chemical weapons against its own citizens.

"President Obama's approval rating on foreign affairs has continued its steady decline - from 54% in January to 49% in April, 44% in June, and just 40% now," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "This may be a troubling sign for a president who in past polls had always scored his highest ratings for his handling of foreign affairs."

Specifically on Syria, only 31% of the public approves of the president's policies and actions, with 63% giving him a thumbs down. Four in ten Democrats say they disapprove of the job Obama's doing on Syria, with 54% saying they approve.

There is a wide partisan divide on this question, with only 26% of independents and just nine percent of Republicans approving of how Obama is handling the situation in Syria, which is suffering through two years of a bloody civil war between government forces and various rebel factions.

"The number of Democrats who disapprove of how the president's handling Syria may cause problems for the White House," adds Holland. "Given his low approval scores on Syria among independents and Republicans, the 40% of Democrats who disapprove may mean there is no base to rally on this key issue."

The president's overall approval rating stands at 45%, with 52% saying they disapprove of the job he's doing in the White House. The 45% approval rating is unchanged from CNN's previous poll, which was conducted in June.

"An unchanged overall approval rating perhaps comes as a surprise to some observers, but arguably the unpopularity of military action against Syria is balanced by the fact that the public wanted the president to consult with Congress before taking action on Syria, and that's exactly what he did," adds Holland.

The 45% approval rating is not Obama's lowest mark in CNN polling. His all-time low was a 43% approval rating in September of 2011.

The poll also indicates the president's approval rating on the economy stands at 43% on the economy, 42% on health care, and 36% on the budget deficit, all basically unchanged from earlier this year.

While the president's overall approval rating is nothing to brag about, it's still soars above Congress. According to the CNN poll, only one in five give federal lawmakers a thumbs up on the job they're doing on Capitol Hill, with 78% saying they disapprove.

The CNN poll was conducted by ORC International September 6-8, with 1,022 adult Americans questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points.

soundoff (201 Responses)
  1. That Guy

    Question? Do we (America) have money to spend on a war?

    September 9, 2013 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  2. Jason

    Every move this administration has made in foreign policy, particularly in the middle east, has been a disaster. Just when you thought our previous involvement in the middle east couldnt get worse, somehow they have found a way. When will our so called representatives learn from the mistakes of the past. Stop getting involved in conflicts that have their roots in disputes that have last several hundred years. Stop spending American lives and money on people that hate us. We have enough of our own problems that need fixing. Its not a false choice of being interventionist or isolationist. You need to pick your battles and this one we should pass on.

    September 9, 2013 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  3. TommytheT

    well as long as it "SOARS" above Congress all is good...and I am sure it has nothing to do with his none stop attacks on Congress blaming them for all that is wrong in the world as they prevent him from being a dictator.

    September 9, 2013 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  4. dave

    @Tampa Tim – The Media also claimed Carter was going to win re-election easily. Oooooops.

    September 9, 2013 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  5. Robert L

    Just one thing to keep in mind people,he like many other presidents in our past are in a constant home court battle and most important trying to do a job with people tugging at them from every direction.Was he wrong for the "RED LINE"....yes.But congress the biggest voice did nothing,said nothing,yet criticizes what the president does every step of the way.I don't believe anyone in the US wants us to strike Syria but that should reflect to our congressmen but yet the whole time they wanted to hit Syria just like they wanted to strike Iran and for what reason to delay them a few years with would accomplish nothing just like what strikes in Syria would do.As I told people before Syria is Russia lap dog and the world community should be pressuring Russian to get Syria to control is chemical weapons.As far as I'm concerned Obama needs to stop trying to be a hard to please warmongers in congress and short minded Americans.We need to start going back to diplomacy and less peace through force of arms.You can be a nation of good going around firing missiles at nations killing innocent people as a result of collateral damage then say we fight for the people.Its too little to late for the US to do anything about Syria's WMDs,had something been done very early then yeah we might not of gotten to this point.

    September 9, 2013 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  6. hardworker45

    President Obama has embarrassed himself as an elected leader, but he has also embarrassed the United States. They Syrian debacle is the latest sign that he fails to plan, program, and much less execute as a professional. Even before the Syrian manufactured crisis, his snooping and spying on our allies had caused many of our 'friends' to look upon the USA with a jaundice eye. Think that it is a sad day when a friend like Brazil cancels an advance team to visit Washington for a programmed state dinner because NSA was caught spying on their oil production. President Obama has squandered what could have been a historic tenure as president.

    September 9, 2013 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  7. Avi Shlomo

    Obama's rogue state tramples over every law it demands others uphold

    September 9, 2013 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  8. mew298

    Obama losing support in the polls? CNN reporting on it is the real story. Looks like the wheels are coming off the media propaganda machine.

    September 9, 2013 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  9. JS50

    Some questions-weapons have been moved to civilian locations. So how many civilian deaths are acceptable? The resolution allows boots on the ground. Who are we giving the arms to? How do we know they won't be sold to AlQueda? What prevents Al queda from taking control once Assad is gone? What happens if Syria attacks Israel? What happens if Russia assets are hit? Has the US consulted Israel? Does the US condone prisoner killing as has been done by the rebels? Are we putting in a no fly zone? How and what are we targeting? Is there an exit strategy? Lots of questions, no answers- Is Obama just winging this?

    September 9, 2013 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  10. Kevin

    Dave, what a sorry excuse for a comment..Shouldnt the President hold any responsibility for his actions? Had it been a Republican president, you would have been all over his case by now. The one thing that is missing from our current President is leadership. He needs to LEAD. Why blame just Congress on what is going on? A president is the leader of Congress, is he not? Then why cant he control the way Congress behaves? He needs to lead instead of always going on Jay Leno and giving his opinion.

    September 9, 2013 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  11. dave

    I keep hearing, "Surprise, Surprise, Surprise" in my head.

    September 9, 2013 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  12. mike

    Obama is a Christian. Kinda like JUDAS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    September 9, 2013 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  13. Navy Patriot

    A So. Chicago community organizer does not a leader make!!!

    September 9, 2013 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  14. Jeff

    Those of you who accuse me of being racist simply because I am white and I disapprove of the Presidents actions are yourselves the racists. If Biden or Clinton or Kerry were President, I would remain opposed to attacking Syria. If Bush or Christie or Jindal were President, I would remain opposed to attacking Syria. It has nothing to do with race, and you should be ashamed for constantly excusing bad policy with the racism excuse. Attacking Syria is bad policy because (a) they haven't threatened us or our allies, (b) we don't know who to trust in the civil war, (c) it will not atone for the people allegedly killed by nerve gas, (d) it could possibly cause more distribution of nerve gas either directly or in retaliation, (e) it will inevitably lead to American troops on Syrian soil, or another Libya/Egypt fiasco if we decide to 'lead from behind' again.

    Fortunately, no attack will happen. At this point, it matters not how Congress votes. If they say no, the President will step back from the brink and continue pointing fingers at Congress. If they say yes, he will step back from the brink and wiggle his way out of his threat while trying to save face. Either way, we all win because the missiles will stay put.

    And stop blaming Congress for not attending hearings. They just returned to session today. They will all see and hear everything they need before voting. Unlike the Affordable Care Act.

    September 9, 2013 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  15. GrizzB

    This man can no wrong to the true believers. It's like they are in a trance and the lemmings are running off the cliff but it's alright, He the Great One said nothing will harm you, Oops, wrong again.
    Wake the hell up people, I just hope we can make it another two years under Carter. Sorry, Obama, get them mixed up sometimes.

    September 9, 2013 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  16. Maico Marquez

    So where are all of the Obama supporters now?

    September 9, 2013 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  17. tellin' it like it is

    I can't believe we have to endure and survive another 3 years of Obama. If he's mucking up the situation with Syria this badly, can you begin to imagine the nightmare we are going to have with Iran?!

    September 9, 2013 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  18. LDT

    Syria should have been addressed over a year ago, before 100K innocents were killed. This deal over chemical weapons just masks the real failure with Syria.

    September 9, 2013 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  19. tiffinS


    I'd give him an A in foreign policy, it's not really his fault that we can't have a foreign policy that makes sense, it's really Congress' fault, particularily the House. They House republicans have made a shambles out of just about everything. That inability to govern by the House republicans effects just about everything. Their lack of ability to make a budget that is acceptable to Americans destroys any attempt at foreign policy. Polls don't really mean that much with a Black President, some do not accept anything that he does because he is Black. In order for a poll to have meaning you'd have to seperate out the bigots, then have a poll just among the bigots, of course that poll would always read that the bigots give a low approval rating for the President on everything.
    Is this a serious comment? I just fell out of my chair I am laughing so hard!

    September 9, 2013 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  20. Anonymous

    If you are anti-action on Syria and your first instinct is to be angry at Republicans for agreeing with you, then seek help immediately.

    September 9, 2013 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  21. us_1776

    It's amazing.

    Bush get a free pass for destabilizing the entire Middle East.

    But Obama gets blamed for having to deal with the aftermath.


    September 9, 2013 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  22. Joe

    If you are anti-action on Syria and your first instinct is to be angry at Republicans for agreeing with you, then seek help immediately.

    September 9, 2013 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  23. I am black but don't worship black

    If the Russians hadn't first come up with the idea of turning Syria's chemicals over to an international authority Obama never would have suggested it. In fact Obama is still looking for other reasons to strike Syria. He's mad.

    September 9, 2013 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  24. dave

    @ Robert L – The problem Obama has in congress is that all but the most blindly bias liberal's in congress, and a few (very few) Repubs actually support Obama on his desired actions in Syria. The "proof" that this was actually carried out by Assad has NOT been made. Heck, even the U.K. is not convinced Assad did this, and it is actually hard to find ANY country's military intelligence that is convinced that Assad carried out the chemical attack. Time to back peddle.

    September 9, 2013 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  25. leonardwood13

    So many people still believe that others only dislike BO because of his race. His race makes no difference what so ever. His policies are absolutely no good. He has intentionally divided this country on many issues. Obamacare is a horrible piece of legislation that should just be repealed. He helped destroy Libya by aiding terrorists there, He almost helped destroy Egypt by backing the terrorists there. Did not act properly on the whole Benghazi situation and we still don't know the whole truth there. If almost every aspect of Barrack Obama's presidency he has made President Bush seem like a genius. At least I always felt like President Bush really loved his country. I have never felt that way with Obama. He seems to despise America, her values and her people to me.

    September 9, 2013 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
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