July 23rd, 2014
06:00 AM ET
9 years ago

CNN Poll: Obama's numbers not great but holding steady

Washington (CNN) - President Barack Obama's poll numbers are nothing to brag about, but there's little evidence he has suffered so far this year a "Katrina moment" that caused his predecessor's numbers to plummet.

A new CNN/ORC International survey indicates that public opinion of the President has barely budged in the wake of new challenges that Obama has faced this year.

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According to the poll, which was released Wednesday, the President's approval rating among Americans stands at 42%. That's not great, but it's basically unchanged since March.

Only 42% believe that Obama can manage the government effectively. Again, nothing to celebrate, but it's virtually unchanged from the 43% who felt that way in March.

zzz poll

"When Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and the Gulf Coast in 2005, the biggest impact on attitudes toward George W. Bush came in the number who said that he could manage the government effectively. That number dropped 10 points, and no other personal quality measured at that time changed as much," said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "Using that as a definition of a 'Katrina moment,' it looks like Obama has not experienced a similar drop in the summer of 2014, in part because his numbers already took that hit last year, and have stabilized since then."

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The survey indicates there have been one-to-two point changes (which are within the poll's sampling error) in the number of Americans who say that Obama is a strong leader, that he shares their values, and that he cares about people.

"Once again, those numbers are not good news for the White House, but the clear indication is that the President's problems pre-date the current immigration crisis along the Mexican border, or anything else that has happened this summer, and that those problems have not made things significantly worse for the President," Holland added.

Obama drop started last year

Obama's numbers edged down after late spring and summer following controversies last year over the Edward Snowden intelligence leaks and congressional investigations into IRS targeting of conservative political groups. Then came October and the politically charged botched rollout of the website for Obamacare, his signature domestic policy achievement.

Coupled with legislative setbacks, many pundits labeled 2013 the worst year of Obama's presidency. And for the first time since taking over at the White House in 2009, a majority of the public surveyed disapproved of his job performance.

Obama's approval ratings slightly rebounded earlier this year before edging down to their current standing in the low 40's in most national public opinion polling.

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The release of the new CNN Poll comes after the crisis along the southern border dominated headlines for weeks. Prior to that controversy, the scandal rocking the Department of Veterans Affairs was in the media spotlight.

The President is also facing two pressing international challenges: the bloody fighting in Gaza between Israel and Hamas, and the shooting down of a Malaysian airliner over a part of eastern Ukraine controlled by pro-Russian separatists. Prior to these two international flashpoints, Obama was dealing with the increased bloodshed in Iraq, the ongoing civil war in Syria, as well as the controversial swapping of five Taliban prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay for the release of a U.S. soldier held captive in Afghanistan.

What numbers mean for midterms?

Obama's approval rating is a key indicator of the President's standing with Americans and of his clout here in the nation's capital. And during a midterm election cycle, it's also considered an important barometer of how a president's political party may fare on Election Day, when control of Congress is at stake.

"You don't want a president at 42% anytime, especially in a midterm election year, when the approval rating is essentially the north star. Midterm elections are determined most of all by the president's approval rating," said CNN Chief National Correspondent John King.

The poll doesn't appear to offer any "new discouragement for Democrats, but there's nothing to cheer about," King added.

"I will give you this caution. The biggest drop since January is among Democrats. Obama's lost 11 percentage points among Democrats since the beginning of the year. Perhaps closer to the election, when Democrats are rallying a bit, that number could tick up a bit," King said.

So how does Obama stack up against his most immediate two-term predecessors as they marked their sixth Independence Day in the White House?

George W. Bush stood at 36% in the summer of 2006. Bill Clinton was at 61% in July 1998. And Ronald Reagan was at a lofty 63% in July 1986.


Bush's low numbers helped fuel the Democratic wave in the 2006 midterms, when the GOP lost control of both the House and the Senate.

The silver lining for Obama and his party: While the President's numbers are nothing to cheer about, the approval rating for Congress is in the gutter. The most recent polling, by Gallup, indicates that only 15% of Americans approve of the job federal lawmakers on Capitol Hill are doing, with eight in 10 giving Congress a thumbs down.

"It's easy for Americans to dislike Congress because most of them are familiar, at most, with only three members - their two U.S. Senators and the U.S. Representative from their district. That leaves 532 strangers who are easy to despise," Holland added.

Democrats have a 55-45 majority in the Senate (53 Democrats and two independents who caucus with the party). But in the midterms, the party is defending 21 of the 36 seats up for grabs, with half of those Democratic-held seats in red or purple states. In the House, the Democrats need to pick up a very challenging 17 Republican-held seats to win back the majority from the GOP.

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The poll was conducted for CNN by ORC International from July 18-20, with 1,012 adult Americans questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points.

soundoff (545 Responses)
  1. Marie MD

    If faux news went off the air (one can only hope) we would find out that their demi hollywood god reagan took four days to speak about about the downing of an Iranian plane by the US and this is from the mouth of the only one on faux news who makes any sense because he was there in CA and lived it. The am tools on faux news looked like deer caught in the headlights! BTW – doocey? We only remember him from DC when he did a story about a dancing kitty (I am NOT kidding).
    Old ronnie refused to come back from his CA ranch and went horse back riding after hearing the news of the downed civilian aircraft and fought tooth and nail not to come back to DC.
    This is why Obama's numbers are so low and he really has done some things that tick me off but compared to this useless teaklan congress and the hatred . . . . we still take him hands down.

    July 23, 2014 06:26 am at 6:26 am |
  2. foundstar

    I absolutely love this guy. Wish he could have served with a better Congress. Thank you Sir.

    July 23, 2014 06:36 am at 6:36 am |
  3. AdamJone1021

    All this poll shows is that 58% of Americans are racist.

    July 23, 2014 06:36 am at 6:36 am |
  4. PeterD

    CNN will always make Positive out of President Obama's Bad News. Wonder Why?

    July 23, 2014 06:36 am at 6:36 am |
  5. John from Concord

    The poll proves 42% can't read or don't care.

    July 23, 2014 06:38 am at 6:38 am |
  6. Paul

    So, it means only 1 percent hate him now than in March, Great Job, POBUS,lol

    July 23, 2014 06:38 am at 6:38 am |
  7. scranton

    Yes, the Titanic was still sinking but holding steady in it's feat.

    July 23, 2014 06:38 am at 6:38 am |
  8. Wake Up People! Many Rivers to cross.....

    Good lord you act like he's running again. Stupid polls daily. I guess they've got nothing else to bash him about.

    July 23, 2014 06:38 am at 6:38 am |
  9. Mike B

    I don't believe that this comment will be approved by CNN, but here it goes:

    Of course President Obama's polls are unchanged within the last four months.

    After all, we have only had a "few" crisis (IF you want to call ISIS, The Southern Border, and MH17 a "Few" if anything) and, with CNN (Thankl God Piers Morgan is now gone) as the Democratic mouthpiece, what would you expect. The truth about this presidents work ethic? I've got a bridge in Crimea for sale. Any takers?

    July 23, 2014 06:40 am at 6:40 am |
  10. Anonymous

    virtually unchanged? It went from 43 to 42. I would call that a decline.

    July 23, 2014 06:42 am at 6:42 am |
  11. Richard

    Should be in single digets – like 1 %.

    July 23, 2014 06:42 am at 6:42 am |
  12. cbp

    Gee, even after the Republicans have tried to blame the President for everything going on in the world today. How much blame do they take for Putin especially after a Republican President looked in his eyes and declared that he was trustworthy? The fact that the leadership within the House and Senate cannot seem to solve any issues either. The talking points remain the same every month and yet nothing is happening. Our elected officials are being paid to sit at their desks and they certainly haven't done anything to get this country moving forward.

    Congress has done nothing to make sure that every child in America is being fed and that the children do not go to bed hungry. As a nation we should be embarrassed that we have children who are hungry, families that cannot live on the incomes of hardworking parents, and violence remains an issue across the country.

    July 23, 2014 06:43 am at 6:43 am |
  13. jp

    Really? This is a top breaking news story?

    July 23, 2014 06:43 am at 6:43 am |
  14. JB

    Who are these people that approve of this idio?

    July 23, 2014 06:43 am at 6:43 am |
  15. wildone

    How about posting Congress's approval rating? That ought to be good for a laugh.

    July 23, 2014 06:43 am at 6:43 am |
  16. PKRipper

    Sure helps to have the liberals in Hollywood and the liberal media on your side. They're never going to turn on the person they voted for based on the color of his skin no matter how bad a job he does. If Barry were a white conservative doing this poorly his poll numbers would be in the 20's!

    July 23, 2014 06:44 am at 6:44 am |
  17. M

    He will most assuredly go down as one of (if not) the worst President in our history. An individual holding a "normal" job in this country with that "employee" rating would have been fired long long ago! The masses have seen past the euphoria of his race and now stare into the face of his incompetence.

    July 23, 2014 06:45 am at 6:45 am |
  18. Andrijus

    I think the key difference is that the Republicans turned on Bush, where the Democrats have circled the wagons with Obama. The poll results are a reflection of the polarized, partisan nature of our politics right now.

    July 23, 2014 06:45 am at 6:45 am |
  19. Tennessee Bob

    One must wonder who gets asked in these "polls?" If they ever included me and the people I know, Obama's numbers would be much lower than 42%. In my view, Obama is right down there with George W. Bush and Jimmy Carter as the worst of the worst presidents in the history of the modern age. Poor Jimmy Carter was so nice, but ineffective. George was an idiot, and only listened to Cheney and Rumsfeld. Obama is no idiot, but so dismally weak with his lack of experience that it's embarrassing. And he's not trying to do anything about it. We're in a sad state of affairs.

    July 23, 2014 06:46 am at 6:46 am |
  20. Natrldiver

    Who does CNN poll, regions that are known to have shown support to Obama? I am pretty sure that if CNN polled equally across the nation, the numbers would reflect a significantly lower confidence rating. How can any leader in their right mind be more focused on campaigning and fund raising when there are global and domestic issues that require attention.

    July 23, 2014 06:48 am at 6:48 am |
  21. miguel

    CNN is celebrating the presidents ratings have not gotten worse.

    July 23, 2014 06:49 am at 6:49 am |
  22. george

    I want to see what questions were used and who they spoke with. If it was people from say Cambridge, leftist central, then we know why fund-raiser-in-chiefs numbers are still this high. Lets do another poll once the story gets out that obandoncare is filled with holes and open to fraud.

    July 23, 2014 06:49 am at 6:49 am |
  23. gijo7171

    Come on really 42% of the population think this fool is anything but a fool. We are doomed!

    July 23, 2014 06:49 am at 6:49 am |
  24. Joseph

    Breaking News!!!! – Really CNN? Like the fact that the poll number hasn't changed from a majority thinking Obama is doing a bad job is something to celebrate. Then top it off with a downer on Bush (isn't that the path liberals always take when defending Obama's poor performance?). Finally, this is a CNN/ORC International poll, which reeks of bias right out of the gate.

    Let's face it CNN, Obama is a horrible President, and not number fudging, sugar coating, or biased polls change that fact.

    July 23, 2014 06:50 am at 6:50 am |
  25. hkirwin

    Only CNN would try to make a 42% approval rating sound like a good thing.

    July 23, 2014 06:50 am at 6:50 am |
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