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. jp

    Clearly 58% of those polled are racist.

    July 23, 2014 08:55 am at 8:55 am |
  2. Marty

    "The President is also facing two pressing international challenges". I think the author needs open his eyes.

    July 23, 2014 08:55 am at 8:55 am |
  3. Anonymous

    looks like a slow slide to me

    July 23, 2014 08:55 am at 8:55 am |
  4. Sockie

    That high? Tee hee. I will never understand what keeps his minions hanging on.

    July 23, 2014 08:56 am at 8:56 am |
  5. Name JK. SFL. THE GOP HOWDEE GOWDEE SHOW with special guest ISSA the CLOWN

    He's doing fine, who cares if the useless GOP HATES him. He IS oNE of the BEST presidents in recent memory and is up their with Clinton , the GOP HATES HIM because they LOST to him TWICE and should have because they HAVE NOTHING TO OFFER the American people. But 25 % of the DUMBEST voters in the country will vote AGAINEST their own best interest and vote for the incompetent GOP ANYWAY ?????

    July 23, 2014 08:56 am at 8:56 am |
  6. Mike

    42% seems extremely high considering his recent inactions

    July 23, 2014 08:56 am at 8:56 am |
  7. Manuel Madera

    The same people will give Obama a favorable vote regardless of his actions or inactions. The reality is that there is no leadership in this government and the people who should assist this administration, are clueless and less than mediocre. This President is out there alone, apparently surrounded by yes people who do not have an idea about management nor geopolitics. Is this a great Nation or what? We are still around with out a government that works!

    July 23, 2014 08:57 am at 8:57 am |
  8. smith

    More and more people are seeing that the Obama admin. is a mess. H. Clinton is looking pretty good right now and not just to Dems but to the GOP as well.

    July 23, 2014 08:58 am at 8:58 am |
  9. Mookie1972

    The 42% are so full of the Kool-Aid that they have been drinking that they would approve of him even if they found out he was a child molesting mass murderer.

    July 23, 2014 08:59 am at 8:59 am |
  10. Steve

    When presidents see their numbers go down, they should just do the opposite of what they've been doing.

    July 23, 2014 08:59 am at 8:59 am |
  11. Tars Tarkas

    Before he was elected, he promised to get us out of Iraq. He did. He promised to end the recession. He did. He promised to implement a national healthcare system. He did. Apparently, we only like presidents who fail to keep their promises.

    July 23, 2014 09:00 am at 9:00 am |
  12. Doug

    Who are these 42% who approve?

    July 23, 2014 09:02 am at 9:02 am |
  13. t2vodka

    I'm ready for a new president, hopefully an independant, or someone that both moronic parties can work with. I'm just glad he hasn't gotten us into another war, which I believe we would be in if a republican was in office.

    July 23, 2014 09:02 am at 9:02 am |
  14. rand

    9 justices on the Supreme Court have voted 13 times in 3 years that this President and his administration have gone above and beyond their authority, as written in the Constitution.These poll numbers are stunning. I guess they interviewed only those who are still high on the KOOL AID.

    July 23, 2014 09:02 am at 9:02 am |
  15. John Rosen

    The entire purpose of this article was to shore up support for Obama. By inference, he libs are really trying to say that America approves of the way Obama is handling these issues since his numbers didn't drop.

    July 23, 2014 09:02 am at 9:02 am |
  16. jimmy

    He has loyal supporters because the state of the country does not justify a 42% approval rating. Illegal immigrants are flowing across our borders and our foreign policy is in shambles. The economy is still bad and showing no signs of improvement. The stock market is high but many fear it is too high and destined for a big hit.

    July 23, 2014 09:03 am at 9:03 am |
  17. thunderbolt

    If you believe that, I got some beach front property in Tennessee to sell you.............

    July 23, 2014 09:04 am at 9:04 am |
  18. ch0rn

    42% seems a bit generous, but this is CNN.

    July 23, 2014 09:05 am at 9:05 am |
  19. PI

    Who takes a CNN poll seriously? Did you only call voters in Manhattan or San Francisco. Almost everyone has tuned out Obama.

    July 23, 2014 09:06 am at 9:06 am |
  20. tiz

    try calling businesses and talking to people who work...... I bet you'd find a new number.

    July 23, 2014 09:07 am at 9:07 am |
  21. Fed-Up

    Hopefully Obama is watching the news, or he might not know people don't like him.

    July 23, 2014 09:07 am at 9:07 am |
  22. Sergeant

    You can't compare anything that has happened during President Obama's terms to Katrina.

    July 23, 2014 09:09 am at 9:09 am |
  23. we see your bias

    just made up numbers which is just like the made up employment numbers

    July 23, 2014 09:09 am at 9:09 am |
  24. wow

    It validates at least 42% of the country is clueless

    July 23, 2014 09:09 am at 9:09 am |
  25. wyoming21

    America the beautiful or America we're holding steady.........we're so screwed.....

    July 23, 2014 09:10 am at 9:10 am |
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