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. Stan

    as long as he keeps giving out freebee's he will have there approval

    July 23, 2014 09:10 am at 9:10 am |
  2. Anonymous

    Does it matter that "the Katrina moment" brought Bush down to 42% where Obama currently lies?...

    July 23, 2014 09:10 am at 9:10 am |
  3. JJR

    42% must be the low information types.

    July 23, 2014 09:11 am at 9:11 am |
  4. ChillyWilly

    When they are up 2 points they are " not great but holding steady", and when they dropped two points, "The presidents approval rating plummets"... No, there is no bias at all....

    July 23, 2014 09:11 am at 9:11 am |
  5. blakenaustin

    What is it going to take for these 42% to recognize that they have hooked their wagons up to a compulsive liar and dangerous incompetent that believes he is above the law? There is no good reason that Obama's approval rating is not in the low single digits.

    July 23, 2014 09:11 am at 9:11 am |
  6. ofcourseuare

    What a load of a poll! No mention that many of our fellow citizens are in a huge crisis at the border. A monumental and historical betrayal of elected officials. A crime against it's own citizens and NO mention of it.

    July 23, 2014 09:11 am at 9:11 am |
  7. Possum-Pie

    No change??? Who taught you math? A drop from 45% to 42% is almost a 7% drop...hardly "no change"

    July 23, 2014 09:12 am at 9:12 am |
  8. Wake Up People! Many Rivers to cross.....

    Wasn't President Obama's Katrina moment during Superstorm Sandy? How does one compare the POTUS going to the site of a hurricane to the POTUS going to a dangerous border crossing where there could be snipers or drug runners or even people he deported trying to harm him? I see Newt is dictating the news now because I saw him say the very same thing about a Katrina moment on Crossfire last week. Anything to bash this POTUS.

    July 23, 2014 09:13 am at 9:13 am |
  9. B Mayes

    Good grief, you guys will stop at nothing to make BO look 'not so bad'.

    July 23, 2014 09:13 am at 9:13 am |
  10. JimInNM

    So, 42% of people are takers and users?

    July 23, 2014 09:14 am at 9:14 am |
  11. Scott

    What CNN/COD fail to mention is that Obama's disapproval rating has increased.His disapproval rating went from roughly 40% to 51%, then back down to 49% in the last year. Which is a very interesting trend.

    CNN and the wizards at COD report here that everything is hunky splunky with Obama, but they entirely neglect the significant data that shows a) Obama's disapproval rating exceeds his approval rating, and b) his disapproval rating is increasing. Now, I think that data is far more relevant than a stagnant approval rating.

    This data comes from Gallup which is accessible by anyone.

    July 23, 2014 09:16 am at 9:16 am |
  12. Me

    New challenges? If it were a Republican you would be using the word "scandals"! How DO you sleep at night CNN?

    July 23, 2014 09:19 am at 9:19 am |
  13. Bedgar

    The only people that approve of Obama are the ones that think he authorizes their EBT card payments.

    July 23, 2014 09:19 am at 9:19 am |
  14. Me

    Some people will drink that kool aid no matter WHAT.

    July 23, 2014 09:20 am at 9:20 am |
  15. Ray

    Obama is the worst president in U.S. history. Selfish, arrogant, cowardly, duplicitous, and totally lacking in any discernible leadership skills . . . he has disgraced the United States in front of the entire world.

    July 23, 2014 09:20 am at 9:20 am |
  16. PJ Parker


    The article states "nothing to brag about" again and again. Now they want comments?

    What kind of comments are you fishing for?

    July 23, 2014 09:20 am at 9:20 am |
  17. Kendall

    Just proves that 42% of the American people get their information from the evening news.....sad.

    July 23, 2014 09:20 am at 9:20 am |
  18. Paula Taylor

    So hard to believe that the comments here start off with a Bush slam!! This administration is a joke and everyone knows it–please start practicing a little–just a little–truth instead of spin!!

    July 23, 2014 09:21 am at 9:21 am |
  19. Short man

    If we had a great Republican president right now we could be at war with Russia, Mexico, and the Middle East!

    July 23, 2014 09:21 am at 9:21 am |
  20. G Tritt

    Hmmm... Now WHAT are the CONGRESSIONAL APPROVAL ratings? Think it varies from around 12% – 14% approval on a good day, right? So the President's numbers REALLY don't look that bad.

    July 23, 2014 09:22 am at 9:22 am |
  21. dazzy

    "Obamas approval rating is dropping every month but Bush was bad too"

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

    In other words 42% of respondents are morons.

    July 23, 2014 09:23 am at 9:23 am |
  23. Dave

    This shows that 8% of those who voted for him finally decided they voted for the wrong person. Too bad they couldn't come to that conclusion before election day.

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

    What sort of Fraud is going on for his numbers to be this high?

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

    Makes one wonder why there are still 42% that cannot see the failures of this president.

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