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. Jon

    42% seems way too high. Either someone is exaggerating these figures, or Obama sucked Clinton's dick to get some of that Lewinsky magic.

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

    And the congress is at 7%. At least he isn't a one trick pony.

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

    Can CNN ever post something negative about Obama without referencing Bush or trying to blame Bush? As CNN is the official Obama mouthpiece, I think not.

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

    I feel that Obama cares about Americans and has his heart and mind in the right place... but he lacks the tenacity to take Congress to task. He should be on the air, using strong language and pointing out how very little Congress (especially the House) has accomplished and how suicidal the House Republican tax cut proposal is. He should be more aggressive in dealing with Republicans so that he actually has room to give when they accuse him of not giving any ground (he's made concession after concession to them, and they just want more). He should be taking Republicans to task for hypocrisy (the same Republicans criticizing him for not personally visiting the borders refused to go themselves in the past, saying they weren't interested in a useless photo op... which is what they would have said Obama was doing if he actually went to the border).

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

    If you compare the Bush approval rating and Obama rating 5 years in, they are exactly the same -42%. And according to the article, Obama took the hit last year. How's that change working for everybody?

    July 23, 2014 09:26 am at 9:26 am |
  6. mbaron1949

    Much of poll results has nothing to do with performance and everything to do with the identity factors of the President. "Liberal, "conservative," "Democrat," "Republican," "left," "right." What if individuals, running for office, say President, were prohibited from disclosing party affiliation, gender, race, or even their name? What, if instead, say, the candidates had to answer the following question: "In a thousand words or less for each, what do you see as society's Top 10 problems, and what are your proposed solutions?" And those platforms were published on the Internet, and we voted for what we felt was the best platform? No name calling. A focus solely on proposed solutions.

    July 23, 2014 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  7. Kathy, AZ

    Who cares? --- George Bush's lowest approval rating in his 2nd term was 38% so it's still higher than his was.

    July 23, 2014 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  8. NOPE

    I don't believe that poll. Worst President ever.

    July 23, 2014 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
  9. Kflann

    Who cares? he"s there till he serves his last term anyway, doesn't matter how popular he is or not.

    July 23, 2014 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
  10. David

    Still dropping, watch out W...Obama is gunning for you

    July 23, 2014 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  11. OldSchool

    I've seen people attempt to throw around numbers in the 20s, what do they think he is George W or something?...

    July 23, 2014 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  12. Freedom Storm

    If 42% approve of this tyrant, then we know America is in her death spiral.

    July 23, 2014 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  13. The Truth Rules

    "CNN Poll: Obama's numbers not great but holding steady." You mean CNN's biased poll? That poll? Reuters reported a 37% just 4 days ago. The shocker of those numbers is that 37% of the people in the nation actually approve of the job he's doing. SMH

    July 23, 2014 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  14. ItSoNlYmE

    Still higher than Bush at this point...

    July 23, 2014 09:32 am at 9:32 am |
  15. Dead Bear

    He's no F.D.R., that's for sure. But job performance aside, he doesn't have a (R) next to his name. And the worst presidents in my lifetime all did... By the way, what's Congressional Republican approval at these days??? Single digits??? The GOP shouldn't be all that surprised when the tidal wave they're predicting this November turns out to be more of a ripple in a mud puddle.

    July 23, 2014 09:32 am at 9:32 am |
  16. Dam

    Amazing. 42% think this guy is doing a swell job

    July 23, 2014 09:32 am at 9:32 am |
  17. cboy619

    Kind of hard to run a country when he has no idea what's going on within his own administration.

    "I didn't know" seems to be an overused line in this administration.

    July 23, 2014 09:33 am at 9:33 am |
  18. Jeb

    This shows that Obama has done a good job in solidifying his base of people that will continue to support him no matter how massive the body of evidence that he is doing an awful job. It also probably reflects just how polarized our society has become politically and socially. The middle is disappearing. As a former Obama voter, I have realized just how bad he is, but 42% of the population refuse to face facts and admit the same thing for fear of giving their imagined political adversaries any perceived satisfaction. The main stream media are the worst offenders as they seem to be completely tone deaf and blind on the subject of Obama's failures. If nothing else, Obama can claim as his greatest triumph the elimination (or at least marginalizing) of the political middle in the U.S. I'm not sure who this benefits except politicians and the federal civil service, but it is an amazing achievement.

    July 23, 2014 09:33 am at 9:33 am |
  19. cboy619

    Kind of hard to run a country when you're not aware of what's going on in your own administration.

    "I didn't know" seems to be an overused line in this presidency.

    July 23, 2014 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  20. Steve

    The fact that his approval rating is this high shows just how many ignorant people we have in this country. What could anyone possibly be happy with unless they're getting free health insurance and welfare without having to work?

    July 23, 2014 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  21. Dandy

    So you polled the electorate of the US and got this... and this matters because of ??
    He is not running for re-election so it doesn't matter at all.
    Here is more data from a Harris pole in 2013 – google "poll-americans-belief-god-strong-declining"
    74% of Americans believe in God – yet God does not exist.. If he does, then prove it.
    42% believe in Ghosts
    36% believe in Creationism
    47% believe in Evolution
    So basically the people in this nation have only recently crawled out from under a rock and their brains are only semi developed. No wonder we are killing ourselves in places like Chicago at a rapid rate. Neanderthals are on the loose.

    July 23, 2014 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  22. Bill White

    CNN simply cannot say anything bad about this president. They could have video of him recruiting for terrorist organizations and they'd tout his recruiting capabilities. Come on, man, 42%? That's awful. Call it like it is, CNN.

    July 23, 2014 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  23. Mac

    Of course this poll is fluff in the wake of the recent poll stating that he was the worst POTUS of all time.

    July 23, 2014 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  24. SmoothBrother

    More like 22% approval rating. Here is another example of the news media lying to you.

    July 23, 2014 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  25. fedupwithamericanpolitics

    Katrina Moment? Hurricane sandy was Obama's katrina moment. 217,000 homeowners suing their major insurance company over the national flood program's mismanagement. Obama promised to cut through insurance red tape so that people could rebuild and go home. We have face nothing but red, green, gold, black and orange tape. Breach of contract is just the beginning of the crimes perpetrated against american homeowners by the precious wall street insurance companies. Obama abandoned us just like every one Bush abandoned after Katrina. No choice but to get lawyers and fight.

    July 23, 2014 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
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