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. Bob132

    Could it be that the reason he's unable to do the job we elected him to do is because of a House of Representatives that tries to block everything the man proposes or does. I'm not sure the problem really lies with the president. I consider myself an independent and right now I don't see a republican that I would vote for. None of them seem to have any interest in the general populace of this country. There's probably a lot of others out there that feel the same and If I were the republicans that would worry me.

    July 23, 2014 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  2. rell87

    42%? That is a lot of people who shouldn't be trusted to wander around in public without supervision. If you still support Obama and his endless lies and corruption, you are too stupid to be voting.

    July 23, 2014 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  3. Steve

    Not really surprising numbers, Obama has a large group that thinks he can do no wrong and that's OK. It just goes to show you how easy it is to manipulate opinion.

    July 23, 2014 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  4. Mr. Independent

    If the Media did their job he'd be at 24%.When he dips into the 30's is Wolf going to dedicate 3 hours to that like he did when Bush dropped into the 30's?

    July 23, 2014 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  5. Tampa Tim

    CNN needs to hire a better polling group. Even Rassmussen has Obama at 47% approval, the same percentage they predicted he was going to get against Mittens in 2012.

    July 23, 2014 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  6. iski

    Hey you 42 % have you looked outside your window the world is in a mess and the commander is raising money, eating burgers and off to another fairyland talk show. I guess hard to notice when one is on his new upgraded obama phone.

    July 23, 2014 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  7. Enough is Enough

    Funny....47% of Americans pay no federal income tax....very close to the 42% who think Obama and Co. approve of the job he is doing.....but I'm certain that there is no correlation between the two......

    July 23, 2014 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  8. dc

    Imagine that..All being said and done, I'm thinking the real approval ratings are more like 30%.

    July 23, 2014 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  9. Truth

    The country would have to literally collapse before his approval rating dip below 30% because some people are determined to stand by him no matter what.

    July 23, 2014 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  10. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA - Take Back the House

    "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,"
    Pres. Obama's Katrina moment? Really? George Bush's numbers fell for a number of reasons during Katrina. I'll just list a few:

    -Heckuva job Brownie
    -AF1 flyover while a major U.S. city flooded
    -Poor response time & evacuation
    -Kanye going on tv saying Bush doesn't like black people

    If the crisis at the border is Pres. Obama's "Katrina moment," then the blame doesn't rest on him. It rests on the Congress for not passing immigration reform.

    July 23, 2014 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  11. John Illinois

    They obviously need to stop making the polls democrat top heavy. Obama is a disaster of epic proportions, a liar,shows no leadership whatsover and never takes responsibility for anything! He must go!

    July 23, 2014 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  12. Jerry5555

    He's doing far better than most community organizers would have done....

    July 23, 2014 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  13. No name

    Bush went from 60's to 50's during Katrina. Obama's low 40's, he doesn't have as far to go. Why didn't the author include actual numbers for Bush? Crappy reporting...again. Obama has a lower approval rating than bush and still the author is trying to favorably compare him.

    July 23, 2014 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  14. Mike

    We know that this is a bogus poll. More that 58% of Americans know that Obama is an utter failure.

    July 23, 2014 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  15. Larke Marie

    In other words, he is still likeable but incompetent!

    July 23, 2014 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  16. Leo Glennon Harris

    1012 polled out of 300 million + people in the US. How can that even be close to accurate. Why not poll 100,000 or a million. How about putting up a website that lets you only vote once and then see what the numbers say.

    July 23, 2014 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  17. Deac

    I wasn't asked

    July 23, 2014 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  18. cjb

    Wow! Even 5% of the 47% have jumped ship. I can't believe it is this high. Just goes to show our idealogues could care less about actual performance and reality.

    July 23, 2014 09:44 am at 9:44 am |
  19. rad666

    What they don't mention is that all the people polled are here illegally

    July 23, 2014 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  20. Chad

    A month without decreasing poll numbers. Now that's something to celebrate!

    July 23, 2014 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  21. smartaz

    They should do those polls outside of the White House next time.

    July 23, 2014 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  22. THR

    *NO* responses to a political thread about Obama yet??? :O

    July 23, 2014 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  23. mike

    Publish the truth. Over 60% want either Obamacare or single payer. Under 30% oppose healthcare reforms for political reasons.

    July 23, 2014 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  24. James

    this guy is so far over his ahead it is ridiculous!! Clueless, a pathological liar both describve huim to a T.

    July 23, 2014 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  25. scmtns

    This is the most generous poll out there, conducted of course by CNN, which is Obama's lapdog and hence has no credibility.

    The credible polls show his approval in the mid 30's.

    July 23, 2014 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
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