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. Tampa Tim

    How do you just rewrite a law that's been enacted without congress approval????
    It's called executive order. I hope it's not too late for brain dead right wingnuts to learn how government works

    July 23, 2014 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  2. jacknyd

    These numbers are so phoney it is pathetic. I've never in my near 70 years of life even been asked for my opinion on any political figure.

    July 23, 2014 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  3. Peter

    Not so good, but George W. Bush ended his presidency with a 34% approval rating, with his lowest point in the 20s.

    July 23, 2014 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  4. Tampa Tim

    The only sure things in life: death, taxes, war in the Middle East, and republican stupidity.

    July 23, 2014 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  5. THR

    Something to consider: About half of the voters are Republicans, most of whom aren't pleased with Obama. About half are Democrats. Add the positive standard deviation (s.d.) onto the 42% – I know that may not technically be "good statistics" but it *does* give a general idea. The s.d. is probably about 3 or 4%. That gives around 46% – it's almost half. You've got 50% of the country as Republicans who would *NEVER* give him a positive approval no matter WHAT he did, plus a very low percentage of disgruntled Democrats.
    Obama's "numbers" are therefore NOT that BAD!

    July 23, 2014 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  6. MICK

    maybe he can ruin something else and claim it as a victory

    July 23, 2014 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  7. liberal disease

    not great but holding steady HAHAHAHAHAHA so much for managing low expectations. Guy has zero approval in most circles of intelligent people

    July 23, 2014 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  8. RandyF

    26.5% hate him because he's too liberal and black. The other 26.5% hate him because he is not the progressive he campaigned to to be and is also owned by Goldman Sachs.

    July 23, 2014 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  9. jayharland


    What's surprising is that it isn't lower – I would wager way more than 58% of this country is absolutely retarded.

    July 23, 2014 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  10. DMR

    Before the GOP starts to hoot and carry on about President Obama's ratings they need to take a close look at the ratings for members of Congress. According to this article Congress has a 15% approval rating. Can Congress, especially the House of Representatives, do their job with an approval rating that low?

    July 23, 2014 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  11. John S.

    Once the polling numbers get this low, of course they stabilize. The numbers in support are roughly equal to the number who will support Obama no matter what. All this means is that he's pretty much alenated everyone who's not a core Democrat voter.

    July 23, 2014 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  12. rumisflute

    W had scores in the 20's when he left office, and has never been called on to endorse or campaign for a single GOP candidate.

    July 23, 2014 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  13. WEEDY

    I am wondering what the haters here had to say about April 2008 and GW Bush with his 28% approval rating...

    July 23, 2014 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  14. Bob

    If you deduct the 12% who would support him no matter what he does; his approval would be 30%.

    July 23, 2014 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  15. JaPaK

    seriously??? this is a joke, right? probably closer to 24% at best!!!

    July 23, 2014 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  16. Peter

    Mike B wrote:

    "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?"

    Then how do you explain Obama being at 41% approval on the Fox News poll?

    July 23, 2014 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  17. Lamar

    42% may approve (God knows how) but the other 58% hate him...

    July 23, 2014 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  18. bobo

    32% in reality.....

    July 23, 2014 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  19. ram

    I never get asked. He sure isn't anywhere near the worst in my lifetime and it is silly to say he is so awful when we don't know how his policies would play out if the useless Congress would work with him a bit. But that aside, I never get asked these polls..I would have said he is doing as well as can be expected considering little cooperation from those who could make a huge difference working with him. Instead they focus on silly impeachment and suits that waste taxpayer time and money instead of passing laws that could help this country. So I don't agree with the poll. Those saying he is the worst in their lifetime aren't very old or they are seriously partisan.

    July 23, 2014 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
  20. fauxhawk70

    Since Speaker of the House John Boehner seems to think that he is president I think it only fair to go by that Republicans percentage rating which I assume by now at -666%

    July 23, 2014 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
  21. howdy

    The real headline should be: "42% of Americans officially and legally brain dead."

    July 23, 2014 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  22. M@rL@r

    The 42% would approve of Hitler if he had a "D" in his party affiliation.

    July 23, 2014 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  23. McRCN

    Obama support is mostly eroding from Democrats. I guess not everyone is enjoying the kooi-aid anymore.

    July 23, 2014 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  24. rumisflute

    W's ratings were in the low 20's when he left office, and has not been asked to endorse or campaign for a single GOP candidate. 42% isn't that bad, but maybe Bush isn't a fair comparison, no one will ever mess things up like he did. Obama still has time, though.

    July 23, 2014 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
  25. GD

    The 42% who still approve show once again that "you can't fix stupid"

    July 23, 2014 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
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