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. tarura

    Great !

    Only 5% out of 47% freeloaders disapprove !

    July 23, 2014 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
  2. Cory111

    It's quite obvious we have many posters out here that went over the political cliff as they voted for McGrump and Romney who called you 47%ers.
    If you think you had problems with our great president Obama just wait until Hillary is your new president.
    Hillary 2016

    July 23, 2014 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  3. David

    That's because Liberals are just plain ignorant

    July 23, 2014 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  4. Terry B.

    The 42% approval is the 42% of the people asked who are Democrats and would give Oba a thumbs up not matter what.

    July 23, 2014 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  5. boston1

    Just think if this were a Republican president. CNN would be saying this poll numbers are horrible and almost telling us its a disaster.. Since it is the their King they can't bad mouth him in fear they will face the same fate as Marie Antonette.

    July 23, 2014 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  6. Big_D

    42% realize that Obama did the best he could with the GOP trying to make him fail at any cost. The GOP says they have the midterm elections in the bag with the 15% congressional approval rating?

    July 23, 2014 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  7. joe

    The continual comparison to congress is meaningless. The tea party gives congress negative ratings because of Dem and GOP spending. The GOP establishment gives it negative ratings because of Harry Reid. The Dems give it negative ratings because of the GOP house. Independents give it a negative rating because it cannot get anything done due to both parties.

    Its a miracle there is 15% of the population that gives it a thumbs up.

    July 23, 2014 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  8. Michael. W

    Two more yrs of Oblamer. Can he break a record for low ratings? Stay tuned.

    July 23, 2014 10:10 am at 10:10 am |
  9. Steve_in_SoCal

    virtually unchanged, yes. But given a hard-core left of – let's say 35% and AA approval of 90+%, it's never going to really going to get much lower.

    However, as statistics will do – 42% dvided by 43% is a 2.4% drop. Though you won't see it that way.

    July 23, 2014 10:10 am at 10:10 am |
  10. Wake Up People! Many Rivers to cross.....

    Jeff says:
    July 23, 2014 07:45 am at 7:45 am
    Of course it is different than Bush. The difference is that the media slammed President Bush unrelentingly (not saying he did a good job), but refuse to cover any of Obama’s situations with the same intensity.

    Are you blind, deaf and dumb?? This POTUS gets slammed by the media DAILY from everything from enjoying a relaxing round of golf to any of the GOPT nontroversies. If you don't think this story paints him in a bad light maybe you need reading comprehension. Please believe CNN goes above and beyond bashing this POTUS. I never ever saw a poll while Bush was in office asking if you hoped he failed! His accomplishments no matter how big or small are immediately diminished by the GOPT controlled media. Prior to them catching the Benghazi suspect, Benghazi was the head story every day. But all of that changed the minute he was captured. And they criticized the POTUS even more. The same thing happened with OBL.

    July 23, 2014 10:10 am at 10:10 am |
  11. Looper

    For you Reagan lovers: in 1982, two years after Reagan took office, the unemployment rate soared to 9.7%, the highest since the Great Depression. It was 9.6% in 1983, the year of his 25-day vacation. In January of that year, his approval rating was 35%. In case you were wondering, Obama's lowest was 40%.

    July 23, 2014 10:11 am at 10:11 am |
  12. Justin

    How can 42% of people still trink the Kool Aid?

    Obamunism doesn't work.

    July 23, 2014 10:12 am at 10:12 am |
  13. Srcactus

    Comparing the Presidents numbers to Congress has what to do with anything? Compare Presidents to Presidents and Congress to a different Congress but comparing the apple with the orange may be why we are, where we are!

    July 23, 2014 10:12 am at 10:12 am |
  14. Name mensah

    The hardest working president ever

    July 23, 2014 10:12 am at 10:12 am |
  15. RocketJSquirrel

    obama has been the biggest failure in america's history!

    July 23, 2014 08:33 am at 8:33 am |

    You do not know your American history. Try James Buchanan.

    July 23, 2014 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  16. Rosie

    To (bleep) with Congress – let the people impeach this bozo....

    July 23, 2014 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  17. Ivan Terragon

    Obama is competent, but these are hard times and its shown in the polls.

    July 23, 2014 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  18. Ed

    Of course a CNN poll would show 42%. They wouldn't dare show how low the real numbers are. das Fuhrer would shut them down.

    July 23, 2014 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  19. Will

    Still not as low as Bush's....

    July 23, 2014 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  20. Doug

    You know, Republicans can't figuratively cut Obama off at his knees and then scream "He can't reach the high bar!" Imagine where the country would be right now if there was even a tiny bit of cooperation between the two parties.

    July 23, 2014 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  21. Malory Archer

    nuclear mike
    With approximately 40% of many states on welfare & food stamps then this 42% is not surprising at all.


    Yeah, except the states with the highest number of welfare/food stamp recipients are solidly red, and they VOTE red.

    July 23, 2014 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  22. Larry L

    When right-wing fat-cats spend hundreds of millions of dollars promoting distortions, conspiracies, and lies, they can expect some results.

    July 23, 2014 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  23. DD

    Looks like ISIS and the HAMAS are getting to vote on Obama's approval for it to be this high.

    July 23, 2014 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  24. Marshall

    Are you really telling me that a meaningless stat that is unchanged since March is "BREAKING NEWS" ?

    July 23, 2014 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  25. Lee Tutt

    Where did they poll, Mississippi Alabama Montana.

    July 23, 2014 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
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