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. Wake Up People! Many Rivers to cross.....

    nuclear mike says:
    July 23, 2014 08:42 am at 8:42 am
    With approximately 40% of many states on welfare & food stamps then this 42% is not surprising at all.

    Considering most of those on welfare and food stamps live in red states and vote GOP I doubt it contributed that much.

    July 23, 2014 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  2. M@rL@r

    You can blame the low approval of congress on Democrats and Republicans, the Fundraiser in Chief owns his.

    July 23, 2014 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  3. St. Cloud

    ...where exactly did they get these figures? I don't remember anyone asking me. Around here, these days, I would say his support is nowhere near 42%. Jus' sayin'.

    July 23, 2014 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  4. budshot

    I never trust polls. Most of us with cell phones have the ability to block all such calls. It's a very inexact method.

    July 23, 2014 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  5. Jon

    It's astounding Obama's numbers are that low when nearly all forms of media and press whitewash his administration around the clock. The public must REALLY be keen as to how asinine this administration is.

    During the Bush admin, news anchors were losing their jobs because they were caught making stuff up about Bush they wanted to hurt him so badly, truth be damned. The hypocrisy will always be legendary.

    July 23, 2014 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  6. SpenderH

    Bush's leadership rating in 2006 was 62% before Katrina. Obama hasn't been that high since 2009. Obama simply has hit rock bottom. 42% will never say a bad thing about him no matter how badly he screws up.

    July 23, 2014 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  7. JustMe

    His head is so big, how does he fit through a Door?

    July 23, 2014 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  8. billlincoln2

    1. The Bible message to OBAMA … Judges 5:12 … arise, BARAK, and lead …

    2. Luke 19:14 But his citizens hated him, and sent a message after him, saying, We will not have this man to reign over us.

    3. The Bible message to us … 1Timothy 2:1-3 …pray for all in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life…for this is good in the sight of God our Savioiur...

    July 23, 2014 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  9. T.W.A

    Certain folks are behind Obama only because he is the first African American President , I could care less what color a person is , if they are not carrying 60 % of the American peoples interest , they need to change their objectives!

    July 23, 2014 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  10. Anonymous

    Consider the source!!

    July 23, 2014 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  11. CG

    He not only has a tough job, he has republicans resisting him since day 1! I also think the republican that really hate Obama are probably resentful and racist. They hate having a black president, and one who is actually trying to help middle class and poor people.

    July 23, 2014 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  12. John Curtis

    Reilley remember that you are reading CNN's take on it. They would make their beloved leader look good if his rating was 22%. They are here to support Democrats no matter how absurd it makes them look and buddy....they look like raging idiots on this one. The worse it gets for their anointed one the lower they will go to prop him up.

    July 23, 2014 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  13. sandra bruggeman

    They kill too many civilians/people.

    July 23, 2014 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  14. Malory Archer

    Well the Repub/Dem split is approx 50/50 during elections. Apparently 40% of all voters still believe that Obama is god


    Yeah, except NOBODY on the left thinks that. HOWEVER, photographers had this really nasty habit of photographing the previous occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue with the presidential seal staged behind his head to look like he was wearing a glowing halo, so your whining is REALLY projection.

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

    So much hate in the republicans. They have ODS very bad. The states without exchanges that are getting subsidies from ACA are all republican states. They are proud of the fact that their constituents have to go to the emergency room for health care. Then everyone else is stuck with the bill.

    July 23, 2014 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  16. Andy Will

    After getting the worse economy, wars, and a near depression, and obstruction from doing many things, President Obama has done a pretty good job. Polls are undependable because of how they are taken, and where. They can be politically motivated for whoever is doing the polling, and after all the propaganda put out by the GOTP it has dropped his numbers, but the people still see the stock market gains, the reduction in wars, and the ACA becoming law as a great thing for this country, even after all their wild claims what it would do to hurt this country. The GOTP smear and fear campaign is all smoke and mirrors. The GOTP has done more to hurt this country than any other political group this country has seen, and they've chosen to work for their political agenda, instead of working for the good of the country and all its people. The President has shown over and over again he's one of the smartest Presidents we've had in a long time, and his legacy will be one of all the great things he's done, even with all the obstructions, and propaganda.

    July 23, 2014 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  17. steve stephenson

    Who voted for this guy and his change for the worse.....hes fooled a lot of people

    July 23, 2014 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  18. Imeanreally

    WOW CNN! It's been quite a while since I've seen such a blatant attempt to put lipstick on a pig.

    July 23, 2014 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  19. Hankster43

    Rudy says we're "over-reaching". What a typical contrived Liberal response. You Democrats can't deflect from the constant barrage of lies, scandals and cover-ups anymore. Scratched hard-drives destroyed instead of confiscated and examined. Press not allowed anywhere. Ignoring our laws.

    When it heats up at the border, Ukraine or Israel, it's time to go fundraising with his fellow fat cat 1%'er Democrat trial lawyers and moguls. This editor is simply trying to keep the Obama turd spinning. What a useless poll.

    July 23, 2014 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  20. Bwa49

    And this poll was taken in the inner cities on the East coast. Between NY and CA, the approval rating is more like 22%! LOL!

    July 23, 2014 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  21. SF

    I'd like to know who the heck they're polling..cuz i support this POTUS 100%.

    Having to put up with republicans over the past 6 years and counting is beyond comprehension! and absolutely NO one takes note on where our stock market stands and where it was when bush left office! americans have such short memories. Republicans have been relentless at refusing to work with this president since DAY ONE...it leaves us to believe there's only one reason why..and they've just learned how to cover it up by all the confusion and anger they have caused! i'm disgusted by the right, the tea party and their ilk!

    we support you Obama! screw the polls

    July 23, 2014 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  22. Johnny 5

    I wonder what the actual percentage is?

    July 23, 2014 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  23. Bud

    How about 58% of Americans don't think he is doing a very good job?

    July 23, 2014 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  24. Silence DoGood

    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.
    Since the population of immigrants and the deportation rate is very similar to that under Bush, there is nothing huge about it. Except the level of denial of those pushing the imaginary crisis.

    July 23, 2014 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  25. SeanZ

    It is a CNN poll......................... Hmmmmm, talk about liberal biased.

    July 23, 2014 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
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