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. onebadmamajama

    Give him another Nobel Prize. Maybe two or three would be good and an Oscar for all the acting he does as President.

    July 23, 2014 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  2. Malory Archer

    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.


    You think the President should interfere in the business of private corporations? Really? REALLY???!!!

    July 23, 2014 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  3. it must be said

    Let's face it, liberals and lefties will NEVER, EVER admit they were wrong and screwed up with Obama. They ALWAYS blame their failures on others. THIS is why so many still approval of Obama. Severe delusion runs rampant in the liberals and lefties.

    July 23, 2014 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  4. Lynda/Minnesota

    Rudy NYC
    I wonder if Republicans are going to figure out that they are overreaching

    IS there such a thing as overreach in GOPerville, Rudy? I suspect Reince Priebus thinks that if the media keeps its focus on Obama, the most useless Congress in the history of the United States will continue to get a free pass.

    What everyday Americans DO think is being out media'ed with all the anti-Obama attention. Unless Dem's get out and vote mid-terms, the media AND Preibus will have won this battle .... again.

    Its disheartening that our useless Congress (in particular the same folks who've been clutching their pearls and wringing their hands at the necessity of what USED to be called doing their jobs, but has now been replaced with mugging for the cameras while whining every excuse under their belts) might get a reprieve and continue to be given an A-OK by Americans not willing enough to stand up and vote for THEIR rights.

    We'll see in November how the most useless Congress in the history of the United States fares.

    July 23, 2014 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  5. Wilson


    It's hard to believe that 42% of Americans are that stupid.
    No not really difficult to believe. A combination of low information voters, people that only hear what they want to hear and some really strong koolaide. People that actually listened to what he was saying on the campaign trail in 2006-2008 knew exactly what he was going to do and what would happen if he got elected, and were terrified of his policies. We will be paying the price for the 51% for a long time to come.

    July 23, 2014 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  6. BO

    Who did this poll? Chris "tingles" Matthews?

    July 23, 2014 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  7. kenman14

    I'd like to know WHERE they're polling that they find this much support, and NO change though so much has gotten worse since the last such poll!

    Either, they're polling around the campus of UC Berkeley, or we have a lot of stubborn liberal lemmings that will follow this disaster ALL THE WAY OVER THE CLIFF rather than admit to being sold a bill of goods by their party, with such an indifference to the welfare of our nation that it should alarm everyone!

    July 23, 2014 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  8. jo clo

    Obama is a rock star, when you factor in the unpatriotic republican party, the party that ignores SCHOOL SHOOTINGS in America and is still worried about Benghazi

    July 23, 2014 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  9. 7light

    Say goodbye to the Republican Wave because they have done NOTHING = ZERO.

    You Dare compare President’s rating to pathetic House Republican?

    House Congressional rating is HISTORIC low – what do you all say to that?

    Do you really believe any President can work as effectively as President Obama given the stupidity of Republican idiotic ideology that goes against the very grain of American spirit.

    Think again before YOU point a single finger at our President because three are point right back at you.

    July 23, 2014 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  10. BO

    I guess the leeching crowd has reached 42%.

    July 23, 2014 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  11. kidd zeus

    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 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  12. mbw

    Unfortunately, Barack Obama's approval rating is being influenced by the outcome of extremely poor decisions
    of the worst U. S. President, George W. Bush. His approval rating sank to 28% during his administration. His
    administration will continue to cast a dark shadow over following administrations for years to come.

    July 23, 2014 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  13. Justin

    King Barry's chickens coming home to roost?

    July 23, 2014 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  14. Jason Seneker

    Obama will go down as the worst President in history. This is what happens when you elect a man that has never built anything or managed anything. He has made our country weaker and a laughing stock with his idle threats (red lines) and abuse of executive orders. The list is truly too long to mention all of his failures and lies. We should require a certain education level to vote.

    July 23, 2014 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  15. kenman14

    Hey CG, give the racism a rest! MANY of us voted for this guy, hoping that it would be the fantasy that was being sold us in the media, but the REALITY is a disaster. The "first black President" was a worthy, hopeful thing, but THIS guy should not have been the one!

    July 23, 2014 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  16. Jessica

    The reason it isn't lower is that about 40% of the population are going to support him no matter how poor of a job he does, and they get angry if you present them with facts that make President Hope-and-Change look bad. If he decided to burn down the White House and declare himself King of America, that 40% would still back him.

    July 23, 2014 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  17. Justin

    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.

    You sir are gullible beyond belief if you think King Barry thinks of anyone except himself.

    July 23, 2014 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  18. rufus

    The percentage of people who "approve" of Obama is even less than the percentage who pay no income tax. Even the folks getting the freebies don't all approve of him. Wow!

    July 23, 2014 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  19. But it was all supposed to be different.....

    So the 42% number puts him in the exact spot Bush was after Katrina. Remember how loud the chorus was saying he's ineffective and that he never should have been elected or served a second term? Well, better fire up the fat lady, she's got another chorus to sing. The two party system will continue to let Americans down because it's broken.

    July 23, 2014 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  20. Twopartymonopoly

    This is a learning moment for gullible handout voters. Obama lied to you and you're not going to get your salvation from the gov't. Only through hard work.

    July 23, 2014 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  21. Jason

    @John Curtis

    And yet here you are.

    July 23, 2014 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  22. Wake Up People! Many Rivers to cross.....

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

    You couldn't be more wrong. But I think even Faux Noise is polling him at 41%. This site publishes some of the nastiest things ever said about a sitting POTUS.

    July 23, 2014 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  23. Jack Dawson

    You can put lipstick on a pig, but it is still a pig. This is another attempt to make BO look "not quite so bad as the other guy" and cover his tail.

    July 23, 2014 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  24. John D

    SHOCKED!!!!....NOT...worst President ever.

    July 23, 2014 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  25. Anonymous

    We haven't had a good president since George Washington.

    July 23, 2014 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
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