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. Cnet

    And by "holding steady" you mean falling steadily? The title of the article is immediately disproven by the first graphic used. Lol.

    July 23, 2014 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  2. David

    Obama's way better than Bush. And BTW, America has a CORPORATE MEDIA, not a LIBERAL MEDIA. If the US had a true liberal media, we never would have invaded Iraq. Think about it.

    July 23, 2014 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  3. sonny chapman

    "WHAT" !! No Katrina Moment !! Repubs. will just have to keep praying(to whatever God they pray to) for more human suffering til Obama gets HIS like W. did.

    July 23, 2014 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  4. Bolivar Shagnasty

    Who cares. He's less effect than a figure-head.

    The man has serious psychological issues. As the problems rise around him, he gets further and further into being just a guy about town with his sleeves rolled up. Never concludes anything.

    July 23, 2014 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  5. sonnie3

    remember/ over 50% of the time obama is fund raising. He community organizer priorities are shining through real good. As a leader of a World Power, well he has a failing grade. Be interesting what his grades were in college where they were sealed from the American Public? Hiding something like that tells volumes about him.

    July 23, 2014 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  6. Anonymous

    There are 42% idiots that live in this country.

    July 23, 2014 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  7. janet

    I'm a nurse, a senior citizen, white and a gun owner and I fully support President Obama as do my co-workers and neighbors. Nobody polled us. Screw the negative thinking, the haters and the Faux "News" drones.

    July 23, 2014 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  8. NavyVet

    The Obama ship is sinking and I love it!!

    July 23, 2014 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  9. Gurgyl

    -this president is the Best president. When he has congress/senate he signed Healthcare Law. Now, you have insurance. You are not denied. True. Be happy–your wages not garnished, nor property attached by courts from Hospital outrageous Greed.

    July 23, 2014 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  10. Anonymous

    I wonder how low his approval rating would go if the news media would treat him the way they did Bush or any Republican President, Obama would be in the low 20s.

    July 23, 2014 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  11. Pot Outlawed

    The 42% are the mindless liberal drones that worship his every move.

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

    Surprised it's that high, just think if food and fuel were included in the inflation rate! As someone who voted for him just a major disappointment!

    July 23, 2014 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  13. R Long

    dropping, dropping, dropping, dropping... does CNN believe we cant read the graphics? You follow the research and most Demwits dont watch anything but NBC, CBS, and MSNBC, those networks clearly do NOT report against the POSTUS

    July 23, 2014 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  14. Gargelygoop

    I think they need more rules and regulations, A bit more legal re-interpretations, A few more false promises, as well as a greater aura of uncertainty to truly accomplish the nothing that they set out to achieve. No surprise on Congress either. If they spent the money like it was their own, and they understood that their overall health is directly related to the overall health of the rest of the country, they might actually be effective in their positions. Politicians usually are the last people you really want making decisions that effect you and not them, historically, this has been true since civilization first aspired to become more than just a clan. I think his numbers are actually in the high 30s and Congress is in the mid twenties, but that would be a poll to sensitive to actually post without some real backlash, so ill just take of the sampling error.

    July 23, 2014 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  15. smith1

    Just listen to the lame repos crying on this site. You said he would never be president now in second term. Keep screwing off as party and another democrat will take his place in 2016. The republican party has become the party of the rich and the party of the stupid. We know where most of the people commenting here lie.

    July 23, 2014 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  16. Philbert

    Obama's incompetence holding steady

    July 23, 2014 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  17. El Warbo Grande

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

    Exactly. you are the 40%. You support the President 100% because he is 100% not Bush and 100% not Republican. No matter how poorly the President does his job, you will always support him 100% because he will still be neither Bush nor Republican. You are part of the President's base who believe that he can do no wrong. Thats your bias.

    And no, we don't have such short memories. Just because Bush didn't do a great job (which even most Republicans would agree on), doesn't mean Obama IS doing a good job.

    We also remember that the economy Bush left with wasn't all his doing. Democrats had as much to do with it, if not more, than Bush did. In fact, it was Clinton's Community Reinvestment Act that ultimately triggered the whole thing.

    July 23, 2014 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  18. Lucky Pierre

    Imagine if you will, a Quarterback going to a team that has lost for 8 years previous, and after losing, saying "well, this isn't my fault. It's the guy before me – he sucked." Leaders lead from the front – they take responsibility for both good and bad. Leaders don't make excuses, nor do they point fingers. I believe President Obama has it in him, if he could just get out of his own way.

    July 23, 2014 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  19. Doug

    He's not very good, but better than the Republicans. If I was a betting man I would say this country will not be around in 50 years unless we stop fighting and start working together.

    July 23, 2014 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  20. firewalker25b

    42% tells me that 42% of the Brain Dead Liberals supporters still think that Obama is doing this Country Good.

    I just hope those 42%ers are in the Middle Class getting ready to LOSE THEIR JOBS and be REPLACED by these Illegals.

    Obama is on a Mission to take down America and no one will stop him.

    July 23, 2014 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  21. DirtyHeat

    Haha so basically his approval rating is bad, but it's been bad for a while so at least he's consistent!

    July 23, 2014 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  22. bdimer

    Not great? How about not even good. Holding steady? Wasn't it 43% in June. I'm not a math wiz but I would say the numbers are declining. I can't believe anyone in their right mind would believe that Obama can manage the government effectively.

    July 23, 2014 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  23. Anonymous

    Among the entire sample, 32% described
    themselves as Democrats, 24% described themselves as Republicans.
    As of 2010, Gallup polling found that 31% of Americans identified as Democrats (tying a 22-year low), 29% as Republicans.
    Please explain CNN Polling. You appear to be BIAS in who you questioned for this poll.

    July 23, 2014 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  24. Roger Parish

    I love the way this article is spun – his approval ratings are really low but they haven't fallen all that far since March and, after all, they haven't fallen as far as happened to another President 10 years ago.

    July 23, 2014 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  25. Longtimer

    Given the sustained fact-free assault from the GOP and the Kochs on this President, it is a good indicator that his approval numbers are in fact as high as they are. I cannot think of a time or a President or an administration where there has been such sustained histrionics by one party- but even by the Right against the government of our great nation.
    The GOP and its demented supporters have shut down the government, enacted policies and laws detrimental to the American people, and have generally failed to do their jobs as elected official of the same government they are undermining.
    The President is not the problem here. It is the GOP.

    July 23, 2014 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
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